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The dating of rock art a critique

American archaeologist Daniel Sutherland Davidson briefly commented on Bradshaw's figures while undertaking a survey of Australian rock art that he would publish in 1936.Davidson noted that Bradshaw's encounter with this art was brief and lacked any Aboriginal interpretations; furthermore, as Bradshaw's sketches of the art were at this time the only visual evidence, Davidson argued that they could be inaccurate and possibly drawn from a Eurocentric bias.Lead author Dr June Ross, archaeologist from the University of New England, states that the new timeline for the beginning of rock art in Sulawesi in Indonesia around 39,000 years ago, together with evidence from excavations in the northwest Kimberley, show that humans with sophisticated artistic skills settled along the northern coastline as early as 36,000 years ago.She believes that the Kimberley art is not only of great antiquity, but perhaps the oldest art is now submerged off the Kimberley coastline.Among the art discoveries was a perfectly preserved yam-like motif painted in mulberry coloured ochre on the ceiling of a deep cavern, which had a minimum age estimate of more than 16,000 years.The researchers had hoped that some of the paintings analysed belonged to the rock art style known as Gwion Gwion (lower image), but unfortunately this was not the case.

At the same time, he acknowledges the severe limitations of scientifically dating the paleoart, the subjective biases involved in stylistic classification, and the ultimate mystery of its meaning.A striking feature of the methodologies presented within the volume is the number of chapters which incorporate an informed critique of current archaeological models.Through revisiting such topics as the origins and development of Paleolithic art, the colonization of the Pacific, the relationship between ‘styles’ and dating, and the application of shamanistic interpretations of rock art, many of the papers resurrect old ideas in new ways and address ongoing debates through more contemporary perspectives.Bradshaw rock paintings, Bradshaw rock art, Bradshaw figures or The Bradshaws, are terms used to describe one of the two major regional traditions of rock art found in the north-west Kimberley region of Western Australia.Bradshaw figures superimposed over a kangaroo and snake. Drawn by Joseph Bradshaw in April 1891 Backburning has since largely destroyed the original painting. While searching for suitable pastoral land in the then remote Roe River area in 1891, pastoralist Joseph Bradshaw discovered an unusual type of rock art on a sandstone escarpment.

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Several researchers who encountered the Bradshaw-type of paintings during expeditions to the region were members of the 1938 Frobenius Institute expedition.