Visions from the Past: The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art

Visions from the Past: The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art

Visions from the Past: The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art

Visions from the Past: The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art

Synopsis

"Aboriginal rock art: a vast gallery, the work of 1500 generations. The island continent of Australia contains the largest continuous record of human artistic expression in history. Here is a beautifully illustrated and comprehensive introduction to this ancient art and its archaeology from Mike Morwood, an experienced and respected authority."

Excerpt

The urge to decorate is one of the defining characteristics of modern human beings (Homo sapiens sapiens). There are odd pieces of β€˜art’ known from earlier contexts, including the polished section of mammoth tooth stained with red ochre from Tata in Hungary and estimated to be between 78 000 and 116 000 years old, but art does not appear as part of a coherent, visual system until around 40 000 years ago. Its arrival is associated with human evolutionary and technological changes in Europe, Africa and Asia, and the initial colonization of America and Australia. Since this time, human beings have consistently decorated themselves, their implements and, where available, rock surfaces.

The implications of this artistic watershed for advances in the ability, or need, for new types of social communication are still being argued about, but the fact that art, or symbolic expression, was practised in all human societies over such a long period means that artistic material forms a reasonable proportion of the archaeological record: Upper Palaeolithic cave art, Mayan murals and New York subway graffiti are very different in character, but can all provide information on value systems, social institutions and ideologies, if the right questions are asked.

There are many books, theses and articles dealing with art generally and with specific art assemblages. These range from well-illustrated coffee-table books with mediocre text to excellent regional syntheses . . .

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