The CRAR+M Chronicle                   Issue 002, November 2015
Welcome back to the CRAR+M Chronicle!

Please note that the Chronicle will be a quarterly submission rather than monthly.

Therefore your next edition will be in February. 

Straight from the Director...

Professor Jo McDonald
Things continue to be busy, but generally rewarding, for rock art in the West! September saw most of the Centre's researchers and many students participating in numerous conferences across Europe (e.g. IFRAO in Cáceres, Spain; ACRA III conference in Alta, Norway; CHAGS in Vienna; and EAA in Glasgow).  Australian rock art certainly got a great airing and papers and posters were presented on a variety of research projects (see below).

Our ARC Centre for Excellence Expression of Interest with an extraordinary team of collaborating Australian and international partners was unfortunately not successful.  We are very disappointed that the "brilliant team”  and “bold and innovative research project" (as identified by the ARC reviewer) did not reach threshold for the next stage of review - but are pleased for archaeology generally that the University of Wollongong team (led by Bert Roberts) has been invited to submit a full proposal.  We are also delighted for the Griffith/ANU team lead by Paul Taçon which was successful in the latest ARC DP round! The combined success of CRAR+M (and partners) with Murujuga: Dynamics of the Dreaming, the Kimberley Visions and the Wellington Ranges project means that rock art research is well resourced in these three regions for the next 3-5 years.

As the ABC 7.30 Report also showed (read more below), the Kimberley Dating Project (run out of University of Melbourne) is also on the cusp of some breakthroughs in Kimberley rock art dating. Exciting times ahead!

Organisation for the Australian Archaeology Association conference (Fremantle 2-4 December, with workshops on the 1st December) is heating up. All of CRAR+M is participating - running sessions or workshops, presenting papers or leading post-conference tours; you might even find yourself with one of our new scales! We are looking forward to welcoming colleagues from around the country and our international plenary speakers – Mary Stiner, Mike Petraglia and Steve Kuhn - to this annual highlight in Australia’s archaeological calendar.

Rock art will also be in the public domain this weekend. I am giving a TEDxPerth talk on Saturday at the Perth Concert Hall - talking about how art is part of our human heritage and how we need to better protect Australia's great rock art estate. Will keep you updated on how that goes!!


Postgrad Corner

Sam Harper

Bachelor of Arts (1st Class Hons),
Bachelor of Law, ANU
My research is focused on the engraved rock art of the Port Hedland region. A distinct and heterogeneous style can be found here, limited to calcarenite ridges fringing the Port Hedland harbour and adjacent tidal islands. Two key sites, the tidal islands South West Creek 4 and Mourambine Kariyarra 3, have approximately 10,000 visible engravings. These engravings are located within a rich archaeological context, including scattered shell and midden deposit, portable and fixed grinding patches, stone arrangements, modified shell and some lithic artefacts: indicating complex, multi-functional places.
The core question I am asking is how group identity is shown through the engraved repertoire here, drawing apart a small unique figurative style, dominated by two distinct anthropomorph types (culture heroes?), marine fauna and material culture, from a larger arid geometric and track style repertoire. This formal analysis of group identity will be interpreted within a broader cultural framework, informed by mythological narratives and linguistic markers, which are used to understand the movement of people and culture through this part of the Pilbara landscape. 
I am currently 2 and a half years into this project: finishing up the analysis phase, writing up background chapters, and just back from the IFRAO conference in Cáceres, Spain, and the ACRA III conference in Alta, Norway.

Recently in the News:

Kimberley Visions Article

Aboriginal artwork in the Kimberley could be among oldest in the world, scientists say

Article on the story on the 7:30 Report featuring Peter Veth and Sven Ouzman's work in the Kimberley.

'Winged Monster' Rock Art Finally Deciphered

Story about the usefulness of DStretch featuring comments from Ben Smith.

Kimberley rock art dating project gathers momentum

Updates on the Kimberley Rock Art Dating Project with comments from Sven Ouzman.

Community Outreach

In September, the CRAR+M Outreach Program hit Kyilla Primary in North Perth. 44 young pre-primary students were taught how to make rock art from long, long ago!

This activity, run by Sven and Rentia Ouzman, was also part of the CSIRO 'Scientists in Schools' Program.

CRAR+M Conferencing

Meg Travers and Sam Harper (photo Ken Mulvaney)

IFRAO Conference

Dr Ken Mulvaney
The 18th or 19th  International Rock Art Conference (IFRAO) was held at  the University of Extremadura, Cáceres, Spain, running over five days in early September 2015. There were two days of oral presentations either side of a middle day given to field trips to visit archaeological sites in the surrounding region. The choice of Cáceres was inspired: not only is the medieval town centre a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was voted the 2015 gourmet  capital of Spain. As many of the participants of the conference can attest, this is a well-deserved judgement. It was unfortunate that the quality of papers, the conference venue and services provided did not match the town's quality.  For an international conference not to provide translation services, in particular, limited, for many, the value of presentations.

A small group of students and adjunct staff of CRAR+M presented, their papers being well received by those attending, with some regret expressed by others who missed papers due to the timing of other papers given in the eleven concurrent sessions.
CRAR+M ALTA III Conference attendees, learning the Norwegian way of looking at rock art during daylight hours (Photo courtesy of Meg Travers)

ACRA Conference

Megan Berry
In September rock art researchers from around the world descended on Alta, Norway for the ACRA III conference “Perspectives and Differences in Rock Art”. Australia, and especially members of CRAR+M, came out in force for this international conference showcasing new and exciting research from the past five years.

It appeared to be a time of change in Alta – the famous red paint was in the process of being removed from the engraved rock surfaces (an act that surprisingly divided some of the international researchers). This year also marked the retirement of Prof. Knut Helskog, one of the leading researchers working on the Alta World Heritage rock art sites, with this conference given in honour of his work.

Some of the papers that were given at the conference outlined pigment dating in South Africa; attempted to reconstruct ideas of regionalism; and challenged our ideas of seasonality and rock art production. Researchers also discussed visual narrative, location, and the acoustics of rock art sites and landscapes. CRAR+M’s own Prof. Jo McDonald presented on gorgeous decorative infill figures from the Western Desert (I might be biased, but they are definitely some of my favourite motifs), Prof. Ben Smith put forth the challenge on how we should engage the public with rock art, and Prof. Peter Veth educated the entire conference on how to present 14 lines of evidence in less than 20 minutes. From the heart of Mongolia to Port Hedland, and from Lesotho to the snowscapes of the north, the conference showcased some of the best work happening in our field at the moment. With rock art uniting this world of researchers, it was clear how differently everyone approached the study and analysis of the material.  We  are reminded that we need to constantly challenge each other and our interpretations in order to push our field forward. 
Jo McDonald

Our director, Professor Jo McDonald, has been invited to speak at the 2015 TEDxPerth.

Unfortunately tickets for this event have sold out, however you can register to view the live stream from 9 am, Saturday 7 November or watch on the big screen at Northbridge Piazza in Perth for free!
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