Arnhem Land is considered to be one of Australia’s rock art ‘hotspots’ with an estimated 100,000 rock art sites. While some of this rock art has been studied, there has been a focus on certain aspects, such as stylistic chronologies and depictions of spears and boomerangs. Fibre objects, as depicted in the rock art, have been largely ignored. This is despite their deep cultural connections and presence in early ethnographic collections. This research aims to draw together the archaeological evidence of the rock art, along with museum collections, historical ethnographic data, and new ethnographic research to examine the ways in which fibre objects are entangled in Indigenous culture in western Arnhem Land.

The deep history of the rock art indicates that fibre objects have been used in all aspects of Indigenous life, from ceremonial practices, to food collecting and processing, for a long time. It also appears that they could function as identity markers. The museum collections and ethnographic data show that there are connections between the physical objects and the depictions in the rock art. Both of these data sets also indicate some of the changes in fibre object making practices that have occurred due to colonisation.


About the presenter

Emily Miller is in her final year of her PhD and is part of the Place, Evolution, and Rock Art Heritage Unit (PERAHU) at Griffith University. Her research looks at material culture and identity, focussing on fibre objects from Northern Australia.

About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.