Navigating Contact: Tradition and Innovation in Australian Contact Rock Art

Published on Sep 9, 2019in International Journal of Historical Archaeology
· DOI :10.1007/s10761-019-00511-0
Catherine Frieman6
Estimated H-index: 6
(ANU: Australian National University),
Sally K. May8
Estimated H-index: 8
(Griffith University)
In this paper, we look at the ways in which rock art encapsulates and expresses the tension between tradition and innovation in northern Australia during the period of European colonization. The appearance of new motifs and techniques for producing rock art in the recent past sits alongside the continuation of "traditional" practices reflecting thousands of years of artistic expression. Using case studies from Arnhem Land, we reflect on both ethnographic and archaeological evidence in order to interrogate the ways in which innovation impacted upon and was used by Indigenous groups to navigate contact. Our findings suggest that technological conservatism and the resistance to new technologies by Aboriginal communities is both considered and partial, with the overriding logic being about minimizing the disruption of specific values conceptualised as traditional, rather than eliminating or avoiding all outside influence.
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