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Dating the Dreaming: Extinct Fauna in the Petroglyphs of the Pilbara Region, Western Australia

Ken Mulvaney
Archaeology in Oceania
Vol. 44, Supplement: Pilbara Archaeology (Apr., 2009), pp. 40-48
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40387428
Page Count: 9
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Dating the Dreaming: Extinct Fauna in the Petroglyphs of the Pilbara Region, Western Australia
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Abstract

Examples of striped marsupial depictions have been reported from both the coastal and inland Pilbara. Many are regarded as images of the thylacine, an animal that disappeared from mainland Australia some 3000-4000 years ago. Also observable in the rock art is the 'fat-tailed macropod', a distinctive rendition of a marsupial with an extremely thick tail. Recent investigations in the Tom Price area and on the Burrup Peninsula confirm that both motifs pertain to the more ancient rock art corpus. Restricted artistic variation within the depiction of these two species confirms the trend to naturalistic style within animal subjects and suggests a extensive, culturally cohesive, artistic tradition across the Pilbara during the Pleistocene and early Holocene. At two specific locations, aspects of the rock art may be explained in terms of contemporary oral traditions and cultural practices, affording one way of placing temporal parameters on these early graphic traditions. I argue that the rock art is not just representational; that it communicates mythological narratives and behavioural traits, which have a deep antiquity to the Dreaming of more than just a few thousand years.

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