Abstract: Closer than We Know: Comparing the Rock Art of Australia and Western North America


Australia and the New World were both originally colonized by peoples who brought with them rich spiritual and symbolic systems. These peoples successfully adapted to major environmental and cultural changes, and these adaptations may be reflected in the paintings and engravings they left on cliff faces and on shelter walls. Despite being a world apart, there are a surprising number of parallels in the production, evolution, and context of rock art on the two continents. Viewing rock art with a global perspective highlights both the similarities and the differences of people surviving under similar circumstances. This lecture will investigate the rock art of both continents, focusing on environmental and cultural context, ethnography, and current research trends.

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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