Arnhem Land Traditional Owners Lead Archaeological Documentation of Rock Art Sites
For the past ten years, a group of local Bininj people have been working to protect the rich rock art heritage of Western Arnhem Land. Beautiful and expansive sandstone structures throughout the region are host to numerous rock art scenes painted on the walls and ceilings of naturally carved shelters.
From an article in The Guardian this week: ‘It is estimated there are three or four art sites for every 10 sq km of rocky terrain, potentially more than 40,000 sites. Most art is in or near areas where Bininj (have) lived for thousands of years.’
A trust has been established to help Bininj people locate, record, preserve and maintain sites and artwork. As the ‘original archaeologists’ of the region, holding guardianship and agency over how their cultural history is managed is a marked change from this role usually being the domain of non-Indigenous academics.
Traditional Owner of our partner homeland Mamadewerre, Conrad Maralngurra, has been a part of this initiative since its inception. He notes, “Many of the stories are still hidden away from non-Indigenous people who have learned very little about them,” as the cultural integrity attached to these sites can only be understood through spending decades on country and in community.
To hear the perspective of Kakadu National Park Cultural Heritage Officer Kadeem May on the challenges to protecting rock art sites in this region, head here.