Desert Rock Art: Social Geography at the Local Scale
Jo McDonald [+]
University of Western Australia
Australia’s 50,000-year-old desert occupation chronology is matched by a deep-time style sequence. Discontinuities in symbolic repertoire (i.e. stylistic change) – and the changing placement of these graphic vocabularies – demonstrate how desert people have mapped their enacted and perceived social geographies through time. Focusing on the production of rock art within a single Western Desert Range locale, this paper explores, for the first time, the structure of this inscribed landscape at the local scale, throughout the deep-time sequence. This paper recognizes a shift in social geography, but also a shift in signaling intent. The continued use of some locations through multiple phases indicates how peoples’ relationships to these landscapes have retained importance despite discontinuities in signaling intent, while the recursive use of deep-time art production into contemporary Jukurr (Dreamings) suggests that social geography is not only about marking location, but also refers to a continuation of landscape activation in arid-zone understandings of place.