Boundaries, Relationality, and Style Provinces in Australian Rock Art

Madeleine Kelly, Liam Brady

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Identifying style provinces is a popular topic of enquiry in Australian rock art research. At the core of these studies is the focus on the style or manner of depiction of motifs as a key indicator for determining patterns of motif similarity and difference, and their corresponding spatial distribution. In identifying spatial continuities and discontinuities based on a formal analysis of rock art motifs fixed in place, researchers sometimes limit their ability to understand the relational dimensions associated with past and present graphic systems more broadly. This chapter reviews and critiques the formal, style-based methods of delineating discontinuities in rock art as boundaries and uses Nancy Williams’s work on Yolngu boundaries as a framework to further build on research into spatial discontinuities in rock art as flexible, intersecting, and fluid. In doing so, the authors also draw attention to the role of relational understandings and decorative portable objects in characterizing intersecting style-based discontinuities. Using two case studies from northern Australia, they demonstrate how the spatial and social boundaries expressed in rock art are often much more complex than originally envisaged.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Indigenous Australia and New Guinea
EditorsIan McNiven, Bruno David
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9780190095611
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Feb 2021


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