Dreamtime Superhighway

Dreamtime Superhighway: Sydney Basin Rock Art and Prehistoric Information Exchange

Jo McDonald
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 27
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: ANU Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24h8mm
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  • Book Info
    Dreamtime Superhighway
    Book Description:

    Dreamtime Superhighway presents a thorough and original contextualization of the rock art and archaeology of the Sydney Basin. By combining excavation results with rock art analysis it demonstrates that a true archaeology of rock art can provide insights into rock art image-making in people's social and cultural lives. Based on a PhD dissertation, this monograph is a significantly revised and updated study which draws forcefully on rich and new data from extensive recent research—much of it by McDonald herself. McDonald has developed a model that suggests that visual culture—such as rock artmaking and its images and forms—could be understood as a system of communication, as a way of signaling group identifying behaviour. For the archaeologist of art, the anthropologist of art and those of us who try to think about past worlds… this monograph is a must read. Margaret W. Conkey University of California, Berkeley

    eISBN: 978-1-921536-17-5
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-xxviii)
  3. 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-5)

    This monograph derives from doctoral research undertaken at the Australian National University, completed in 1994. This work focused on the prehistoric rock art of the Sydney Basin, with particular focus on placing this in its social context. The art in this region occurs as two quite separate media in different physical locations. Engraving (or petroglyph) sites are found on open sandstone platform while in rock shelter locations the art is predominantly pigment (pictograph) art – which has been drawn, painted and stencilled. The art is generally described as being of the Simple Figurative Style (after Maynard 1977). The aim of the...

  4. 2 THE SYDNEY BASIN - ENVIRONMENTAL CONTEXT
    (pp. 6-15)

    The Sydney region is located on the south-east coast of Australia between the coastline and the Great Dividing Range (Figure 1.1). The Sydney Basin is defined geologically and the study area for this research is restricted to the Hawkesbury sandstone formation which is the surface bedrock in the centre of the Greater Sydney Basin. Sydney is located towards the centre of the study area, and the cities of Newcastle and Wollongong roughly define its northern and southern extents. The Hawkesbury sandstone covers an area of approximately 190km x 90km - 17,100 square kilometres.

    Throughout this work the study area will...

  5. 3 SOCIAL CONTExT
    (pp. 16-33)

    In the original thesis one chapter was dedicated to the ethnohistoric and early sources for the Sydney region and another to previous regional archaeological research. Since 1994, Valerie Attenbrow has published both her PhD thesis (1987, 2004) and the results of her Port Jackson Archaeological Project (Attenbrow 2002). More recent, extensive open area excavations on the Cumberland Plain done as cultural heritage management mitigations (e.g. JMcD CHM 2005a, 2005b, 2006) have also altered our understanding of the region’s prehistory. As Attenbrow’s Sydney’s Aboriginal Past (2002) deals extensively with ethnohistoric evidence from the First Fleet and early days of the colony...

  6. 4 ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONTEXT
    (pp. 34-42)

    Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the Aboriginal people observed in Sydney at European settlement had not remained unchanged throughout the Holocene. The social dynamic identified by the relatively sparse European observations must be seen in terms of an increasingly complex understanding of the region’s late Holocene record.

    Temporal and spatial trends in occupation patterns are pertinent to the rock art analyses undertaken here, and these are summarised. In the original thesis most of the regional temporal trends came from rockshelter sites. Val Attenbrow’s work in Upper Mangrove Creek catchment (UMCC - 1987, 2004) formed the focus of this, since occupation trends...

  7. 5 THE ROCK ART OF THE SYDNEY BASIN
    (pp. 43-68)

    There are two art contexts in the Sydney Basin: in rockshelters and on open engraving sites. Shelter sites contain mostly pigment art (pictographs) but occasionally also engravings (petroglyphs). Medium is generally defined as ‘the physical materials of which the artefact consists; or the techniques employed to produce the artefact’ (Clegg 1977:260). Medium here is defined as art context - for pragmatic and theoretical reasons. A shelter art site is defined as all the art which occurs within the dripline boundaries of a single sandstone rockshelter. An engraving site is defined as all the art which is located across the limits...

  8. 6 EXCAVATIONS AT YENGO 1 AND YENGO 2
    (pp. 69-142)

    The following three chapters detail the excavation results from the four art shelters excavated for this research. This chapter details the results of excavations at two sites in the north-west of the Sydney Region near Mount Yengo (Figure 6.1). The main shelter (Yengo 1; NPWS #37-5-1) has art (stencils, paintings and engravings), occupation deposit and grinding grooves. The engraved vertical panel at the front of the shelter has a complex of weathered pecked circles. Prior to the excavation it was apparent that these were truncated by the deposit. The second shelter (Yengo 2: NPWS #37-5-2) is located 10m north of...

  9. 7 EXCAVATION AT THE GREAT MACKEREL ROCKSHELTER
    (pp. 143-170)

    This chapter details the excavation and analysis of the Great Mackerel rockshelter in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. A total of 24 person days was spent on the excavation in November 1987. The art was recorded in 1986 for Stage II of the Sydney Basin Rock Art Project (McDonald 1987). Two person days were spent recording the art.

    The aims of the excavation were to determine:

    1) the nature of the occupation evidence at the site, including its contents and age;

    2) whether there were two phases of occupation at the site (as suggested by the art assemblage);

    3) whether the...

  10. 8 EXCAVATIONS AT UPSIDE-DOWN-MAN
    (pp. 171-216)

    This chapter details the excavation of Upside-Down-Man (UDM) shelter in the lower Mangrove Creek catchment, north of the Hawkesbury River (Figure 8.1). The site contains an extensive pigment art assemblage with several phases of production. Also present are all three shelter engraving types (pecked, Sydney miniature and abraded), thought to be diachronic indicators in shelter art production (McDonald 1991). Dripline scours initially indicated that there was occupation evidence at the site. The site was test excavated in September 1991. A total of 12 person days was spent testing the site. The site is located on the hillslope 300m from the...

  11. 9 THE CONTEMPORANEITY OF ART AND DEPOSIT
    (pp. 217-228)

    Here, the contemporaneity of different archaeological elements in shelter art sites is explored. The assumption that occupation evidence and art were produced at the same time, and that the two are complementary forms of evidence for the group(s) which produced them, is addressed. This assumption was not a new one when this research was originally undertaken, having formed the basis for many analyses in Australia and overseas (e.g. in the USA - Geib and Fairley 1992; Geib et al. 1986, Gunnerson 1969, Lipe 1970, Lister 1964, Schaafsma 1985, Talbot and Wilde 1989; in Europe - Bahn and Vertut 1988, Begouen...

  12. 10 DIACHRONIC VARIATION IN THE ART OF THE SYDNEY BASIN
    (pp. 229-250)

    This chapter investigates the role of time as a significant factor accounting for variability in the Sydney rock art. It is assumed that the majority of the region’s art coincides with the recent archaeological evidence in the region - the late Holocene Bondaian periods. The Bondaian has three phases of production based on changes in stone tool technology. At issue here is whether these phases correlate with the different kinds of social changes and relations which might also be reflected by the region’s art.

    There are few indications of clear-cut diachronic change in the Sydney Basin art style (contra Arnhem...

  13. 11 SYNCHRONIC VARIATION: SYDNEY BASIN ENGRAVED ART
    (pp. 251-291)

    This chapter looks at regional stylistic variability in the engraving component. The investigation is restricted to motif depictions, given that technical variation here is minimal. Analysis was aimed at identifying whether broad scale patterns could be interpreted culturally, not just environmentally (McMah 1965). A comparison of these results with those achieved in the shelter art assemblage is made later (Chapter 12).

    There was initial concern that focussing on motif would not investigate style per se, but mere compositional variety³³. Given the overall aim was to analyse the engraving and shelter art components at a comparable level (despite their technical differences...

  14. 12 REGIONAL SYNCHRONIC VARIATION: SHELTER ART
    (pp. 292-339)

    This chapter looks at regional stylistic variability in the shelter art assemblage. As with the engraved assemblage, the aim was to identify broad scale patterns. These analyses explored both motif depiction and technical variation. These results are compared with those achieved for the engraving sites in chapter 11.

    Quantitative analyses here again focused on motif combinations, not on qualitative aspects of motif classes. The overall aim was to be able to compare the engraving and shelter art assemblages - despite their technical differences.

    The approach and methodology for both art components were detailed in chapter 11. The classification system, original...

  15. 13 DREAMTIME SUPERHIGHWAY: MODELLING A REGIONAL STYLE
    (pp. 340-351)

    This research has explored the interrelatedness of prehistoric art and other archaeological evidence in the Sydney region. Sources of stylistic variability in open engraving sites and sheltered pigment sites have been investigated. Diachronic and synchronic variations have been scrutinized, as have the effects of art medium and site location. The contemporaneity of art and occupation deposits in shelter sites was examined as a means of testing assumptions about the age of the art. This work was also important for developing models about how pigment and engraved art may have functioned across this area. A model to explain changing social interactions...

  16. 14 REFERENCES
    (pp. 352-381)