Using an ethnographic approach, this research assesses common assumptions in rock art research in terms of their validity for Aboriginal rock art sites in the Barunga region of the Northern Territory, Australia. In particular, we assess the potential and limits of the commonly held assumption that open or restricted access to sites and/or the meaning of motifs can be assessed by determining the visibility of the site or image within the landscape. This research calls into question some assumptions that are core to contemporary archaeological method and theory. Our results challenge the notion that a secluded location, or difficulty of access, is needed to restrict access to a site. “Hidden” sites do not need to be hidden, as site access is controlled by a plethora of cultural rules. Moreover, sites that appear to be hidden within the landscape may be open access sites, although access may be restricted for periods of time. Conversely, sites that are visible and accessible from a landscape perspective can be subject to restricted access, regulated through social rules. In addition, the results question the notion that the control of secret information in rock art sites is determined by the visibility and location of motifs and sites. Hidden meanings are not necessarily related to hidden locations or the low visibility of the art, since cultures can have many other ways of hiding meaning. Finally, the results of this study challenge the commonly held dichotomy between sacred/restricted access and secular/open access.
Bibliographical noteThis article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
- Rock art
- Theory and method
- Cultural landscapes
Domingo Sanz, I., Smith, C., Jackson, G., & Roman Monroig, D. (2020). Hidden sites, hidden images, hidden meanings: Does the Location and Visibility of Motifs and Sites Correlate to Restricted or Open Access? JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL METHOD AND THEORY, 27(3), 699-722. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-020-09465-8