Serpents Glen (Karnatukul): New Histories for Deep time Attachment to Country in Australia’s Western Desert

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Recent work at Serpents Glen (Karnatukul) in the Carnarvon Ranges (Katjarra) of the Western Desert has changed our archaeological understanding of both deep time occupation and more recent arid-zone social geography. Mobilising rock art evidence into earlier models for how arid zone peoples have entered, settled and known Country has allowed us to project people into cycles of human mobility. Our understanding of the deep time and more recent engagements with Country (ngurra) has changed significantly since Richard Gould wrote Yiwara and Living Archaeology in the late 1960s. Early ethno-archaeological studies portrayed the desert as harsh and precarious, and the lifeways of arid zone peoples as marginal and conservative. Fifty years of archaeological endeavour working with traditional custodians in the Western Desert, has changed this view of the ‘dangerous desert’. ‘Risk-minimisation’ and the ‘dietary stress hypothesis’ have been replaced with models that consider human mobility, social geography and information exchange theory as ways of understanding how arid-zone peoples have been successfully on country since the earliest human occupation of this continent. Karnatukul’s record rewrites the deep history of the arid zone, as well as refining our understanding of social complexity by combining late Holocene arid zone art and occupation evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
Specialist publicationBulletin of the History of Archaeology
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020

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