The rock art of the northern Kakadu region of the Northern Territory of Australia has a large range of paintings that depict human figures interacting with material culture items such as spears, spearthrowers, clubs and boomerangs. The paintings are often rendered in fine detail allowing for identification of specific artefact types. Many of the artefacts depicted in the rock art are recognisable as similar to those collected by ethnographers from Arnhem Land and the surrounding regions during the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries. South Australia’s interests in the Northern Territory during the second half of the 19 th century ensured that a large number of collected items found their way to the South Australian Museum’s ethnographic collection. Whilst no direct association is made between particular ethnographic objects as subjects in rock art paintings, there are some observations that can be made about the object/subject relationship in general. The first pertains to artefact types, in which paintings appear to depict actual types found in the collection. Another relates to what an artefact represents, functionally and symbolically, and whether these concepts are transferable between ethnographic observations and the rock art image. A third refers to the contexts in which both museum objects and rock art paintings are found and the ways that context can influence meaning and interpretation. This paper explores these issues and the possible correspondence that exists between the South Australian Museum’s Australian Aboriginal Material Culture Collection and the rock art of Kakadu, concluding that a combined and comparative study of both can reinforce a mutual understanding of each.
|Number of pages||34|
|Journal||Journal of the Anthropological Society of South Australia|
|Publication status||Published - Dec 2016|
- Rock art
- Indigenous Australians
- Arnhem Land
- South Australian Museum