History Disappearing: The Rapid Loss of Australian Contact Period Rock Art

Paul S.C. Taçon, Sally K. May, Daryl Wesley, Andrea Jalandoni, Roxanne Tsang, Kenneth Mangiru

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In Australia, recent climate change has resulted in prolonged droughts, massive devastating bushfires, extreme flooding, and more frequent and intense cyclones, all of which affect archaeological and historic heritage. In this paper, we report on new research on rock art at a site called Djarrng in western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. Djarrng was heavily impacted by Tropical Cyclone Monica in 2006. We have visited the site sporadically since 1992, most recently in September 2019. We also have photographs taken in 1979 and accessed others taken in 1965 and so are in a position to document change to rock art panels over a 54 year period. We discuss not only change at the site as a result of the cyclone but also more general changes to rock art imagery at Arnhem Land sites in the past two hundred years, as well as lessons learnt from natural disasters that could be important for future rock art conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-131
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Arnhem Land
  • climate change
  • cyclone
  • Djarrng site
  • Northern Territory
  • rock art conservation


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