Investigating the painted rock art of the Central Pilbara
To date, most attention on rock art in the Pilbara has been focused on the extensive engravings that are present, particularly in the coastal regions and especially the Burrup Peninsula. The current project was designed to explore the lesser known painted art sites of the Central Pilbara. Revisiting previously identified sites as well as newly located sites, detailed site recording, photogrammetry, pXRF, motif analysis and conservation assessment was undertaken. Results indicate some similarities with the repertoire of engraved motifs in the region, but also some unique features. Preservation factors including airbourne dust, mineral precipitation, water movement and the nature of the pigments themselves have resulted in relatively poor survival of painted art. Superimpositioning has allowed a relative chronology to be developed; it is likely that the majority of the painted art dates to within the last few thousand years, and possibly only the last few hundred years. Although rarely painting on rock surfaces today, Banjima people hold considerable knowledge about pigments used for contemporary body decoration and ceremony, as well as the meanings of certain motifs and sites; this information has provided invaluable in better understanding the painted art sites of the Central Pilbara.
About the presenter
Dr Lynley Wallis, Senior Archaeologist, Wallis Heritage Consulting, Adelaide, South Australia.
My research interests lie primarily in archaeological science and the interactions between people and their environment. After undertaking an honours degree looking at residues on stone artefacts from the 30,000 yo site of Widgingarri in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, I was somewhat surprised by the quantity of plant residues preserved on artefacts that were typically seen as being 'hunting' tools - and thus began my interests in plants. Accordingly, my doctoral research looked at late Quaternary environmental change through phytolith analysis at the site of Carpenter's Gap 1 (excavated by Prof Sue O'Connor) in the Kimberley. Since that time I have led a long-term research project in northwest Queensland, working collaboratively with members of the Woolgar Valley Aboriginal Corporation on sites ranging from the contact period back to ca 35,000 years ago. I also spent 5 years based in Adelaide at Flinders University, where I undertook numerous community-driven projects with the Ngarrindjeri Heritage Committee. I left full-time employment in the academic sector in July 2011, and am now running my own business, Wallis Heritage Consulting.