Archaeology and Rock Art of the North-West Arid Zone with a Focus on Animals

  • Peter VethEmail author
  • Jo McDonald
  • Sarah de Koning


In this paper we will focus on the Indigenous archaeology and rock art of the north-west arid zone of Western Australia. This includes the Little Sandy and Great Sandy Deserts (Western Desert) and the Pilbara uplands and arid coastline and archipelagos (Fig. 1). Remarkably, within just the last 5 years, some of the oldest and most comprehensive evidence has emerged for early occupation of Australia’s deserts, including the use of dietary marine resources and production of figurative art (McDonald 2016; Veth et al. 2017a, b; Wood et al. 2016). We provide these new understandings of the art and archaeology of the north-west arid zone from the key sites of Lake Gregory (Parnkupirti), the Canning Stock Route (Kaalpi), the Dampier Archipelago (Murujuga) and Barrow Island. Initial occupation of the desert has been extended back to 50 ka, and we now have a better understanding of the fluctuations in arid zone occupation through the Holocene. Following a 15-year recording programme, Western Desert rock art provinces can now be contrasted with those from the Pilbara and specifically the Dampier Archipelago. We have previously provided a framework for major changes in art production as part of hunter-gatherer responses to climate change in the arid north-west (McDonald and Veth 2013a). Here we focus on the importance of desert fauna to people’s subsistence and social strategies and described how these have been depicted in art through time.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, M257 Archaeology, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and EducationThe University of Western AustraliaCrawley (Perth)Australia

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