Management of large-scale rock art areas Survey

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Researchers at Griffith University are conducting a survey about rock art landscape management – help them out through the link below:

This research is part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded program called ‘Australian rock art history, conservation and Indigenous well-being’ at Griffith University. The overall aim of the project is to ensure that rock art landscapes are better conserved, appreciated and understood for the benefit of local communities and future generations.

This survey has been designed by Dr. Sally K. May and Prof. Paul S.C. Taçon in order to better understand national and international trends in the management of large-scale rock art landscapes. The information will be collated for a report and publications on this topic.

For this study, we broadly define a large-scale rock art area as one in which more than 10 individual rock art sites are found. While the definition of a separate ‘site’ is different internationally, for simplicity we would define it here as a place with rock art clearly separated from other places (by distance or geology). The size of the actual area is not our major concern, rather it is the number of individual sites within that landscape that you are involved in helping to care for. If you are unsure please feel free to contact us for clarification.

Source: Management of large-scale rock art areas Survey

Underwater survey reveals secrets of Australia WWI wreck off PNG

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via Channel NewsAsia, 23 April 2018:

SYDNEY: Researchers Monday (Apr 23) voiced renewed hope of discovering why Australia’s first submarine sank, after a detailed underwater survey of the long-lost wreck off Papua New Guinea led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. HMAS AE1, the first of two E Class submarines built for the Royal Australian Navy, vanished on Sep 14, 1914 near the Duke of York Islands. The disappearance of the sub, carrying 35 crew members from Australia, Britain and New Zealand, was the nation’s most enduring military mystery until the wreck was found in December following 12 previous expeditions. The new survey, conducted earlier this month with Allen’s research vessel the R/V Petrel, used a remotely-operated vehicle to inspect the sub and collect more than 8,500 high-resolution photos and several hours of video footage. James Hunter of the Australian National Maritime Museum, an archeological observer to the US-Australia expedition, said the fresh imagery should help unravel the mystery of what happened to AE1. “We’re not there yet, we’re still looking through all the footage … it’s going to give us the detail that we need that we didn’t have before,” he told AFP. He said the researchers, who also came from the Royal Australian Navy, Curtin University, the Western Australian Museum and the Submarine Institute of Australia, previously only had low-resolution overhead shots of the wreck. “We’re going to be looking for all sorts of clues. Even the seemingly most innocuous clues may actually help us move forward and have a better understanding of what happened to the submarine,” he added. So far, the images that have been reviewed reveal that the sub’s stern torpedo tube cap was open, although it is not known why, Hunter said. AE1, found in more than 300 metres of water, was the first Allied submarine loss in World War I. The sub had joined naval forces assigned to the capture of the German Pacific colonies in 1914. On Sep 14 she vanished after a rendezvous off Herbertshohe – present day Kokopo – near the Duke of York Islands with the destroyer HMAS Parramatta. Retired Royal Australian Navy Rear Admiral Peter Briggs said in December the most likely cause of the loss remains a diving accident. Allen’s Petrel was involved in the recent discovery of the wreckage of WWII aircraft carrier USS Lexington off the east coast of Australia.

Source: Underwater survey reveals secrets of Australia WWI wreck off PNG

Humans occupied northern Australia 65,000 years ago: What does this mean for SEA?

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An exciting paper was published last week in Nature and received a fair bit of media coverage: dating from the Madjedbebe site in Northern Territories of Australia have yielded the earliest human occupation dates of 65,000 years, setting a new minimum age of human migration. The previous conventional earliest occupation date was about 47,000 years ago – so this new date is a pretty big deal. The finds have a bigger implication for human occupation in Southeast Asia: so far the oldest modern human remains found in SEA are from Tham Pa Ling in Laos, which are approximately 60,000 years old. This new find from Australia suggests that there may be older remains yet to be found in SEA.

The time of arrival of people in Australia is an unresolved question. It is relevant to debates about when modern humans first dispersed out of Africa and when their descendants incorporated genetic material from Neanderthals, Denisovans and possibly other hominins. Humans have also been implicated in the extinction of Australia’s megafauna. Here we report the results of new excavations conducted at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in northern Australia. Artefacts in primary depositional context are concentrated in three dense bands, with the stratigraphic integrity of the deposit demonstrated by artefact refits and by optical dating and other analyses of the sediments. Human occupation began around 65,000 years ago, with a distinctive stone tool assemblage including grinding stones, ground ochres, reflective additives and ground-edge hatchet heads. This evidence sets a new minimum age for the arrival of humans in Australia, the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa, and the subsequent interactions of modern humans with Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Source: Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago : Nature : Nature Research

See also:

Discovery: Australia’s oldest coastal aboriginal site

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The discovery of archaeological remains in Boodie Cave on Barrow Island, in northwestern Australia goes back to 50,000 years and shows exploitation of marine resources.

Archaeological deposits from Boodie Cave on Barrow Island, northwest Australia, reveal some of the oldest evidence for Aboriginal occupation of Australia, as well as illustrating the early use of marine resources by modern peoples outside of Africa. Barrow Island is a large (202 km2) limestone continental island located on the North-West Shelf of Australia, optimally located to sample past use of both the Pleistocene coastline and extensive arid coastal plains. An interdisciplinary team forming the Barrow Island Archaeology Project (BIAP) has addressed questions focusing on the antiquity of occupation of coastal deserts by hunter-gatherers; the use and distribution of marine resources from the coast to the interior; and the productivity of the marine zone with changing sea levels. Boodie Cave is the largest of 20 stratified deposits identified on Barrow Island with 20 m3 of cultural deposits excavated between 2013 and 2015. In this first major synthesis we focus on the dating and sedimentology of Boodie Cave to establish the framework for ongoing analysis of cultural materials. We present new data on these cultural assemblages – including charcoal, faunal remains and lithics – integrated with micromorphology, sedimentary history and dating by four independent laboratories. First occupation occurs between 51.1 and 46.2 ka, overlapping with the earliest dates for occupation of Australia. Marine resources are incorporated into dietary assemblages by 42.5 ka and continue to be transported to the cave through all periods of occupation, despite fluctuating sea levels and dramatic extensions of the coastal plain. The changing quantities of marine fauna through time reflect the varying distance of the cave from the contemporaneous shoreline. The dietary breadth of both arid zone terrestrial fauna and marine species increases after the Last Glacial Maximum and significantly so by the mid-Holocene. The cave is abandoned by 6.8 ka when the island becomes increasingly distant from the mainland coast.

Source: Early human occupation of a maritime desert, Barrow Island, North-West Australia

See also:
Earliest evidence of Aboriginal occupation of Australian coast discovered (The Guardian, 19 May 2017)
Remote cave reveals earliest Australians lived around 50,000 years ago (University of Queensland, 19 May 2017)

RIP Pamela Gutman

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Pamela Gutman, 1944-2015. Source: The Interpreter 20150402

I learnt today of the sad passing of Pamela Gutman on March 31. Dr Gutman was the leading scholar on Burmese art history in Australia, notable for working in the country when much of Burme (now Myanmar) was closed to the outside.

Pamela Gutman, 1944-2015. Source: The Interpreter 20150402

Pamela Gutman, 1944-2015. Source: The Interpreter 20150402

Pamela Gutman, 1944-2015
The Lowy Interpreter, 02 April 2015

At a time when there is increasing interest in Australia’s developing ties with Burma (Myanmar), the death on 31 March of Pamela Gutman brings to an end the life of the first Australian scholar to complete a doctorate in Asian art and to do so in relation to Burma.

The fruits of this research were eventually contained in her highly praised book, Burma’s Lost Kingdoms: Splendours of Arakan, published in 2001. To record these blunt facts tells little of the effort involved in her carrying out research in Burma in the 1970s, when the government was resistant to foreign scholarship, and travel in Arakan could only take place with the assistance of a military escort.

Yet Pamela overcame the difficulties research in Burma posed, which involved translating Sanskrit inscriptions and becoming highly knowledgeable about obscure numismatics. She also played an early part in government-to-government relations.

She was invited to dine with the then Burmese president, Ne Win, to advance the cause of an Australia-Burma cultural agreement, an event, as she was able to recount, that involved being admitted to Ne Win’s residence only after she had been examined through a periscope at the residence’s guard post.

Reads the full obituary here.

Call for Papers: The Archaeology of Portable Art: South East Asian, Pacific, and Australian Perspectives

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My alma mater is holding a symposium in May on portable art, focusing on Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Australian regions. Paper proposals are now being accepted and you are encouraged to contact Duncan Wright or Michelle Langley for more details.


The Archaeology of Portable Art: South East Asian, Pacific, and Australian Perspectives
Date: 23-24 May 2015
Venue: The Australian National University

This symposium aims to reignite the dialogue about portable art across Island South East Asia, the Pacific and Australia and by doing so review future directions for research. Specific themes are: object histories; use of ethnography/museum collections for informing archaeological research; use of ‘intangible technologies’ and organic artefacts for expressing community affiliation/identity; cognitive development, the role of portable art in Pleistocene and Holocene expansions; and experimental studies.

Full details here.

Job Opportunity: Lecturer in Archaeology, JCU

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James Cook University in Cairns, Australia is looking for a lecturer in archaeology; while the candidate is expected to teach and research Australian Archaeology, they are also looking for candidates with interests in the tropical world, which may intersect with Southeast Asia. Deadline for applications in 21 November 2014.


New Full-Time Continuing Lecturer in Archaeology Position – JCU Cairns
DeadlineL 21 November 2014
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Mystery over African coins in Australia

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Filed under “I’m sure Southeast Asia was involved”

Puzzle over Africa coins sheds some light on Aboriginal Rock Art
China Post, 23 August 2013

Solving the mystery of how 900-year-old African coins ended up in remote Australia could not only recast the history of foreign contaxt Down Under, but shed light on Aboriginal rock art.

How the ancient Kilwa coins, believed to date from about A.D. 1100, came to be discovered on the Wessels Islands off the Northern Terriory in 1944 has long posed questions about foreign visits to far off Australian shores.

Source: Puzzle over Africa coins sheds some light on Aboriginal Rock Art | China Post

The Clarence wreck in Australia and its modern SEA connections

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Earlier this year I posted a call by the Archaeology Unit from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies for The Australian Historic Shipwreck Protection Project. The Age has a story out about the underwater excavation and a mention about the Southeast Asian archaeologists working at the site.

Wreck reveals its bounty
The Age, 17 April 2012
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