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2.3 Big Idea 2: We can learn about Aboriginal culture in ancient Australia from archaeology

Part A: What do we know about Aboriginal rock art?
<p>A scientist and an Aboriginal ranger collect a sample of Gwion Gwion rock art for dating, Northern Kimberley</p>

Sven Ouzman

<p>A scientist and an Aboriginal ranger collect a sample of Gwion Gwion rock art for dating, Northern Kimberley</p>

You have seen that the people who buried Mungo Lady and Mungo Man were behaving in a way that expressed part of their culture — their beliefs, values, behaviours and ways of living.

There is another way we can learn about ancient or Deep Time Australia — through rock art.

Here is a photograph of a piece of ochre:

<p>Piece of ochre from 53,000–59,000 years ago, found in Arnhem Land</p>

National Museum of Australia

<p>Piece of ochre from 53,000–59,000 years ago, found in Arnhem Land</p>

4. How could people have used this ochre to make a painting on rock? (You might choose several ways.)

5. Why do you think people might create art?

6. What are some other ways Aboriginal Australians from that time may have created art?

Look at these examples of Australian rock art:

 

7. Do you think Aboriginal people around Australia would have all had the same style of rock art? Explain your answer.

8. What is the age of the oldest known Aboriginal rock art?

9. What does the age of Aboriginal rock art tell us?

Archaeologists and Aboriginal elders of the Dambimangari and Balanggarra people have been examining some ancient examples of rock art in the Kimberley area in northern Western Australia. The team is trying to find out how old the Kimberley art is and whether it is, in fact, the oldest rock art ever discovered. The scientists described their method for the ABC:

‘We can see where a crust has formed over the squiggles of pigment, so we can use a small chisel to chip off a little piece.’

ABC, Aboriginal artwork in the Kimberly could be among oldest in the world, scientists say, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-02/indigenous-rock-art-could-be-among-oldest-in-world/6906476, viewed on 29 September 2020

They can then find the age of the sample of the crust by scientific analysis.

 

10. This will tell them the age of the painting because:

<p>Map showing archaeological data and the likely migration routes of people around Australia</p>

Adapted from Ray Tobler et al., ‘Aboriginal mitogenomes reveal 50,000 years of regionalism in Australia’, Nature, vol. 544, no. 7649, 2017, p. 183

<p>Map showing archaeological data and the likely migration routes of people around Australia</p>

11. Why would it make sense to be looking for the oldest Aboriginal rock art in the Kimberley? Hint: Look at the map above. It shows different archaeological sites around Australia and the age of what was found there.

12. Here are seven Australian Indigenous rock art sites that are protected by laws.


13. Why should rock art sites be protected?

14. How can rock art help us understand about ancient or Deep Time Australia? (There may be more than one correct answer.)

15. Report back to your class, explaining how this helps you understand the Big Idea that we can learn about Aboriginal culture in ancient or Deep Time Australia from archaeology.

In your report make sure you explain:

  • different types of art styles
  • different methods of making art
  • the age of old art
  • where the oldest art might be
  • what the art helps us know and understand about people of the past
  • what this can tell us about ancient or Deep Time Australia.

Part B: Must the boomerang come back?

Another significant element of Aboriginal culture is the boomerang.

<p>Pigmented, wooden boomerang</p>

National Museum of Australia

<p>Pigmented, wooden boomerang</p>

Read the Defining Moment in Australian history About 20,000 years ago Much more than a tool — Earliest evidence of the Boomerang and answer the questions that follow.

16. What are some things boomerangs are used for?

24. Report back to your class, explaining how this helps you understand the Big Idea that we can learn about Aboriginal culture in ancient Australia from archaeology.

In your report make sure you explain:

  • the different types of boomerangs
  • the different uses of boomerangs
  • the connection between boomerangs and Aboriginal culture
  • what this can tell us about ancient or Deep Time Australia.

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