Plants before animals? Aboriginal rock art as evidence of ecoscaping in Australia’s Kimberley

Sven Ouzman, Peter Veth, Cecilia Myers, Pauline Heaney, Kevin Kenneally

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapter

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The multiple Aboriginal rock art traditions of Australia’s Kimberley contain primary evidence of commensal human–plant relationships that we term ‘ecoscaping’. Produced over tens of thousands of years, Kimberley rock art contains up to 25% of sites with plant depictions in some of its earliest traditions, which date to at least 16,000 years ago. A finite range of food and medicinal plants are depicted (yams, tubers, fruits, as well as paint-soaked grasses pressed onto rock walls) in structured iconographic and landscape contexts. Very few gatherer-hunter rock arts globally offer such plentiful, detailed, and archaeologically and palaeoenvironmentally contextualized evidence of plants in both daily life and symbolic thought. We suggest that this rock art is evidence of an entangled landscape that combines geography, hydrology, biological vitality, and anthropological dynamics—an ‘ecoscaping’ that differs from more deterministic formulations such as 'domiculture’. Kimberley plant rock art is best understood as a key artefact and practice
in how people managed the often extreme environmental and concomitant social change the Kimberley has experienced.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Rock Art
EditorsBruno David, Ian McNiven
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780190607357
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Nov 2017

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rock art
animal
yam
hunter-gatherer
commensal
medicinal plant
tuber
social change
wall rock
artifact
hydrology
fruit
grass
food

Cite this

Ouzman, S., Veth, P., Myers, C., Heaney, P., & Kenneally, K. (2017). Plants before animals? Aboriginal rock art as evidence of ecoscaping in Australia’s Kimberley. In B. David, & I. McNiven (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Rock Art Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190607357.013.31
Ouzman, Sven ; Veth, Peter ; Myers, Cecilia ; Heaney, Pauline ; Kenneally, Kevin. / Plants before animals? Aboriginal rock art as evidence of ecoscaping in Australia’s Kimberley. The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Rock Art. editor / Bruno David ; Ian McNiven. Oxford University Press, 2017.
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Ouzman, S, Veth, P, Myers, C, Heaney, P & Kenneally, K 2017, Plants before animals? Aboriginal rock art as evidence of ecoscaping in Australia’s Kimberley. in B David & I McNiven (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Rock Art. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190607357.013.31

Plants before animals? Aboriginal rock art as evidence of ecoscaping in Australia’s Kimberley. / Ouzman, Sven; Veth, Peter; Myers, Cecilia; Heaney, Pauline ; Kenneally, Kevin.

The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Rock Art. ed. / Bruno David; Ian McNiven. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapter

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Ouzman S, Veth P, Myers C, Heaney P, Kenneally K. Plants before animals? Aboriginal rock art as evidence of ecoscaping in Australia’s Kimberley. In David B, McNiven I, editors, The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Rock Art. Oxford University Press. 2017 https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190607357.013.31