Rock art tells of interactions between ancient Indonesians and Australians

The dating of Aboriginal Australian rock art depicting the contact between Makassan ships and indigenous Australians suggests that contact between the two communities existed at least a hundred years earlier than originally thought.

Australia’s rock art discovery – sailing vessels visit in mid-1600’s

Sail, 25 July 2010

We have contact: rock art records early visitors
The Canberra Times, 24 July 2010

A team of archaeologists has uncovered ancient rock paintings showing that South-East Asian ships were visiting Australia well before European settlement.

The paintings, found in Arnhem Land by a team of archaeologists from the Australian National University and Griffith University, are the oldest known contact rock art in Australia, dating back to the mid-1600s.

Working with a local traditional owner in the Wellington Range, the research team found a rock shelter containing almost 1200 individual paintings and beeswax figures.

ANU archaeologist Sally May said the process had been unfolding over the past two years.

The discovery was part of the government-funded Picturing Change project, which highlights the importance of contact rock art as some of the only contemporary indigenous accounts of cross-cultural encounters in the past 500 years.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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