From landscape to seascape: a spatial analysis of Murujuga rock art, Western Pilbara

Lucia Clayton

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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This thesis provides the frst spatial analysis of an engraved landscape, known as Happy Valley, focusing on location, visibility and the relationship of the rock art with topographical features. Rock art is seen as communication, a structured form of transmitting information to its original and subsequent audiences, allow- ing us to seek and explore conventions of representation and in particular their placement in the landscape. The choices that artists made about image place- ment provide insights into how space was structured, and how they experienced the surrounding landscape.

This thesis aims to identify the rules that determine the form and location of rock art within this site (Bradley 1997). Three sub-samples were chosen: site entrance, creekline and inner clearing. The rock art in these areas was analysed quantita- tively. Contrast state was tested and demonstrated to be an appropriate tool for relative chronological control. This has been used to explore spatial changes over time, in a landscape that has experienced signifcant environmental change in the Holocene, and in a time frame that possibly covers the Last Glacial Maxi- mum (Mulvaney 2013).

The patterns identifed in these analyses show how the artists structured the site through time. The initial stages of rock art production involve marking the land- scape with an open, colonizing repertoire of motifs (Balme et al. 2009), which with climatic amelioration and sea-level rise becomes an extensive and stylistically di- verse assemblage where local identity is asserted at the same time as affliations with regional networks were maintained (McDonald 2014). These expressions of identity were found to be spatially structured and with different target audiences.

The assemblage at Happy Valley provides insights into how people managed the vast landscape changes during extreme climatic change, and how site occupa- tion has changed since the islandisation of the Dampier Archipelago.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


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