Australian rock art is under threat from both natural and cultural forces impacting on sites. But what saddens me the most is that there is so much government lethargy in Australia when it comes to documenting and protecting Australia’s rock art.
The Weekend Australian reported that 1,700 engraved boulders were removed to make way for the North West Shelf gas plant on Western Australia’s Burrup Peninsula in the early 1980s were relocated to a ridge. They sat in a fenced compound for 30 years alongside others damaged due to neglect. Although the original landscape context of the art was destroyed at least they are now out of what was called the “the graveyard”.
But now, impending changes to the Aboriginal Heritage Act by the Western Australian government means Aboriginal heritage will be worse off than ever before. This is because one person, possibly without relevant expertise, will be given the power to say yes or no to site destruction for development rather than a committee of experts. Read more.
Dozens of rock art sites in southern New Mexico, recently documented for the first time, are revealing unexpected botanical clues that archaeologists say may help unlock the meaning of the ancient abstract paintings.
Over a swath of the Chihuahuan Desert stretching from Carlsbad to Las Cruces, at least 24 rock art panels have been found bearing the same distinctive pictographs: repeated series of triangles painted in combinations of red, yellow, and black.
And at each of these sites, archaeologists have noticed similarities not just on the rock, but in the ground.
Hallucinogenic plants were found growing beneath the triangle designs, including a particularly potent species of wild tobacco and the potentially deadly psychedelic known as datura. Read more.
UTS researchers are working with archaeologists, anthropologists and the Northern Territory’s Jawoyn community to chemically analyse ancient rock art and uncover its secrets.
UTS Associate Professor Barbara Stuart and PhD student Alexandria Hunt are applying sophisticated techniques to understand the materials used by the artists and how their work has changed over time.
"One of my areas of interest has been working with archaeologists and applying chemical and analytical techniques to the study of archaeological problems," said Associate Professor Stuart.
While chemistry and archaeology are not a usual pairing, Associate Professor Stuart said that chemistry plays an important role in understanding archaeological sites. Read more.
Ancient Barrier Canyon-style paintings crafted on sunset-washed rock faces of the Great Gallery, located in Horseshoe Canyon in southern Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, are younger than expected, say Utah State University scientists.
In the Aug. 25, 2014, online ‘Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,’ USU scientists Joel Pederson, Steven Simms and Tammy Rittenour; USU alum Melissa Jackson Chapot of Wales’ Aberystwyth University, Reza Sohbati and Andrew Murray of Aarhus University and the Technical University of Denmark, and Gary Cox of Canyonlands National Park report findings from studies using cutting-edge luminescence dating techniques that narrow the time frame for the famed paintings of enigmatic human-like figures. These results disprove proposed hypotheses of the age of the prehistoric drawings, thought by some to be among the oldest artifacts of the American Southwest. Read more.
ALTAMIRA, Spain — The cave of Altamira in northern Spain contains some of the world’s finest examples of Paleolithic art. For years, visitors came to see the bisons, horses and mysterious signs painted and carved into the limestone as far back as 22,000 years ago. But in 2002 the cave was closed to the public when algae-like mold started to appear on some paintings. The damage was attributed to the presence of visitors and the use of artificial light to help them see the works.
Now Altamira is being partially reopened and in the process reviving the debate over whether such a prehistoric site can withstand the presence of modern-day visitors. Read more.
PRICE — The family of a juvenile responsible with defacing ancient rock art in Nine Mile Canyon has agreed to pay for the damage.
In May, Bureau of Land Management Utah Price Field Office law enforcement officers and archaeological staff investigated citizen-reported damage to the Nine Mile Canyon Pregnant Buffalo rock art panel in Carbon County.
The investigation revealed that two juveniles from the Salt Lake City area had carved their initials and the date into the rock face near the panel over Memorial Day weekend.
After careful examination and analysis, the BLM assessed the damage and identified specific mitigation measures. BLM archaeologists estimated that restoration and repair efforts would cost approximately $1,500. Read more.
Archaeologists know it as Renegade Canyon, a lava gorge in desert badlands with more than 1 million images of hunters, spirits and bighorn sheep etched in sharp relief on cliff faces and boulders.
But this desert is in the heart of the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, and it is where the Navy and Marines develop and test advanced bomb and missile systems.
Safeguarding the canyon and other troves of rock art from stray bombs and vandalism has been a priority since the Mojave Desert base was established in 1943. Now, the Navy is gearing up for a daunting new mission: creation of the first comprehensive inventory of the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the Western Hemisphere. Read more.
TADRART ACACUS, Libya— Vandals have destroyed prehistoric rock art in lawless southern Libya, endangering a sprawling tableau of paintings and carvings classified by UNESCO as of “outstanding universal value.”
Located along Libya’s southwestern tip bordering Algeria, the Tadrart Acacus mountain massif is famous for thousands of cave paintings and carvings going back up to 14,000 years.
The art, painted or carved on rocks sandwiched by spectacular sand dunes, showcase the changing flora and fauna of the Sahara stretching over thousands of years.
Highlights include a huge elephant carved on a rock face as well as giraffes, cows and ostriches rendered in caves dating back to an era when the region was not inhospitable desert. Read more.