World Rock Art
The urge to decorate seems to be one of the defining characteristics of modern human populations (i.e. Homo sapiens sapiens). There are odd pieces of 'art' known from earlier contexts such as the ground and polished mammoth tooth from Tata in Hungary and possibly dating between 78,000 and 116,000 years, but art does not appear as part of a coherent, visual system until after 35,000 b.p. This is associated with human evolutionary and technological changes in Europe, Africa, and Asia, and the late Pleistocene colonisation of America and Australia. Since this time, people have consistently decorated themselves, their implements and, where available, rock surfaces.
The implications of this artistic watershed for advances in the ability (or need) for new types of social communication are still being argued. However, the subsequent time-depth and universal nature of art in all human societies, mean that material evidence of artistic activities, or more generally symbolic activities, forms a reasonable proportion of the archaeological record. Rock art can provide socio-cultural information that is not generally available to the archaeologist. Despite this, it is only recently that rock art studies have been integrated into mainstream archaeology.
In this document we provide a brief overview of the current state of rock art studies - specifically, we describe the distribution and chronology of major rock art bodies throughout the world, the major techniques for dating and analysing rock art, as well as current approaches to rock art conservation and management. For citation use: M.J. Morwood & C.E. Smith 1996 Contemporary Approaches to World Rock Art.
Undergraduate and post-graduate courses on rock art are taught both internally and externally by the School of Human and Environmental Sciences at UNE. Course enquiries should be directed to our Administrative Assistant. Other enquiries to: Dr. Mike Morwood.