Abstract: Through the Eyes of the Elder: Understanding the Rock Art of the Dreamtime


Northern Australia is one of the last places on earth where rock art is still a living part of indigenous culture. For the last ten years, David Lee has studied with Yidumduma Bill Harney, the last fully initiated Wardaman man, and senior custodian of his people’s Country, Songs, and Stories. Together they have documented forty-seven of the rock art sites in Wardaman Country, and all of Yidumduma’s knowledge about them. This knowledge provides many insights into how rock art functioned in the daily and ceremonial lives of early peoples. Yidumduma and the other Wardaman elders wish to see this knowledge recorded for their descendants, and shared with the rest of the world.

David Lee is an independent rock art researcher, author and lecturer focusing on the function and context of rock art in the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert, and the ethnography of Australian rock art. He has recorded Native American rock art in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Idaho, and has co-authored several papers and reports on the rock art of the Mojave Desert and the Great Basin. For the last ten years he has been studying rock art and associated traditional knowledge in the Northern Territory of Australia, and is currently assisting researchers at the Centre for Rock Art Research and Management at the University of Western Australia on the first international comparative study of arid lands rock art. 

Working with Senior Wardaman Elder Yidumduma Bill Harney to record all of the traditional knowledge of the rock art in Wardaman Country, Mr. Lee has gained rare insight into the function of rock art and the complexity of Aboriginal ceremonial life. This insight is combined with enthusiasm and an inspiring, professional presentation of rock art, wildlife and landscape images.   


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