Academic journal article Rock Art Research

Australian Cave Art Protection

Academic journal article Rock Art Research

Australian Cave Art Protection

Article excerpt

Australia boasts one of the largest concentrations of cave art in the world, but whereas the largest, in France and northern Spain, has been the focus of massive protection programs, there has been no concerted effort of this kind in Australia. Relevant legislation is significantly inadequate and in reality ineffective in all states. Until now, the principal form of protection of the nearly fifty Australian cave art sites has been the complete confidentiality of most of the site locations, maintained by the Parietal Markings Project (PMP) since 1980. This measure is now considered to be inadequate to meet challenges of the future.

The Australian cave art sites occur on land managed by various agencies, i.e. they are subject to non-uniform policies of management. None of the land managers is familiar with the Burra Charter or Venice Charter, the instruments governing the guardianship of cultural heritage sites. Moreover, there is no set of guidelines applicable specifically to cave art in Australia, yet such sites feature the most fragile of all forms of rock art. The unique preservation conditions of cave art relate to the susceptibility of limestone cave walls to fluctuations in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, relative air humidity and temperature, all of which are influenced by human visitation. Moreover, extensive experience with European cave art implicates humanly introduced microbiota in infestations that have already cost the French government in excess of $30 million, but still remain fundamentally unresolved. …

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