Aboriginal Rock Art and the Extinction of the Megafauna: Results of archaeological excavations at the Genyornis newtoni, art site, south western Arnhem Land, N.T.
Change of Venue: This Working Paper will now be held in the Anthropology Museum, Level 1, Michie Building (#9), St Lucia campus.
A topical issue in Australian archaeology is whether or not Aboriginal hunter-gatherers were responsible for the extinction of marsupial megafauna. Various reasons for extinction have been put forward, including over hunting, cultural modification of the environment and natural environmental change. Key to this debate is the timing of when the megafauna became extinct, with some arguing that megafauna were already extinct or close to extinction by the time people arrived on this continent some 55,000 years ago. This seminar
outlines results from our excavations of the ‘Genyornis’ rock art site in south western Arnhem Land. This rock art site has a large motif of a bird with a spear in it that has been described as most resembling the extinct flightless megafaunal bird Genyornis newtoni, which if the case would establish clear interaction
between humans and megafauna and the first evidence of hunting of megafauna in Australia. From the dating of Genyornis newtoni egg shell in southern Australia it was thought that this species was extinct by at least 45,000 years ago – however more recent research has cast doubt on this extinction date. Our excavations in conjunction with detailed chemical and geophysical study of the motif and associated rock surfaces has established a maximum date for when the motif was painted, and thus the likelihood of it in fact depicting one of the extinct megafauna or not.
About the Presenter
Professor Barker’s research interests include the archaeology of pre-European and contact period Indigenous Australian and Papua New Guinea societies. Along with Associate Professor Lara Lamb, he currently has projects in the Gulf of Papua in PNG (with Griffith University and the Museum of PNG), south western Arnhem Land (Monash University, University of Bordeaux, University of Saviore [France]) and is a Chief Investigator in a recently successful ARC Discovery funded project on the Archaeology of the
Queensland Native Police (with Flinders University and University of Notre Dame).
Dr Lara Lamb works with a large international team of archaeologists, anthropologists and geomorphologists (Griffith University, the Museum of PNG, Monash University, University of Bordeaux, and the University of Saviore) on research interests in Arnhem Land, the central Queensland coast and the Gulf Region of Papua New Guinea. Publications from the past three years include journal articles in Quaternary International, the Journal of Archaeological Science and INORA, and a book chapter in the Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Hunter Gatherers.