Connecting to the Ancestors: Why Rock Art is Important for Indigenous Australians and their well-being

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Tacon, Paul
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2019
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Abstract

The rock art of Australia, consisting of paintings, drawings, stencils, prints, petroglyphs, finger flutings and figures made of beeswax, remains important for contemporary Indigenous Australians on many levels despite cultural, linguistic and geographic differences across the country, as well as hundreds of years of contact with Asians and Europeans. However, the reason why it is important, including for well-being, rarely has been the focus of research. In this paper this is explored, beginning with historic references and then interviews with Aboriginal colleagues in New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory. The responses to the question 'Why is rock art important?' by an international group of non-Indigenous rock art researchers is then contrasted with responses to the same question by a group of Aboriginal Australians equally interested in and concerned about rock art. It is concluded that Aboriginal Australians emphasise rock art as being an essential part of contemporary Indigenous culture(s) associated with connections to direct ancestors and Ancestral Beings, important cultural stories, history places, cultural landscapes and contemporary well-being, while rock art researchers more often link rock art to archaeology, specific sites and notions of things from the past. In order to better manage rock art in Australia, understanding this difference is fundamental. However, the two perspectives can be usefully combined to better inform and support rock art conservation and management practice.

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Rock Art Research

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36

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1

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© 2019 Archaeological Publications. The attached file is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander archaeology

Archaeology not elsewhere classified

Cultural heritage management (incl. world heritage)

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Tacon, P, Connecting to the Ancestors: Why Rock Art is Important for Indigenous Australians and their well-being., Rock Art Research, 2019, 36 (1), pp. 5-14

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