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Drawing in the Land

8

Rock Art and Temporal Variability

In this chapter, the rock art of the Upper Nepean catchment is examined within a temporal framework in accordance with the relative sequence defined in Chapter 7. The intent is to explore and define the nature of both synchronic and diachronic rock art variability according to the following criteria:

  • abundance of sites and motifs
  • shelter morphology variables
  • the micro-topographic location of rock art within shelters
  • the diversity of rock art, and its nature, in respect of behavioural expression, motif form and figurative referent.

8.1 Phase 1 Rock Art

Small intaglio engravings of Phase 1 rock art occur in two shelters in the Upper Nepean catchment: Cad5 and Bet37 (Figure 8.1). The low numbers of sites with this type of rock art is in keeping with the general pattern of their low density distribution in the broader Sydney Basin. Sefton (2003a) has previously described these shelters, and her discussion refers to others with this rock art, located to the south of the Woronora Plateau, including Bundanoon, Jubilee Rocks and Foxground. Sefton (2009b) has more recently described the engravings in FRC226 and FRC225, which are both located immediately to the north of the Upper Nepean study area in the Woronora River catchment (Figure 8.1).

This type of engraving in the Sydney Basin is often called Panaramitee, the name ascribed to a corpus of engravings in Australia, defined by Maynard (1979:92) as follows:

[T]hey are composed of bands of solid forms; most figures measure up to 10 centimetres in height, and there is a very narrow range of motifs, dominated by macropod and bird tracks and circles, with a smaller number of crescents, groups of dots, human footprints, radiating lines, ‘tectiforms’ or line mazes, and a tiny fraction of other nonfigurative designs. Although rare, these ‘other designs’ are sometimes very distinctive and highly variable.

Maynard’s definition is based on the criteria of technique, age and an assessment that the art is essentially non-figurative. She asserted that classic Panaramitee sites are widely distributed in the arid zone (Maynard 1979:95). Maynard (1979:95, 97), however, cast her net more broadly and included two Sydney Basin sites in her grouping and distribution of Panaramitee rock art. These additional areas, which she described as being peripheral, were seen to conform generally to the Panaramitee style, except in terms of the relative proportions of different motifs (Maynard 1979:95).

Figure 8.1

Figure 8.1 Location of shelters with Phase 1 rock art in the Nepean and Avon catchments.

Source: Map reproduced from Dibden (2011).

For some time, Panaramitee rock art was considered to be representative of the oldest rock art in Australia, and consistent in form over virtually the entire continent (e.g. see Figure 1 in Clegg 1987:238). The apparent pan-continental distribution was seen to contrast with the more regionally varied recent rock art. Maynard (1979:92) proposes a developmental sequence for Australian rock art based on three broad stylistic categories: Panaramitee, Simple Figurative and Complex Figurative. The assumed antiquity of Panaramitee, and its stylistic uniformity, was invoked as reflecting a high degree of cultural homogeneity during the Pleistocene, which subsequently gave way to cultural diversity, represented by the more regionalised, later rock art styles (Maynard 1979:108).

Panaramitee has since been identified to exhibit considerable motif and intra- and inter-site distributional diversity, which earlier researchers had failed to address (Rosenfeld 1991:137). There are also indications that many motifs are represented in pigment rock art in some regions. The significance of this is that not only has the antiquity and the duration of the Panaramitee tradition required revision, but also the epistemological foundation regarding the operational basis of artistic systems in the archaeological record has required rethinking. In her review, Rosenfeld (1991:140) concludes that Panaramitee engravings have a temporal dimension that extends from the late Pleistocene well into the Holocene and, in some cases, into the very recent past. Recognising this vastly inflated timescale for the phenomenon of Panaramitee, Rosenfeld (1991:141) proposes that it is not just ‘assemblages of motifs, but also their stylistic regularities and the rules which govern their meaningful deployment’ that characterise an artistic system, and that these may operate in a diversity of contextual modes of expression.

In considering the underlying assumptions of cultural uniformity, which prevailed at that time, and with reference to ethnographic understandings of how a comparable artistic system comprised of simple forms operates, Rosenfeld (1991:141) argues that social context and structure convey meaning as much as the graphic form itself. Accordingly, such a visual system of communication is highly flexible, and has the capacity to express a multiplicity of meanings, so that superficial similarities of form and motif frequencies that define Panaramitee do not necessarily imply the expression of cultural uniformity, either synchronically or diachronically. In regard to cultural change, such a graphic system can accommodate transformation, via the employment of existing forms, by the use of different structural change (Rosenfeld 1991:142). Hence, Rosenfeld (1991:143) argues that the ‘apparent stability of the basic motif elements of these artistic traditions over more than 10,000 years need not reflect cultural stagnation’.

All current indications relating to the antiquity of the small intaglio engravings found in the Sydney Basin suggests that they are the earliest extant expression of rock art. However, this rock art has not yet been subject to a specific analysis and, hence, a deep understanding of its graphic form, and whether it possesses synchronic or diachronic diversity is not known. To date, there has been no suggestion that it was produced synchronically with any sheltered pigment art, but this possibility should not be discounted. As noted in Chapter 7, McDonald (1994, 2008a) has assigned a minimum age of 4,000 years BP for these engravings, and she considers them to be ‘residual Panaramitee’. Sefton (2003a:14, 2009a:37, 2009b:9) also considers these motifs located on the Woronora Plateau, and others to the south, to conform to the Panaramitee style and, specifically, she argues for their expression during the earliest occupation of the region, and that they reflect sparse occupation. Given the location of shelters with this rock art at the ‘margins’ of the Woronora Plateau, and/or on major ridgeline travel routes, Sefton (2009a:13) argues that this distribution reflects early occupation patterns, indicating ‘partial use of the landscape and avoidance of the rugged sandstone of the Woronora Plateau’. This notion will be discussed further in Chapter 10.

Plate 8.1

Plate 8.1 Small intaglio engravings at the Bundanoon rock shelter.

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

The intaglio engraving shelters, Cad5 and Bet37, and others in the wider local area, are listed in Table 8.1. The seven shelters described in Table 8.1 represent the only sites south of the Georges River known to contain this rock art. As only two sites are in the study area, the following discussion takes into consideration the attributes relating to all seven sites in order to consider those in the Upper Nepean catchment more meaningfully.

Table 8.1 Description of shelters with small intaglio engravings in the Upper Nepean and adjacent environs (IPG/DB).

Name

Location

Description

Caddie 5

(Cad5)

Avon River

Shelter measuring 12 m long x 5 m wide x 4 m high; living area 8 square metres; located on a ridge top.

Engraving on rear wall above a shelf: Sefton (1997:35) describes the engravings as Panaramitee-style tracks including two bird tracks and a double bird track. No pigment art in shelter.

Bethany 37

(Bet37)

Nepean River

Shelter measuring 6 m long x 2.8 m wide x 1.6 m high; living area 3 square metres; located on an upper valley slope of the major divide between the Nepean and Bargo rivers.

Engravings on rear wall in two sections: one 0.8 metres above the floor and the other at floor level. The upper section has two bird tracks and three pairs of kangaroo tracks. The lower section contains a further series of weathered engravings, including three bird tracks, one pair of kangaroo tracks, one circle and two indeterminate. No pigment art in shelter.

FRC225

Woronora River

Nth Woronora Plateau

Shelter measuring 14 m long x 4.6 m wide x 3 m high; living area 10 square metres; located on an upper valley slope.

One pair of engraved kangaroo tracks on the rear face of a floating rock. Also on the rear wall of shelter two charcoal indeterminate drawings.

FRC226

Woronora River

Nth Woronora Plateau

Shelter measuring 24 m long x 4.5 m wide x 2.1 m high; living area 40 square metres; located on a ridge top.

A panel on the rear wall of the shelter measuring 5.7 m long x 1.4 m high contains a total of 85 engravings, including 47 three-toed bird tracks (emu), 9 four-toed bird tracks, 7 right tick, 5 left ticks (this includes 3 pairs kangaroo tracks), 11 bars and 6 frontal human figures. The engravings are all pecked and extend to almost floor level. Also on a side wall one red indeterminate drawing superimposed by two charcoal indeterminate drawings. Three hatchet grinding grooves, two large ground (?food) depressions and four 1 cm diameter (1 cm deep) pits on a large boulder at front of shelter.

Bundanoon

(Plate 8.1)

Southern Highlands

This small shelter (7 m long x 1 m wide x 1.5 m high) is located in a low boulder and does not contain any optimal living space. The site is divided into two sections by a protruding wall. The southern alcove measuring 2 m long contains an upper wall with large areas of what appears to be red wet pigment. No stencils are identifiable. The northern alcove measuring c. 2.5 m long contains a bottom panel that slopes to the ground on which is one pair of large macropod tracks and two adjacent small bird tracks; below this another pair of large macropod tracks with a smaller bird track between the two. The upper wall panel contains areas of wet red pigment and three identifiable red hand stencils.

Jubilee Rocks

Southern Highlands

Shelter measuring 18 m long x 8 m wide x 3 m high with a living area measuring 100 square metres on ridge. This large commodious shelter has a wall panel of red hand stencils and another containing red hand stencils and engravings. The engravings in this site are very weathered and are exfoliating from the wall suggesting some antiquity. The site contains a deep deposit and two grinding grooves. A grinding groove site is also located above the shelter on an open platform. Significantly, red stencils are superimposed over many of the engravings at this site.

Foxground

Kangaroo Valley

This shelter, similar to Bundanoon, is divided in two small parts, which are separated by a rock wall, and neither of which contain living space. The site contains an extensive (c. 60 m) suite of small engraved motifs, most of which are bird and macropod tracks. The site also contains an extensive suite of red hand stencils.

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

8.1.1 Abundance of Sites and Rock Art

The engraved rock art in the seven shelters is comprised of small, pecked and abraded motifs, primarily trident-shaped bird and macropod tracks, the latter often being paired (Dibden 2011:Appendix 10). Rarer motifs include circles, bars and, notably, six frontal human figures (the latter all being in FRC226). The motifs are predominantly figurative, given that most represent animal footprints or tracks. However, their arrangement on rock surfaces is not in alignment and, accordingly, does not obviously denote movement (cf. Rosenfeld 2002:74). Rather than suggesting that they functioned as narrative, their formal qualities evoke more iconic, symbolic values.

The two Upper Nepean shelters, Cad5 and Bet37, are not associated with any other rock art type. However, the engravings in Jubilee Rocks are superimposed by red stencil pigment, and Bundanoon and Foxground also contain red stencils.

8.1.2 Shelter Morphology

Intaglio engravings in the study area occur in a small and a medium-sized shelter with small living areas, although Cad5 is slightly more commodious than Bet37. Neither shelter can be considered likely to have functioned as base camp habitation sites. However, variability in the size of shelters occurs across the local region. Jubilee Rocks and FRC226 shelters are both large and commodious, with abundant space; yet, Bundanoon and Foxground are small and contain no living area. This diversity in shelter size, and that some contain living space of significant dimensions and others not, suggests that either intaglio engravings were produced synchronically (i.e. if they are contemporaneous) within different sociofunctional contexts, on an ad hoc basis, or that the shelter space itself was incidental to their production. It is notable that when red hand stencils are present in these sites, shelters may be either commodious or small and, as will be discussed in the section dealing with Phase 2 rock art, this is a geographically widespread pattern.

The number of intaglio engraving sites is too low to make any interpretation regarding the sociocultural context in which this rock art was produced, based on a consideration of shelter morphology alone. Nevertheless, the diversity represented by the seven sites suggests that the nature of the shelter itself was not a significant determining factor relating to the choice of location for rock art production.

8.1.3 Micro-topography

The intaglio engravings in the shelters in the study area occur on vertical wall panels, as do the engravings in Jubilee Rocks, Foxground and FRC226. However, the engravings in Bundanoon shelter are located on a low, sloping wall/floor panel, and those in FRC225 are located on the rear face of a ‘floating’ rock. At Bundanoon, for example, there is no physical reason for this choice to engrave on a low, sloping panel, as vertical surfaces with stencils are present, and would presumably have been as suitable for the production of engravings as any of the other vertical surfaces used in the other sites. At Jubilee Rocks, a boulder is present in the shelter (containing grinding grooves), which could have been used similar to that in FRC225. From a perspective of embodiment, the practice of making these intaglio motifs was clearly as varied as the choice of the site in the first place.

8.2 Phase 2 Rock Art

Phase 2 rock art includes gestural and graphic rock art, and the use of red pigment is predominant. The red graphics in Phase 2, where their form is intact and recognisable, are most frequently comprised of large animal motifs that appear to have been drawn, and a small suite of more abstracted forms believed to have been painted. Some of these latter motifs are formally comparable with those in Phase 1 rock art, and this is consistent with McDonald’s (2008a:238) findings in the Upper Mangrove Creek sequence. The majority of the rock art in Phase 2 is highly weathered, and in the majority of cases red pigment is present as a stain without any residue remaining on the rock surface. Accordingly, in respect of graphics in Phase 2 rock art, determining the method of application, by non-aided visual inspection alone, is problematic.

Huntley (Ford 2006; Huntley et al. 2011) has conducted pigment characterisation analyses of red (and a yellow) drawn motifs in the Upper Nepean, and argues that they were produced as a wet application of prepared paint. The implication of this argument is that many of the graphics in Phase 2 have been classified as drawn in both the IPG Database (IPG/DB) and Research Database (R/DB), which is therefore incorrect. More importantly, Huntley’s finding introduces a new dimension relating to the behavioural significance of all Phase 2 rock art, for it implies not only that people began to mark the land with a suite of new and diversified range of imagery, but that they also engaged with a new range of social and technological processes relating to the acquisition of pigment and preparation of paint.

8.2.1 Abundance of Sites and Motifs

A total of 1,169 Phase 2 rock markings are present in 173 (34%) shelters in the Upper Nepean catchment. Table 8.2 lists the distribution of these mark types by database. It is noted that 42 per cent of those marks are in the R/DB, with the remainder in the IPG/DB. The Phase 2 count of 1,169 motifs represents 23 per cent of rock art in the study area. Certain discrepancies between the two databases are evident. A total of 119 marks in the R/DB have been classified as indeterminate, and this refers to marks that are not distinguishable, based on a visual assessment alone as either graphic or gestural, although it is probable that most are weathered stencils. It is also notable that the R/DB contains a higher number of graphics and fewer stencils compared with the IPG/DB. On one hand, this bias reflects the emphasis in this research to record sites with high graphic counts and, on the other, avoidance of stencil sites for which it was considered that the IPG recordings were adequate for the purposes of this analysis.

The majority of Phase 2 rock art is represented by gestural marks, predominantly red stencils (n = 601; 51%). This frequency would be higher if the 119 (10%) indeterminate marks in the R/DB are indeed weathered stencils as suggested. Graphic marks account for approximately one-third (n = 415; 36%), and while not insignificant they are, nevertheless, a relatively minor component of Phase 2 rock art. The geographic distribution of shelters with Phase 2 rock art is shown in Figure 8.2, and it can be seen that marking the land became relatively widespread with the advent of the use of pigment and the production of gestural and figurative graphic imagery.

Table 8.2 Numbers of Phase 2 rock art types (R/DB and IPG/DB).

Motif type

Research Database

IPG Database

Total motif

Red indeterminate

119

119 (10%)

Red stencils

136

465

601 (51%)

Red handprints

16

5

21 (2%)

Red gestural other

6

7

13 (1%)

Red graphics

234

181

415 (36%)

Total

511 (44%)

658 (56%)

1,169 (100%)

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

Phase 2 rock art is present in the 173 rock shelters in three main groups of associations: stencils only, graphics only, and stencils and graphics. Red stencils are present in 111 shelters, while graphics occur in 92. Given the fewer numbers of shelters with graphics, and a consideration of rock mark counts where stencils are more frequent than graphics, it is proposed that gestural expression within Phase 2 was the more common manner in which people marked the land. It is recognised that this assertion is based on an assumption of the relative contemporaneity of both rock art forms.

Figure 8.2

Figure 8.2 Location of Phase 2 rock art shelters.

Source: Map reproduced from Dibden (2011).

Gestural Marks

Gestural marks in Phase 2 include red stencils, handprints, and large smears of red wet pigment. The stencil shelter density in the entire study area is 0.1 sites per square kilometre, and the average stencil motif density is 0.8 stencils per square kilometre. A comparison of densities between catchments indicates that Phase 2 stencil site and motif densities decrease from north to south. The Cataract has a comparable site density to the Cordeaux and Avon, but a higher stencil density. The Nepean contains the lowest overall site and motif density. The Cataract, Cordeaux and Avon have comparable densities for all sheltered rock art sites (as discussed in Chapter 6), and this contrasts with individual rock art motifs that occur in the Cordeaux and Avon in higher densities (Table 8.3). A different pattern, however, occurs in respect of Phase 2 stencils, which, while present in comparable shelter densities between the three catchments, are more numerous in the Cataract. This suggests that within Phase 2 rock art, gestural marking of the land varies in intensity between the catchments, and it is noted that there is a strong correspondence between these calculations and the open context grinding groove site frequencies and densities, as outlined in Chapter 6. This stencil density distribution is suggestive of a greater intensity of land use in the Cataract within Phase 2.

Table 8.3 Comparison of Phase 2 stencil density with all shelter sites and motif densities (IPG/DB and R/DB).

Catchment

All sheltered rock art site density

All sheltered motif density

Phase 2 stencil site density

Phase 2 stencil motif density

Cataract

0.8

6.8

0.2

1.3

Cordeaux

0.7

9.1

0.1

0.5

Avon

0.8

9

0.2

0.8

Nepean

0.4

3

0.07

0.4

Average

0.6

6.4

0.1

0.8

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

The highest frequency of shelters (41.4%) and stencil counts (45.8%) is in the Cataract catchment, which also has the highest average count per site (n = 6). The Nepean and Cordeaux have comparably low frequencies of sites and motif counts. The range of stencil counts per shelter is 1 to 46. The mode and median are both low, indicating that low stencil counts in individual shelters are frequent. Again, the structure of these data is similar to the pattern of grinding groove distribution per site, and indicates that stencil production was generally a low-level activity, with a few key sites being the focus of comparatively higher levels of this type of marking (Figure 8.3).

In all catchments, the majority of stencils are in shelters that do not contain any other Phase 2 rock art. Furthermore, the shelters that contain the highest stencil counts, except for the Cordeaux catchment, are also those that do not contain Phase 2 graphic rock art. These patterns suggest a general tendency for gestural marking to be undertaken in locations separate from those for which it was appropriate to produce graphic motifs. It is notable that when both stencils and graphics co-occur, each motif type is generally spatially separate (see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1). Generally, stencils are located at one end of a shelter and graphics at the other. This trend for spatial separation between the two motif types, either at the inter- or intra-site level, suggests that each is of a different order of sociofunctional significance, as Rosenfeld (1999) argues. It may also explain why the two motif types are rarely found in superimposed relationships.

Figure 8.3

Figure 8.3 Phase 2 shelters with stencils showing count variability in the Upper Nepean catchment.

Source: Map reproduced from Dibden (2011).

The other gestural marks in Phase 2 rock art are smears of red pigment. These are frequently, but not always, associated with red stencils. They occur in 11 shelters, most of which are in the Cataract catchment (e.g. LizCk17, AF3, Wall19, Wall26, Wall40, Gill10, Gill1, BMS5). These applications of pigment to the surface of shelter walls generally cover large areas of rock art panels (>1 metre) and are therefore considered to be more than incidental marks. While the productive context of these smears can only be speculated, at the very least as deliberate applications of prepared pigment, they are likely to have been meaningful actions relating, by means of the gesture, people to place.

Graphics

The Phase 2 graphic site density in the study area is 0.12 sites per square kilometre; average motif density is 0.31 graphics per square kilometre. Phase 2 graphic sites and motif densities are highest in the Cataract, Cordeaux and Avon catchments. The Nepean contains the lowest overall site and graphic density (Figure 8.4).

The Cataract, Cordeaux and Avon catchments have comparable site densities for all sheltered rock art sites, and this contrasts with all rock art motif counts that occur in the Cordeaux and Avon in higher densities. Therefore, the higher density of Phase 2 graphics in the Cordeaux and Avon catchments is comparable with the density patterns in respect of all sheltered rock art sites and motifs. The different pattern in respect of Phase 2 graphics, while occurring in comparable site densities between the three catchments, but in higher motif densities in the Cataract, is notable. This distribution suggests that the Cordeaux and Avon were the focus of marking the land with corporately defined rock art, although this is only a matter of degree in respect of a comparison with the Cataract (see Figure 8.4).

The catchment with the highest frequency of shelters with Phase 2 graphics is the Cordeaux (33.7%), while the Avon contains the highest frequency of motif counts (34.7%). The range of graphics per shelter is between 1 and 49. The mode and median are both low, indicating that low graphic counts in individual shelters are frequent. The structure of these data is similar to stencil distribution and indicates, likewise, that graphic production was generally a low-level activity, with a few key sites subject to relatively higher levels of marking (Figure 8.4). Shelters A12, UA1, UA47 (in the Avon), EC5b (in the Cordeaux) and Gill50, in the Cataract, are key Phase 2 shelters with high graphic counts. Notably, these sites, except for Gill50, contain graphics exclusively.

In the Avon and Cordeaux catchments, the majority of graphics occur in shelters that do not contain any other type of Phase 2 rock art. It is also in these catchments where the highest graphic counts occur in shelters that do not contain stencils. This contrasts with the Cataract and Nepean, where both the highest graphic counts and highest count per site occur in shelters that also have Phase 2 stencils. This distribution suggests that the Avon and Cordeaux may have been the foci for the production of graphic rock art and not gestural marking.

These patterns for Phase 2 graphic rock art contrast with stencil data, where typically shelters with stencils only are distributed across all catchments. However, the pattern that shelters with the highest stencil counts (except for the Cordeaux) contain Phase 2 graphic rock art is mirrored with the graphic data from the Cordeaux and Avon. With the exception of the Cataract and Nepean, there is a trend that marking of the land with corporate symbols was undertaken in locations that are separate from those for which it was appropriate to produce individualised gestural marks.

Figure 8.4

Figure 8.4 Phase 2 shelters with graphics showing count variability in the Upper Nepean catchment (sites with >20 graphics named).

Source: Map reproduced from Dibden (2011).

8.2.2 Shelter Morphology

Phase 2 rock art occurs in a wide variety of shelter morphological types. These range from shallow, scalloped niches in vertical rock faces to large, commodious shelters with abundant space.

Shelters with Phase 2 rock art that contain stencils only frequently have no, or very small, areas of living space. Some 71 per cent of these sites, including all shelters that have large stencil counts (>10), have a living space of 10 square metres or less. Sites with small stencil counts, particularly those with five or less, occur in the full range of living space sizes and, notably, in shelters with large living areas. By comparison, stencils that co-occur with Phase 2 graphics tend, frequently, to be in shelters that have larger living areas. This trend is particularly evident for larger stencil counts.

Shelters with Phase 2 graphics only have a wide range of living space sizes and, notably, slightly more than half contain either no living space or an area that measures 10 square metres or less. There is a trend for shelters with large graphics counts (>20) to possess large living areas, as do three of the four shelters with more than 20 graphics. Notably, two with graphic counts of 11 or more clearly have insignificant living area space.

The three shelters with 20 or more graphics with large living spaces are:

  • EC5b: This shelter is a major rock art site in the Cordeaux catchment. It is large, contains high counts of graphics, and all indicators suggest it has been used for rock art pigment activity since the practice began in the Upper Nepean. It is notable for possessing a suite of red painted graphics, including four tridents and other trident configurations. These motif types are formally comparable with the bird track motifs of the Phase 1 small intaglio engravings.
  • A12: This shelter, a major rock art site in the Avon catchment, is large, with high graphic counts, and is likely to have been used for rock art since the practice began in the area. It possesses a suite of red painted graphics, including tridents and trident configurations (Plate 8.2), and animal imagery of paired gliders (Plate 1.1), marsupials, eels and others.
  • UA47: This shelter in the Avon is notable for containing an unusually wide range of animal imagery, including six echidnas, one marsupial glider, two animated marsupials, a lizard, a snake, an eel and a group of three wombats (the latter associated with a cluster of oval motifs [c. 17]). These wombats are the only examples that occur in Phase 2 rock art.

The two shelters with 11 or more graphics and negligible living spaces are:

  • BC45: This shelter, at the eastern end of the Cataract catchment, contains a limited suite of graphic forms, and is dominated by a large trident motif associated with a cluster of six or seven circle motifs.
  • UA1: This shelter in the Avon catchment is in many ways a counterpart of UA47 described above, as it too is dominated by groups of echidnas (2) and gliders (3), marsupials and macropods, but these are accompanied with small anthropomorphic figures that have their counterparts in the Phase 1 intaglio engraving site FRC226.

In summary, shelters that have large counts of Phase 2 graphics (without stencils) are variable in terms of shelter morphology and occupational living space, suggesting either that their sociocultural context was not uniform, or that the nature of the shelter morphology was unimportant. However, it is notable that these larger sites generally contain imagery that has formal counterparts in Phase 1 rock art. It is also noted that the tridents in EC5B, A12 and BC45 may represent an earlier sub-phase of Phase 2, as discussed in Chapter 7.

A different picture emerges in respect of shelters that contain Phase 2 stencils in addition to graphics. These tend to possess larger living areas, with correspondingly higher graphic numbers, and the four that have graphic counts of 11 or more all contain floor living areas measuring greater than 20 square metres. These sites are:

  • BC6: This shelter, in the Cataract catchment, contains painted red pigment graphics including tridents, trident variations and other simple forms.
  • BC41: The rock art in this shelter is highly weathered but is, nevertheless, one of the major sites in the Cataract. It contains relatively high numbers of red drawn animal motifs.
  • Gill50: This shelter is the largest in the Cataract, and is notable for possessing a suite of red painted graphics, including four tridents and 10 elongated oval forms.
  • SCR10: This shelter is the most commodious in the Upper Nepean catchment. The Phase 2 graphics are highly weathered, but the shelter contains much remnant red wet pigment over the majority of its wall surfaces, some of which are trident forms, including possible schematic anthropomorphic motifs.

The painted graphics in three of these sites are possibly representative of the earliest pigment rock art in the Upper Nepean. The trident and oval forms in BC6, Gill50 and SCR10, are rare in the study area, and may represent an earlier sub-phase of Phase 2 (also those in EC5B, A12 and BC45). The implication of this, with respect to shelter size, large living space and the inclusion of red stencils, will be discussed in a later section of this chapter. However, here it is noted that the specific location, chosen for the production of the very earliest pigment rock art, may have been influenced by shelter size and the ability to house relatively large numbers of people. All Phase 2 rock art is in ground-level shelters. None are perched in elevated contexts in cliff faces, or the like.

8.2.3 Micro-topography

In Chapter 6, the location of rock art within the micro-topographic context of shelters was examined in respect of the data from the Research Database (Table 8.4). It was found that the majority of rock marks had been produced on walls; however, marks were also on ceilings (10%), and in concavities (10%). It was also found that the most marks were located in contexts of open visibility, but that 16 per cent occurred in hidden or only moderate visibility contexts. The analysis of the micro-topographic location of Phase 2 rock art can only be conducted on the Research Database and, accordingly, the results should be considered to be indicative of typical patterns only.

Table 8.4 Frequency distribution of the micro-topographic location of Phase 2 stencil rock art (R/DB).

Location

Frequency

Visibility

Frequency

Wall

98

72%

Open

118

86.8%

Ceiling

10

7.4%

Moderate

18

13.2%

Concavity

28

20.6%

Hidden

0

Total

136

100%

Total

136

100%

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

Phase 2 rock art occurs most frequently on wall locations and in contexts of open visibility. Stencils occur normally on wall panels (72%). They do not occur in relationships of isomorphic congruence, although this is hardly surprising given their mechanically imposed form. However, they do occur in concavities in 20.6 per cent of recorded instances. In all cases, this position is apparently a very deliberate choice, because other wall surfaces are available in each of the shelters in which this occurs. SCR10 contains over 10 Phase 2 stencils (all children’s) in a concavity. However, this is an unusual example, and more frequently a single stencil is present in a concavity (e.g. TL31, Ana3).

It is also notable that, while the majority of stencils occur in contexts of open visibility, 13.2 per cent occur in locations of only moderate visibility. Furthermore, while stencils occur at an average height above the floor of 1.21 metres (median = 1.15), they occur in a wide range of heights that vary between 0.6–2.9 metres. The location of stencils in very high places in shelters is unusual and certainly unexpected.

The majority of graphic rock art occurs on wall panels (89%); however, 6 per cent is on ceilings and 5 per cent within concavities. Most graphics are located in open visibility contexts (95%), while 5 per cent occur in locations where their visibility is moderate only, generally on ceiling locations (Table 8.5).

Table 8.5 Frequency distribution of the micro-topographic location of Phase 2 graphic rock art (R/DB).

Location

Frequency

Visibility

Frequency

Isomorphic congruence

Frequency

Wall

209

89%

Open

222

95%

Yes

4

1.7%

Ceiling

13

6%

Moderate

12

5%

No

230

98.3%

Concavity

12

5%

Hidden

0

Total

234

100%

Total

234

100%

Total

234

100%

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

It is noted that the most commonly recognisable Phase 2 graphic—eel motifs—are the only identifiable form that occur in contexts of moderate visibility on ceilings (Codes 2.3 and 2.4)1. An additional rare graphic of ‘unknown’ figurative referent (Code 6.6) is also present in a moderate location. The remainder are weathered and, hence, formally indeterminate (Table 8.6). Notably, no Phase 2 graphic rock art occurs in ‘hidden’ contexts.

Phase 2 graphic rock art occurs in isomorphic, congruent relationships with natural rock features on art panels in four instances only. This is clearly rare and unusual. These motifs include one eel (Code 2.3), one ‘unknown’—that is, a simple elongated oval form (Code 2.25) and two gliders (Code 8.2; see Plate 1.1).

Table 8.6 Locational data for Phase 2 graphics as per figurative referent (R/DB).

Graphic referent

Moderate

Open

Total

Bird

4

4

Echidna

8

8

Eel

3

13

16

Female human

3

3

Glider

8

8

Human

2

2

Human imaginary

10

10

Indeterminate

8

99

107

Lizard

2

2

Macropod

8

8

Male human

2

2

Marsupial

4

4

Snake

1

1

Wombat

3

3

Unknown

1

54

55

Total

12

221

233

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

8.2.4 Rock Art Diversity

It has been beyond the scope of this research to analyse stencil diversity. Nevertheless, Phase 2 stencils can be summarised in general terms. Red stencils are human hands. The range in hand size indicates that men and children participated in stencilling activity. Medium-sized stencils, which do occur, are rather more ambiguous to interpret, as they may represent either women or adolescents.

The following analysis of Phase 2 graphic rock art is undertaken on two levels. First, an overview is presented that is based on motif data from both the Research and IPG Databases (Table 8.7). Thereafter, a detailed analysis of the graphics from the Research Database will be undertaken. More than half (53%) of Phase 2 graphics are indeterminate in form. A total of 89 (21.8%) graphics are classified as ‘unknown’. These are generally formal graphics comprising circles, ovals, elliptical shapes, tridents and other comparably simple motifs (these will be discussed further below). Anthropomorphic figures account for 6.8 per cent (n = 28) of Phase 2 graphics. The remainder are animal forms, the most common of which are eels (n = 21). There are 19 macropod and other marsupial forms, and small numbers each of echidnas (n = 11), gliders (n = 8), lizards (n = 5), snakes (n = 5), birds (n = 4) and wombats (n = 3).

The animal motifs do not all occur in all catchments, except for eels and the ‘unknown’ category. Bird motifs occur in the Cordeaux only, and gliders and wombats in the Avon only. Macropod and anthropomorphic motifs occur in all catchments except the Nepean; lizard, snake and marsupial forms are present in the Avon and Cataract only. The spatial distribution of these motifs will be examined further in Chapter 9.

Table 8.7 Counts of Phase 2 motif categories based on model/referent per catchment (R/DB and IPG/DB).

Model

Avon

Cordeaux

Cataract

Nepean

Total

IPG/DB

R/DB

IPG/DB

R/DB

IPG/DB

R/DB

IPG/DB

R/DB

Indeterminate

23

42

28

52

54

10

13

222

Echidna

1

8

1

1

11

Bird

4

4

Eel

1

8

8

1

3

21

Glider

8

8

Lizard

1

3

1

5

Wombat

3

3

Snake

1

4

5

Marsupial

4

2

6

Macropod

1

4

1

3

3

1

13

Human

1

9

6

7

4

1

28

Unknown

2

29

1

18

30

8

1

89

Total

29

117

36

92

102

21

18

0

415

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

Table 8.8 examines the formal diversity represented in the anthropomorphic, animal and ‘unknown’ categories of Phase 2 graphic rock art. This analysis is conducted on the Research Database only. Given this, and taking into consideration the high numbers of Phase 2 indeterminate motifs, the analysis is considered to be indicative of diversity only. Of the 126 motifs (other than indeterminate) in Phase 2 graphic rock art, 54 different motif forms occur. This ratio of 2.3:1 indicates considerable diversity in this small sample. However, as noted in Table 8.8 below, while motifs such as gliders, echidnas and eels be slightly schematically different, they are, nevertheless, relatively similar in graphic construction.

Table 8.8 Phase 2 graphic diversity (R/DB).

Motif type

Code

Count

Total

Discussion

Bird

0.3 (incomplete)

1

4

Four bird motifs occur in three shelters. Two bird motifs occur in the one form: Code 11.17 (both in a single shelter: SCR12).

11.14

1

11.17

2

Echidna

8.4

6

8

Eight echidna motifs occur in two shelters in the Avon; their form is very similar, however, they occur in three slightly different forms

8.16

1

8.18

1

Eel

2.2

1

16

16 eel motifs occur in seven shelters in four slightly different forms, the most common of which is Code 2.3

2.3

10

2.4

4

2.21

1

Glider

8.2

5

8

Eight glider motifs occur in three shelters in three slightly different forms, the most common of which is Code 8.2

8.5

1

8.6

2

Lizard

13.2

2

2

Two lizards in two shelters; same form

Wombat

5.18

2

3

Three wombat motifs occur in a composition in a single shelter, in two slightly different forms, one of which appears animated (running)

5.42

1

Snake

4.7

1

1

Large, broad and curved

Marsupial

5.7

1

4

Four marsupial motifs occur in three shelters, they are formally diverse and animated

5.9

1

5.14

1

5.16

1

Macropod

0.3 (incomplete)

2

8

Eight macropod motifs occur in six shelters; they are formally diverse

5.2

1

5.11

2

5.13

1

5.15

1

5.28

1

Anthropomorph

Female

7.49

1

3

Three female anthropomorphs occur in three shelters; they are each partnered with a male. Two are formally the same

7.12

2

Anthropomorph

Male

7.48

1

3

Three male anthropomorphs occur in three shelters; they are each partnered as above. Two are formally the same

7.13

2

Anthropomorph

7.6

2

2

Two anthropomorphs (human-like) in two shelters; they are formally comparable

Anthropomorph

Imaginary

incomplete

1

9

These nine anthropomorphic motifs (unhuman like) are formally diverse

7.11

1

7.18

2

7.19

2

7.22

1

7.42

1

7.58

1

Unknown

1.5

1

1

Simple form

1.7

6

6

Trident form

1.16

1

1

Triangular line arrangement

1.17

2

2

Double-ended trident

1.19

3

3

Double-ended trident (variation)

2.1

4

4

Long oval with elliptical ends

2.5

6

6

Sinuous long oval

2.7

1

1

Long oval with rounded ends

2.9

1

1

Long oval with elliptical ends with barred middle

2.11

1

1

Short oval with pointy end

2.17

8

8

Circle

2.18

14

14

Short oval with pointy ends

2.25

1

1

Curved long oval with one pointy end

4.8

1

1

Long angular zig-zag form

6.6

6

6

‘Tadpole’ shape

8.14

1

1

Organic form (perhaps an animal)

9.11

1

1

Trident form

11.18

1

1

Organic form (perhaps an animal)

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

The majority of motifs in Phase 2 rock art are, of course, new additions to the graphic repertoire. Yet several are not, and these are formally comparable with the small intaglio engravings of Phase 1. Notably, these motifs all appear to have been produced with paint, rather than drawn. These are listed as follows:

  • Two anthropomorphic motifs in UA1 (Code 7.19) are schematically similar in form to the engraved human motifs in FRC226. One graphic in BC45 has been tentatively called an anthropomorphic figure due to its large size (and shape); however, it is essentially formally a trident and therefore comparable with Phase 1 bird track motifs.
  • The ‘unknown’ category includes a number of simple-shaped motifs, including circle (Code 2.17) and elongated ovals or linear forms (Code 2.1) that are similar to ‘line’ engravings (see FRC226). In addition, the various trident forms and trident variations (Codes 1.7, 1.17, 1.19 and 9.11) are all formally similar to bird track motifs (see Plate 8.2).

Plate 8.2

Plate 8.2 Large trident-shaped Phase 2 motif (rock shelter A12).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

Plate 8.3

Plate 8.3 A pair of Phase 2 anthropomorphs that have subsequently been redrawn in charcoal (rock shelter EC17).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

Plate 8.4

Plate 8.4 A composition of three large (c. 80 cm high) marsupial gliders (Phase 2) superimposed by Phase 3 charcoal anthropomorphic drawings (rock shelter UA1).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

The Phase 2 drawn graphics that are new additions to the Upper Nepean rock art include anthropomorphic motifs, which are sometimes male and female pairs (Plate 8.3), and animals, which are also commonly drawn in pairs or triplets (Plate 8.4).

Phase 2 graphic rock art is summarised as follows:

  • Approximately half of graphic motifs are formally indeterminate, due to weathering.
  • Approximately one-quarter of Phase 2 graphics are images of animals.
  • Animal motifs occur in a limited number of sites, and the same animal is often in groups of two or more. Exceptions include a snake, which occurs once only, and lizards, which occur singly in two sites.
  • Animal motifs occur in a limited number of forms (as per motif code) and, hence, are relatively homogeneous.
  • Animal motifs are either formal (static) or animated. Those that are animated have a narrative quality and invoke an imagined space.
  • Animal motifs are generally large.
  • Animal motifs are always located on walls in highly visible locations, except for eels, which can occur on ceilings.
  • Animal motifs can occur, albeit rarely, in isomorphic congruence with natural rock features. Those that do, similar to animated motifs, invoke an imagined space.
  • Anthropomorphs occur infrequently (n = 15) in Phase 2.
  • The three pairs of male and female anthropomorphs are each in association (side by side).
  • Two pairs of anthropomorphs are not in association with animal imagery of Phase 2, although one (in BR29) is strongly associated with eels; these are the only animal form in Phase 2 rock art in this site.
  • All anthropomorphic figures are in highly visible locations.
  • All anthropomorphic figures are relatively small (<1 metre in height).
  • No anthropomorphic figures are in isomorphic association with natural rock features.
  • Phase 2 graphics do not usually possess elaborate infill patterns, and are executed simply, in either solid or outline pigment applications. The exceptions include a wombat and echidnas in UA47.
  • Phase 2 graphics, either animal or anthropomorphic, do not ‘occupy’ the viewers’ imagined space. No Phase 2 graphics have ‘eyes’.
  • Approximately one-quarter (n = 55) of Phase 2 graphics are ‘unknown’ in terms of model or referent. The majority of images in the ‘unknown’ category are simple forms, particularly tridents, circles, ovals and elliptical forms. Some occur in relatively high numbers in composition with other motifs: elliptical forms (n = 14) with wombats in UA47, and circles (n = 7) with a very schematic trident/anthropomorphic figure in BC45.

8.3 Phase 3 Rock Art

Phase 3 rock art is comprised of graphics, most of which are charcoal drawings and a wide range of gestural marks including stencils. Phase 3 pigment marks, both graphic and gestural, are generally highly weathered and, in respect of graphics, their form is commonly indeterminate. Charcoal is frequently used to redraw, usually in outline, older red graphics.

Red pigment was used very infrequently for the production of this rock art. It was used for a few small motifs, most of which are schematically similar to Phase 1 and 2 tridents, and other simple forms. Their place within Phase 3 is recognised by their superimposed position in stratified layers, and their generally ‘fresh’ appearance. Red pigment also occurs occasionally on rock surfaces as random lines, which do not appear to be remnant motifs. There is no indication that red pigment was used for stencilling in Phase 3. The use of white pigment apparently occurs for the first time in Phase 3 rock art. Its use for graphic production is uncommon, and generally confined to small, simple motifs, which are also schematically comparable with Phase 1 and 2 trident and simple forms; however, several animal motifs are also produced with white pigment. In addition, white pigment is used in Phase 3 rock art for the embellishment of a few charcoal motifs, and occasionally to re-mark older red motifs. White- or cream-coloured pigment is predominantly used for stencilling, and one site contains three black stencils that are regionally rare. While relatively infrequent, light scratching is also used to create motifs and sometimes simply to mark (gesturally) the rock surface.

8.3.1 Abundance of Sites and Motifs

A total of 3,938 Phase 3 rock markings are present in 449 (88%) rock shelters in the Upper Nepean catchment. They occur in shelters used previously for Phase 2 rock art, and in a range of ‘new’ shelters. A list of the distribution of these marks is presented in Table 8.9. These markings are distributed relatively evenly between the Research and IPG Databases. The Phase 3 rock art (and other marks) count of 3,938 represents 77 per cent of all rock art in the study area.

Table 8.9 Numbers of Phase 3 rock art types (R/DB and IPG/DB).

Rock marking type

R/DB

IPG/DB

Total

Graphic

1,744

1,797

3,541 (89.9%)

Indeterminate

75

0

75 (1.9%)

Pigment blobs

14

0

14 (0.4%)

Pigment circles

9

0

9 (0.2%)

Pigment marking

14

0

14 (0.4%)

Pigment random

9

0

9 (0.2%)

Pigment smear

10

0

10 (0.3%)

Pigment strokes

11

0

11 (0.3%)

Pitting

4

0

4 (0.1%)

Ridge bashing

1

0

1 (0.02%)

Rubbing

14

0

14 (0.4%)

Scratching

15

25

40 (1%)

Stencil

113

83

196 (5%)

Total

2,033 (51.6%)

1,905 (48.4%)

3,938 (100%)

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

The majority of Phase 3 rock art is graphic. Unlike Phase 2, stencils are a minor component (n = 196; 5%). The Research Database includes marks that are indeterminate, in regard to whether they are graphic or gestural (n = 75; 1.9%). A new suite of gestural marks occur in Phase 3. The location of Phase 3 rock art shelters is shown in Figure 8.5, in which it can be seen that marking the land during this phase is much more geographically widespread and abundant than when compared with Phase 2.

Gestural Marks

The distribution of shelters with Phase 3 white/cream stencils (e.g. Plate 8.5) is listed in Table 8.10. Their geographic distribution is shown on Figure 8.6. The Cataract catchment possesses more than half the shelters with white/cream stencils (n = 20), and the Cordeaux has the next highest frequency (n = 11). The Avon has five shelters with stencils, and the Nepean one only. Three black stencils are located in one shelter in the Cataract. It is assumed that these occur only within the period represented by Phase 3.

Figure 8.5

Figure 8.5 The distribution of all rock art shelters in the Upper Nepean catchment.

Source: Map reproduced from Dibden (2011).

Plate 8.5

Plate 8.5 Phase 3 gestural marks (rock shelter Cad39). Cream-coloured hand and feet stencils.

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

Table 8.10 Distribution of shelters and stencil counts of Phase 3 white/cream stencils per catchment (R/DB and IPG/DB).

Count/site

Avon

Cataract

Cordeaux

Nepean

Total

1

4

3

1

8

2

1

6

3

10

3

3

1

4

5

1

1

6

1

1

7

3

3

8

2

1

1

4

9

2

2

12

1

1

15

1

1

21

1

1

23

1

1

Total

5

20

11

1

37

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

The distribution of stencils between the catchments similarly compares with the distribution of Phase 2 stencils. The pattern of white/cream stencils, which decreases as one moves north to south, is comparable with Phase 2, as is their frequency in each catchment. The notable difference is the Nepean, which contains one white stencil only. Almost half the shelters possess one or two stencils only, and this pattern is similar to the distribution of Phase 2 stencils. However, two shelters, located in proximity to each other in the Avon catchment, each contain relatively large stencil counts of 21 (C44) and 23 (C39). In Figure 8.6, it can be seen that Phase 3 stencilling activity generally occurs within the interior of the catchment. This contrasts with the geographic distribution of the earlier Phase 2 stencilling, and this phenomenon will be discussed further in Chapter 9.

Figure 8.6

Figure 8.6 The geographic distribution of Phase 3 stencils.

Note the location of the two shelters with large counts situated in close proximity to each other in the Avon catchment.

Source: Map reproduced from Dibden (2011).

Gesturally subtractive marks, including scratched, pitted,, and rubbed rock panel surfaces, occur within Phase 3. These marks are usually in association with charcoal graphics. Two instances of ridge bashing have been recorded, one of which is certainly caused by humans. The origin of the other is ambiguous. In addition, a range of new gestural marks, which entail the application pigment, appear in Phase 3.

Graphics

Phase 3 graphics occur in 439 of the 449 shelters with Phase 3 rock art. Phase 3 graphic site density in the entire study area is 0.6 sites per square kilometre. Average motif density is 4.5 graphics per square kilometre. Phase 3 graphic shelter densities are comparable between the three northern catchments, and typically higher than in the Nepean. This shelter density distribution contrasts with Phase 2 rock art, in which graphic shelters are distributed at higher densities in the Cordeaux and Avon.

Phase 3 graphic motif density is considerably higher in the Cordeaux and Avon than when compared with the Cataract, and this distribution mirrors Phase 2 graphic motif densities. The distribution of Phase 3 shelters is shown on Figure 8.7.

The catchment with the highest percentage frequency of shelters with Phase 3 graphics is the Cataract (31.2%). However, it contains a relatively low percentage frequency of motifs, and a relatively low average count per shelter. Similar to Phase 2 graphics, the Avon has the highest percentage frequency of motifs (31.4%), although this is comparable with the Cordeaux. The range of graphics per shelter is 1 to 129. The mode and median are low, which indicates that low graphic counts in individual shelters are frequent. The structure of this data indicates that Phase 3 graphic production was a low-level activity, and that a few key sites were the focus of comparatively higher levels of marking (Figure 8.7).

8.3.2 Shelter Morphology

The types of shelters in which Phase 3 stencils and graphics occur are explored in this section. The first series of analyses is conducted on the Research and IPG Databases, and the last is conducted on the Research data only. The range of measurements for all variables is high. Shelters vary in size from very small to large. The average shelter measurements are 12 metres in length, 3 metres in width and 2.7 metres in height. The minimum width of 0.5 metres and minimum height of 0.8 metre is notable. The variability in living area sizes is significant, as is the mode of zero.

Phase 3 stencils are preferentially located in shelters with living areas that measure more than 6 square metres. The three shelters with relatively high stencil counts all possess relatively large living area measurements. This contrasts with Phase 2 stencils, which were commonly produced in shelters with very small or no living area. Also, shelters with high Phase 2 stencil counts generally contain no, or minimal, living areas.

In Phase 3, stencilling as a practice apparently declines significantly. However, it is feasible that the production of white stencils was undertaken over a relatively short period, when compared with Phase 2 and, hence, the decline in abundance may simply be a factor of time, rather than a shift in motivation. It is also important to recognise that white stencil pigment may not endure long. Accordingly, interpreting the behavioural significance of this decline is problematic. The contrast in shelter morphology between the two phases of stencilling suggests that the sociocultural context did change in the most recent past.

Figure 8.7

Figure 8.7 Shelters with Phase 3 graphics showing count variability in the Upper Nepean catchment (0 = no graphics; white stencils only).

Source: Map reproduced from Dibden (2011).

Of the 439 shelters that contain Phase 3 graphics, 43 per cent possess either no or otherwise negligible (1–5 square metres) living area, and this includes two shelters that contain more than 50 graphic counts. The shelters with graphic counts of 50 or less have the full range of living areas in a more or less equal distribution. However, shelters with more than 50 graphics commonly possess large living areas. These patterns are comparable with those observed for Phase 2 graphics and indicate that graphic rock art production was not generally an activity that depended on a shelter’s potential to be used for habitation.

Potential Art Surface Areas (PASA) in shelters range in size from 0.96 to 103 square metres. Their average measurement is 18.5, with a median of 12.6. The percentage calculation of the Surviving Art Surface Area (SASA) is also variable, and ranges from 2.4 to 100 per cent. The average SASA calculation is 34, with a median of 31 per cent. The SASA calculations indicate that rock art panels generally are not filled with rock art. With a consideration of weathering processes, these figures should be read with caution.

The relationship between Phase 3 graphic abundance and the amount of rock art panel surface area available for rock art production has been analysed for the purpose of determining whether or not the PASA in shelters determines the abundance or otherwise of graphic production. The trend suggests that rock art panel size in shelters does normally influence the abundance of rock art. For example, most frequently, shelters with counts of 50 or more motifs do have PASA that measure more than 21 square metres. Similarly, shelters with motif counts of 11 or more trend towards possessing larger PASA areas. However, notably, some shelters, albeit in low frequencies, that have small motif counts have very large PASA. This analysis suggests that, while generally a shelter’s potential to host rock art influences the abundance of rock art present, this is not always the case.

Most shelters contain Phase 3 graphic rock art that occupies a quarter or less of the PASA, and the trend is for these shelters to have low rock art counts. However frequently, shelters with relatively high graphic counts do have rock art occupying less than half of available rock art panels. Nevertheless, it is only shelters with high graphic counts that contain rock art panels that are nearly full (>75%).

In contrast to Phase 2 rock art, during Phase 3, rock art was produced in eight rock shelters that are perched in elevated positions within vertical faces of cliffs or boulders. These shelters possess a range of spatial measurements, although, notably, they generally do not contain any living space due to their rock floors. The rock art in these shelters share some similarities and they each typically contain remarkable assemblages. UA36, a huge shelter, contains a range of very large, commanding anthropomorphic motifs (e.g. see Plate 1.2), each of which are unique and possess ‘eyes’, and a huge macropod and emu, the latter being relatively frequent motif combinations in both Phases 2 and 3. SCR15 contains a suite of highly weathered imagery, including anthropomorphic motifs and several eels (discussed in more detail later in this chapter), and also several instances of gestural rock rubbing and pitting. RL18 contains mostly anthropomorphic motifs, including a male and female pair in association and, unusually, one additional female. Other motifs include snake and eel forms. Both SCR14 and Gill49 contain small assemblages dominated by large snakes. SCR14 is situated within 100 metres of SCR15, and so they are likely to have been associated. Other than the macropod and emu in UA36, these shelthers notably do not contain marsupial motifs. However BR13, which has a very low roof, contains a small suite of marsupial motifs located in ‘hidden’ contexts.

A sociocultural context can tentatively be inferred for these shelters based on a consideration of their location within elevated, vertical rock faces. It is suggested that given the potential danger they pose to small children, they may have been used exclusively by men. It is notable that these sites are each also located away from major thoroughfares. That they have been used for the production of Phase 3 rock art, apparently for the first time, suggests that these otherwise ‘marginal’ locales became relevant at this time for the pursuit of certain social strategies.

8.3.3 Micro-topography

Similar to Phase 2 rock art, the analysis of Phase 3 marks is conducted on the Research Database, and hence the results are indicative only (Table 8.11). Comparably with Phase 2, Phase 3 stencils occur predominantly on wall panels in contexts of open visibility. However, fewer Phase 3 stencils occur in concavities. Similar to Phase 2, a small percentage of Phase 3 stencils occurs on ceilings, and notably one is located in a ‘hidden’ location.

Phase 3 stencils occur at an average height above the floor of 1.25 metres (median = 1.2) and their heights range from 0.5 and 2.5 metres. These height locations are comparable with the position of Phase 2 stencils. Similar to the earlier red stencils, Phase 3 stencils occasionally occur in unusual places, some of which are very high within shelters. For example, the IPG reports a white stencil in BC6 located high in the shelter wall, to which access is only possible via a series of ledges. In summary, there is no notable difference between the micro-topographic contexts in which Phase 2 and 3 stencilling occurred.

Table 8.11 Frequency distribution of the micro-topographic location of Phase 2 and 3 stencils (R/DB).

Location

Phase 2 stencils

frequency

Phase 3 stencils

frequency

Visibility

Phase 2 stencils

frequency

Phase 3 stencils

frequency

Wall

98

72

101

89

Open

118

86.8

101

89

Ceiling

10

7.4

11

10

Moderate

18

13.2

11

10

Concavity

28

20.6

1

1

Hidden

1

1

Total

136

100%

113

100%

Total

136

100%

113

100%

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

Table 8.12 lists the locational attributes of Phase 3 non-graphic gestural marks. The majority of these marks were produced on wall panels. A relatively high frequency occur in concavities, the majority of which are charcoal pigment applications.

Table 8.12 Cross-tabulation of Phase 3 non-graphic gestural marks and location (R/DB).

Type

Ceiling

Concavity

Wall

Total

Pigment blobs

14

14

Pigment circles

8

1

9

Pigment marking

1

11

2

14

Pigment random

1

2

6

9

Pigment smear

10

10

Pigment strokes

5

6

11

Pitting

4

4

Ridge bashing

1

1

Rubbing

14

14

Scratching

1

2

12

15

Total

3 (3%)

29 (28.7%)

69 (68.3%)

101 (100%)

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

The frequency distribution of Phase 2 and 3 graphics is presented in Table 8.13. While wall locations for Phase 3 graphics are typical, greater numbers occur on ceilings and in concavities than with Phase 2 graphics. Likewise, Phase 3 graphics occur mostly in visible locations but in greater numbers in moderate visibility contexts compared with Phase 2 and, notably, for the first time in hidden places. These results indicate a change and diversification in the micro-topographic locations chosen for the production of Phase 3 graphics.

Table 8.13 Frequency distribution of the micro-topographic location of Phase 2 and 3 graphics (R/DB).

Location

Phase 2 graphics

frequency

Phase 3 graphics

frequency

Visibility

Phase 2 graphics

frequency

Phase 3 graphics

frequency

Wall

209

89

1,357

78

Open

222

95

1,396

80

Ceiling

13

6

203

12

Moderate

12

5

200

11

Concavity

12

5

184

11

Hidden

0

148

8

Total

234

100%

1,744

100%

Total

234

100%

1,744

100%

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

The height above the floor of Phase 3 graphics ranges between 0.05 centimetres and 300 centimetres as measured from the base of the image. The average height is 103 centimetres and the mode and median height is 100 centimetres.

The choice to produce graphics and other marks in hidden locations raises questions in regard to new motivations and sociocultural context in Phase 3. As quantified previously, the reason for this practice cannot be attributed to a lack of available space and, hence, a necessary retreat to previously unused spaces. An explanation for this practice must reside solely in choice and a new purpose. Their hidden location implies that, fundamentally, the motivation to produce these marks was not predicated upon their being viewed by a human audience. The majority of hidden marks occur on very low ceilings above bedrock, although, occasionally, motifs are tucked behind a protruding piece of rock. In all instances, both the contexts of production and perception are necessarily restricted to either one person or very few people because these spaces are physically limiting. Generally, motifs in hidden locations require a person to crawl. These aspects regarding the production of hidden imagery suggest an intimacy between people, and people and place, and the practice of rock marking. Given that an audience, beyond that of the makers, is not implied by this practice, it also suggests that the motivation resided primarily in the act of marking, itself.

A total of 51 Phase 3 graphics occur in this relationship with natural features of rock surfaces in shelters. Additionally, seven indeterminate marks and 21 non-graphic gestural pigment marks (all Phase 3) occur in isomorphic congruent situations.

An example of isochrestic congruence is the drawn black wombat shown in Plate 8.6 (rock shelter Gill22). Another notable example is an eel in SCR15. The image is on a low section of a large panel immediately below a charcoal macropod. Its form is drawn diagonally on the rock panel, and its tail end follows the slightly raised ridges on the rock surface. The image is highly weathered and only its front end, including its head and fins, and tail remain intact. However, remnant pigment is present along the ridges, which extend from both the head and tail ends, confirming their unity as a single image. The relationship between the tail end of the motif and the natural rock is unambiguous. In addition, it is notable that the eel motif (tail end), raised ridges and areas below the image are also extensively pitted from being bashed. The practice of marking the rock in this manner, which incorporates the natural ‘lines’ on the rock into the graphic, is highly suggestive of a union between the eel and the rock on, or within, which it is situated. The animal and the rock have in effect been rendered physically, and thus conceptually, as one.

Plate 8.6

Plate 8.6 Charcoal wombat motif in relationship of isomorphic congruence in a small concavity (rock shelter Gill22; mark ID 1722).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

8.3.4 Rock Art Diversity

Whereas all Phase 2 stencils in the Research Database are hands (or indeterminate), a greater range of objects is present in the suite of Phase 3 stencils. Hands are most common, and include men’s, children’s and possibly women’s. In addition, one fist and six feet are present. One object, which is unidentified (see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1: Gill33), and six animal paws occur in Phase 3 stencil rock art. While infrequent, the IPG has recorded a small number of stencilled hatchets (including one believed to be European; Sefton, pers. comm., April 2001). All stencilled tools on the Woronora Plateau were made with white pigment (Sefton, pers. comm., April 2001).

It was suggested earlier that the difference between Phase 2 and 3 stencil locations, in respect of the morphology of shelters and living area size, may relate to some shift in the sociocultural context of stencil production. It was also noted that the geographic distribution of Phase 3 stencil shelters was patterned differently to Phase 2 stencils. The addition of a new suite of objects to the stencilling repertoire of Phase 3 rock art further suggests a change in motivation and purpose. The Phase 3 six foot stencils are located in the two Avon catchment shelters, which each contain the highest numbers of Phase 3 stencils (C39 and C44). This relationship is notable. These shelters also contain gestural applications of white/cream pigment blobs and smears in relatively high numbers. C39 contains five pigment blobs and three pigment smears, and C44 has four pigment blobs and two pigment smears. All the recorded pigment blobs in the Research Database occur in these two shelters.

The one fist stencil (women or adolescent size) occurs in a shelter that has a relatively large number of hand stencils (UA49), and an unusual suite of Phase 3 graphic imagery, much of which has been produced by scratching. The graphics in the site include a large, two-legged animal, which has the facial characteristics of a cow or horse, and ‘eyes’. These rock marks are all representative of the most recent phase of marking in the study area, which may well have been in the contact period. The rock art panel in UA49 also contains an area of gestural rubbing and two areas of gestural scratching. This repertoire of marks is suggestive of rock marking activity undertaken with a motivation to connect intimately, and with a very powerful reason, with the rock. However, whether this provides illumination as to the purpose behind the inclusion of a stencilled fist is equivocal.

The addition of animal feet to the Phase 3 suite of stencils, while rare, is nevertheless a significant change. It is noted that no other animal feet stencils, other than those in the Research Database, are known in the Upper Nepean catchment. One animal paw is present in C39. This stencil is weathered and, accordingly, its identification is uncertain. However, it is large and likely to be either a wombat or kangaroo paw. This shelter contains several Phase 3 graphics, most of which are indeterminate in form; however, notably, it has a large (83 centimetres long x 52 centimetres high) charcoal-and-white pigment wombat motif located in a central position on the rock art panel. This motif has been gesturally marked by the application of pigment blobs. The stencilling and graphic rock art in C39 strongly evokes an emphasised relationship between humans, animals and place.

The stencilled animal paws in EC25 include kangaroo paws and emu feet, and these are associated with four hand stencils, two of which are children’s. This shelter does not contain graphic rock art. Given the assumed relative contemporaneity of the human hand and animal feet stencilling events, again the gesture, implied by the concurrence of these, suggests that a relationship between humans and animals was emphasised in this shelter.

While non-graphic gestural marks are infrequent during Phase 3, when present they normally occur in association with other gestural mark types. Pigment blobs occur in only two shelters, and these have been discussed above. The most common pigment application gestural mark is ‘pigment strokes’ (Plate 8.7). This type occurs in five instances in TL18, a shelter notable for containing eight gestural pigment marks out of a total of 18 marks (see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1). All graphic rock art in this site is schematically unusual and rare, and two motifs have tentatively been identified as horse heads. An example of the ‘pigment marking’ category in the TL18 shelter is shown in Plate 8.8.

Plate 8.7

Plate 8.7 Example of non-graphic pigment gestural mark ‘pigment strokes’ on left in photo (rock shelter TL18; mark ID 859).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

Plate 8.8

Plate 8.8 Examples of non-graphic charcoal ‘pigment marking’ highlighted with arrows, showing pigment application to the edges of natural rock features (rock shelter TL18; mark ID 847).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

Rock shelter EC5b contains at least 13 non-graphic gestural pigment marks, most of which are charcoal embellishments of small concavities. While not commonly reported in the literature, these types of markings are known to occur in Central Australia (see Smith and Rosenfeld 1992). This category of rock mark is possibly underrepresented in the Research Database because, generally, all charcoal rock marks are weathered and it is not always possible to discriminate between graphic and non-graphic forms with certainty. Unlike Phase 2, in which gestural applications of pigment entailed wiping large areas of rock art panels with wet red pigment, Phase 3 non-graphic pigment marks are discrete, and typically embellish natural features of rock art panels, particularly concavities. Despite their relatively uncommon occurrence, they feature in approximately a quarter of the Research Database shelters. The motivation behind this form of rock marking can only be speculated. However, if it is as deliberate as it appears to be, it may be interpreted to indicate a concern simply to connect people physically, and/or conceptually via the gesture, with the locale.

Similar to Phase 2, the analysis of the Phase 3 graphic rock art is undertaken on two levels and includes, first, an analysis of figurative category data from both databases, followed by an analysis of the Research Database. The distribution of each Phase 3 figurative graphics as per catchment location is listed in Table 8.14. A total of 2,365 Phase 3 graphics are formally indeterminate (67%) due to weathering.

Table 8.14 List of Phase 3 figurative graphics per catchment (R/DB and IPG/DB); new figurative categories italicised.

Model

Cataract

Cordeaux

Avon

Nepean

Total

R/DB

IPG/DB

R/DB

IPG/DB

R/DB

IPG/DB

R/DB

IPG/DB

Indeterminate

129

474

516

188

350

348

27

333

2,365

Echidna

1

5

3

1

6

16

Bird

1

3

3

3

7

17

2

36

Eel

1

7

21

5

1

1

6

42

Glider

3

2

19

4

3

31

Lizard

1

2

3

2

3

4

15

Wombat

2

3

1

6

Snake

5

2

14

2

10

5

2

2

42

Marsupial

6

4

24

2

13

1

1

51

Macropod

9

86

14

16

9

7

2

15

158

Human

8

39

64

22

58

55

80

326

Unknown/other

41

4

122

185

7

3

8

370

Fish

6

7

2

4

1

1

21

Animal with joey

1

1

Koala

2

2

Macropod with joey

1

2

1

4

Tortoise

1

3

3

1

1

9

Animal: other (possibly European)

2

1

2

5

Dog

1

1

Profile anthropomorph

5

22

4

10

41

Total

217

642

829

241

657

458

41

457

3,542

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

In Phase 3 rock art, animal motifs occur that have their referential counterparts in Phase 2. While this will be discussed in further detail below, it is noted here that the schema of many motifs also remain unchanged in Phase 3. A summary of motifs occurring in Phase 2 and Phase 3, and described as per the figurative referent variable, is listed below.

Bird motifs were drawn infrequently in Phase 2 and all are in the Cordeaux (n = 4). In Phase 3, birds occur in all catchments but occur most frequently in the Avon (n = 36).

Echidna motifs occur in all catchments other than the Cordeaux, in both Phase 2 (n = 11) and Phase 3 (n = 16). In Phase 2, echidnas were most frequent in the Avon catchment (and most [8] are in two sites). In Phase 3, they are distributed relatively evenly between the catchments in which they occur, and older Phase 2 echidnas are typically redrawn in charcoal.

Plate 8.9

Plate 8.9 Phase 3 eel motif (front end) drawn with charcoal and white pigment and ‘v’-shaped infill (rock shelter A12).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

Eel motifs occur in all catchments in both Phase 2 (n = 21) and Phase 3 (n = 42). In Phase 3, higher counts occur more frequently in the Cordeaux. It is noted that shelter BR29 in the Cordeaux has large counts of eels, most of which were drawn in Phase 3 (Phase 3: n = 7). In Phase 3, eel motifs are sometimes highly inscripted with the use of different coloured pigment and elaborate infill (Plate 8.9), and older Phase 2 motifs are frequently redrawn, sometimes in multiple colours (e.g. see Plate 1.7).

Glider motifs were drawn infrequently in Phase 2 (n = 8). All are in the Avon catchment in three shelters, including the same two sites that have the eight echidnas. In Phase 3, gliders occur in all catchments (n = 31), except the Nepean. In Phase 3, older Phase 2 gliders are typically redrawn in charcoal. Similar to Phase 2, glider motifs in Phase 3 are relatively uniform in schematic construction. However, the majority of Phase 3 gliders are very small (c. 30 centimetres with tail); this contrasts with Phase 2, where they were all drawn as relatively large (c. 80 centimetres with tail) motifs. A single and notable exception is a Phase 3 glider in UA8, which is equivalent in size as those produced during Phase 2. Similar to Phase 2, in Phase 3, glider motifs are usually in small groups of two or three, yet one cluster of at least 10 are in a small alcove in EC17 (see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1). Another two in this shelter have been drawn immediately adjacent to the pair of Phase 2 anthropomorphic motifs that are shown in Plate 8.3. Given the very small size of this shelter, and the highly restricted range of motif forms it contains, these associations tentatively suggest that, in Phase 3, a relationship between these motifs was emphasised in this locale.

Lizard motifs were drawn infrequently in Phase 2: three are in the Cataract catchment, and one is in the Avon. In Phase 3, lizards occur in an even distribution between all catchments (n = 15).

Three wombat motifs occur in one shelter in Phase 2 (UA47). They were drawn infrequently in Phase 3 also (n = 6), but occur in all catchments except the Cordeaux. The three Phase 2 wombats in UA47 were drawn in association with a cluster of elliptical motifs (Plate 8.10).

A similar association occurs between a large Phase 3 wombat and a clutch of circle motifs, in AF4, in the Cataract (Plate 8.11) (see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1). Another small wombat motif occurs in the Cataract. It is in a reasonably strong isomorphic congruent relationship with a small concavity (Gill22). Previously in this chapter, the association between Phase 3 human hand and feet stencils and a wombat motif has been discussed. Given that only nine wombat motifs occur in the Upper Nepean, and that frequently they are embellished, either by association with other motifs or by other means, this is suggestive that they had some unique significance.

Plate 8.10

Plate 8.10 Phase 3 wombat with some of its associated circular motifs (rock shelter AF4).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

Plate 8.11

Plate 8.11 Phase 2 wombat with some of its associated elliptical motifs (rock shelter UA47).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

Snake motifs were drawn infrequently in Phase 2: one is in the Avon catchment, and four are in the Cataract. This distribution is comparable with that of lizard imagery, although in reverse. In Phase 3, snakes were drawn relatively frequently (n = 42), and are present in all catchments (Plate 8.12). Mirroring Phase 2 distribution, they occur in greater abundance in the Avon and Cataract. Similar to wombats and eels, snakes also occur occasionally in compositions with clutches of large numbers of small circle, or elliptical-shaped motifs. Like eels, they are often in associations with anthropomorphic motifs.

Plate 8.12

Plate 8.12 Phase 3 snake graphic (rock shelter Wade5).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

Plate 8.13

Plate 8.13 Phase 3 ‘unknown/other’ graphic (rock shelter SCR15).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

Marsupial motifs were drawn infrequently in Phase 2: two in the Cataract catchment and four in the Avon. This distribution is comparable with that of lizard and snake imagery. In Phase 3, marsupial motifs were drawn relatively frequently (n = 51) and are in all catchments, although only one is recorded in the Nepean. They are most common in the Cordeaux and Avon. These motifs include animals that look like bandicoots and quolls. In both phases, marsupials are sometimes animated and drawn as though they are leaping downwards or standing. In Phase 3, small bandicoot motifs in identical schema (Code 5.8) are introduced. They are typically drawn in groups of three, at the base of rock art panels (see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1:EC1, UA1, UA47, DCC4).

Macropod motifs were drawn in all catchments except the Nepean in Phase 2 (n = 13). They became particularly abundant in Phase 3 (n = 158). In both phases, they were occasionally drawn with their heads turned backwards, evoking an imagined place.

Anthropomorphic motifs occur in all catchments except for the Nepean in Phase 2 rock art (n = 28). In Phase 3, 326 anthropomorphic motifs have been recorded, and they are schematically highly diverse.

The ‘unknown/other’ category will be described more fully below; however, it is noted here that there is a strong formal continuity between Phases 1, 2 and 3 in many of the motifs within the grouping. In addition, this category includes a large number of motifs that are new to the Upper Nepean rock art repertoire in Phase 3 (Plate 8.13).

While the above discussion has referred to the introduction in Phase 3 of new motifs that are schematically different from Phase 2, within the broad figurative categories, a range of new animal referents appear in Phase 3. These are discussed below in summary form.

  • Fish motifs occur in 21 instances in Phase 3, and are certainly not common. They occur in all catchments, although they are infrequent in the Cordeaux and Nepean catchments.
  • Macropod with joey motifs occur in four instances and, as well, one weathered animal (indeterminate as to species) with a ‘joey’. Three are in the Cataract and one each in the Avon and Cordeaux.
  • Koala motifs occur as a pair in a single shelter in the Nepean.
  • Tortoise motifs occur in nine instances in Phase 3. They occur in all catchments, although they are infrequent in the Cataract and Nepean.
  • A dog motif has been identified once, in the Nepean.
  • Profile anthropomorphs occur in 41 instances in all catchments except the Nepean, and most frequently in the Cordeaux. One shelter (T4) in the Cordeaux contains 18 small profile anthropomorphic motifs in a composition (see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1). It is also notable that the two in BR29, associated with large numbers of eels and other anthropomorphic motifs, are highly inscripted, having been drawn in black and white pigment and with cross-hatch infill (Plate 8.14).

Plate 8.14

Plate 8.14 Phase 3 charcoal-and-white pigment (white is very faint) profile anthropomorph with complex infill (rock shelter BR29).

Source: Photograph by Julie Dibden, 2011.

The discussion below describes the formal diversity present in the anthropomorphic, animal and ‘unknown’ graphic categories of Phase 3 rock art in the Research Database. A total of 722 motifs (other than indeterminate) have been identified in Phase 3 graphic rock art. These occur in 234 different schematic forms and indicate considerable formal diversity. The graphic diversity of each animal motif category listed above is summarised and discussed below:

Bird: The 11 bird motifs are drawn in five different forms (see codes in Dibden 2011:Appendix 3). Two resemble emus and the remainder are highly schematic. Ten are drawn in charcoal and one is scratched. Formally, bird motifs can be similar to profile anthropomorphs and, occasionally, discriminating between the two can be arbitrary. The most common bird form is Code 11.1, four of which occur in one site (UA12). These are notable for being small (<20 centimetres), and three in a cluster on a ceiling appear to have been drawn in such a way that their heads coincide with natural red marks on the panel (see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1). Code 11.9 occurs once only and is weathered; its entire form is uncertain, although its rear end is strongly evocative of a bird. Like the birds in UA12, it is also small and occurs in a less-than-visible locale in a concavity.

The remaining birds are all large and in highly visible locations. Code 11.7 is a tall bird form, with its head turned backwards, and this motif also occurs in the Phase 2 assemblage. It occurs twice in Phase 3. One is in UA49, discussed previously in relation to the stencilled fist. In UA49, the motif is scratched, is in association with a large scratched macropod and also has its head turned backwards.

Code 11.6 are tall bird forms, with certain emu characteristics (in the rear end). These motifs also occur with macropods in very obvious association. One is present in UA36 with an extremely large macropod. The other is in Wall13 with two large macropods, and in association with one that has a joey (see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1). The Code 11.17 bird is very emu-like in form. It occurs in one shelter only (SCR10), but, significantly, is schematically comparable with the only emu motif in an open engraved context in the study area (BC4).

Echidna: The four echidna motifs are drawn in two different forms (see codes in Dibden 2011:Appendix 3), both of which first appeared in Phase 2. Code 8.16 occurs once in UA47, as an addition to the six drawn previously during Phase 2. It is elaborately drawn with a complex ‘v’-shaped infill. The addition of this motif in UA47 suggests that the motif form continued to be relevant and meaningful in that site in the most recent sociocultural context. The three Code 8.4 echidnas occur in two sites, UA43 and Wall27. The shelter UA43 is a Phase 3 counterpart of two similar Phase 2 shelters, UA1 and UA47. It contains a very similar range of animal motifs, some of which are animated or paired, as in UA47 in particular. The echidnas in UA43 are drawn together and contain linear infill. The other Code 8.4 echidna is in a large shelter (Wall27) and unusually occurs singly rather than in a pair. However, the echidna is accompanied, as was always the case in Phase 2, by gliders (three), which are located immediately above it in Wall27 (see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1).

Eel: A total of 28 eel motifs are drawn in six different forms and occur in 15 shelters, the most common of which is Code 2.3. The majority are drawn in charcoal; however, eel motifs, more than any other animal, are most likely to be inscripted with the use of other coloured pigment. Several shelters are dominated by eel imagery. A16 has one Phase 3 eel, and this is an addition to the four Phase 2 red eels. The other motif dominant in A16 is Code 2.5: small, simple-form elliptical shapes (not unlike eels), which occur on the south end of the panel in a large group. It is notable that A16 has gestural marks in the form of rubbed and pitted surfaces. The other notable shelter with Phase 2 eels is BR29, with seven large, highly inscripted (colourful and with complex infill) Phase 3 eels, which are also additions to the earlier Phase 2 eel motifs in that site. The other dominant motif in BR29 is anthropomorphs, which are all highly inscripted with colour and complex infill. Notably, BR29 also includes a snake drawn parallel and in association with an eel. In these two shelters, Phase 3 eels, as additions to earlier eel-dominated sites, indicate continuity of the formal relevance of this motif between the two phases. While occurring with other Phase 2 animal imagery, including gliders and macropods, A12 likewise suggests continuity with the addition of a highly inscripted Phase 3 eel (Plate 8.9) to the earlier eel repertoire. SCR10 is notable for containing not only a huge 3-metre-long yellow-and-black eel, but also large numbers of the small, elliptical Code 2.5 motifs that occur in abundance in A16 with eels.

While typically large and dominant, eel motifs may also be small and subtle, such as in BR12, a small, low shelter containing mostly hidden imagery on a low ceiling. BR12 has three small eels, two drawn in charcoal, and one that is scratched (Plate 1.6). The other imagery in the shelter is abstracted ‘unknown’ motifs. This shelter suggests the production of imagery with a more individualised, participatory motivation, rather than being informed by corporately structured and motivated goals.

The remainder of shelters with Phase 3 eels appear to be more diverse and inclusive in regard to the suite of imagery they contain. BR24 is notable for containing a large panel of many Phase 3 anthropomorphs, side by side, in a row. At one end of the panel a small, upright eel is drawn beside a small glider, the pair clearly associated. In Wade5, a shelter containing only Phase 2 imagery, a charcoal eel with complex infill is associated with a diverse range of imagery, including a snake and, notably, two large ‘downward-leaping’ marsupial/macropods.

Eel motifs are gesturally marked by scratching or pitting in three instances, and sometimes rubbed surfaces are in close association (A16, SCR15). In 8 out of 28 Phase 3 cases, eels also are drawn in isomorphic congruence with natural rock features.

Glider: In 23 of 24 cases, glider motifs are drawn in one form (Code 8.2). This motif first appeared in three shelters (A12, UA1 and UA47) in Phase 2. Phase 3 gliders (Code 8.2) occur in seven shelters. They are small, except for one in UA8 (discussed further below in the Lizard category). Phase 3 gliders are all drawn in charcoal and frequently in compositions of two, three or more. The exceptions include the one in UA8, and one in BR24, discussed above in the eel category. Two occur in A12, which is one of the three shelters where they first appeared in Phase 2. Their addition in Phase 3 suggests a continuity of their formal relevance in this shelter. They occur in small clusters in BR32, DCC4 and Wall27, all of which contain Phase 2 red hand stencils and/or handprints, and EC17, which contains a pair of small Phase 2 anthropomorphs. There is a strong tendency for Code 8.2 gliders to occur in shelters with Phase 2 rock art, whether graphic or gestural. A very different form of glider (Code 5.27) is in AF3, a Phase 3 shelter, which is dominated by a large panel of ‘fighting’ macropods.

Lizard: The six lizard motifs are drawn in four different schema, one of which occurs in Phase 2. They are always drawn with charcoal in Phase 3, and occur singly in sites. The Code 9.1 forms are highly schematised. This motif occurs twice (A12 and EC21), and both are very small. Code 13.1 also occurs twice (UA8 and UA13) in shelters containing Phase 2 rock art only. UA8 contains six motifs, all of which are large, and three are unique. One is a large anthropomorph with ‘Daramulan’ characteristics (Code 7.15), and two are ‘unknown’ (Codes 8 and 8.1). One is a large glider, the size of which is comparable with Phase 2 gliders, but unique in Phase 3, during which they are normally small. UA13 contains a limited suite of motifs, including eel, snake and profile anthropomorphic forms, in addition to the large lizard. The Code 13.2 lizard first appears in Phase 2. It is formally similar to Code 13.1, in that it is also sinuous in form, suggesting movement. In Phase 3, it occurs in one shelter (Gill27), which also has a limited suite of only Phase 3 imagery. Again, it is associated with a snake and an anthropomorphic motif. In summary, there is a tendency for large, sinuous lizards to be associated with snakes and anthropomorphic motifs. The two code 13.3 lizards occur in separate shelters located in close proximity.

Wombat: Six wombats occur in Phase 3 and, similar to Phase 2, they are a minor, albeit arguably significant, component of Phase 3 rock art. Other than the black-and-white wombat in Cad39 (discussed previously in regard to Phase 3 stencils), all Phase 3 wombats are drawn in charcoal. They always occur singly in shelters; this contrasts with Phase 2, where three wombat motifs occur together in one shelter (UA47). Notably, a Phase 3 wombat has been added to UA47. Except for the small wombat in a concavity in Gill22, they are normally large, and there is a tendency for Phase 3 wombats to be the dominant motif in a shelter—for example, AF4, with its clutch of circles, and C39, with its associated animal paw and human stencils, the two of which have been discussed previously. Not unexpectedly, a large ‘running’ wombat occurs in UA43, a Phase 3 counterpart (with a similar suite of imagery, some of which is paired) of the predominantly Phase 2 shelter UA47. The other Phase 3 wombat occurs in Wade5 (with Phase 3 rock art only), a shelter with a range of motifs, including a spectacular pair of large, downward-leaping marsupial/macropods.

Snake: A total of 31 snake motifs occur in 12 different forms (see codes in Dibden 2011:Appendix 3) and in 22 shelters. Snakes are abundant and, similar to eels, are likely to be embellished by complex infill, by different colours, and be associated with other motifs (i.e. circles or elliptical forms). Two shelters contain large groups of small elliptical motifs (Code 2.5): A16, where they are strongly associated with eel imagery; and in SCR10, where they occur around a large snake. This motif (Code 2.5) also occurs as infill (c. n = 40) in a huge (2.7 metres long) ‘death adder’ snake in the shelter Ana50 (see Plate 8.12). The relationship between the small elliptical motifs and eels and snakes is very strong, and suggests a conceptual union, although this is emphasised in only a few locales. Snake motifs may also occur in association with groups of large numbers (c. 20 or so) of small circles: UA11, a shelter dominated by snake, eel, lizard and profile anthropomorphic imagery, and SCR3 and A29 with circles as infill. Snakes often occur in shelters with a limited number and range of other motifs and, in these cases, frequently occur with anthropomorphic motifs (Gill49, Gill27, SCR14, BR29).

Marsupial: A total of 49 marsupial motifs occur in 11 different forms (see codes in Dibden 2011:Appendix 3), and are distributed between 19 shelters. The most common (n = 17) marsupial motif is Code 5.8, with the physical characteristics of a bandicoot. This is a new Phase 3 addition to the Upper Nepean, and occurs in eight shelters. The typical manner of depiction occurs in alignments of three or four and, most commonly, at the base of a rock art panel (EC1, DCC4, UA1, UA47). They mostly occur in shelters used previously in Phase 2 for either gestural or graphic marks and, notably, occur in UA1 and UA47 Phase 2 shelters with groups of animals. All except two Phase 3 marsupials are drawn in charcoal; however, one Code 5.8 motif occurs in a shelter (Gill44) as a single motif and, unusually, is drawn in white pigment. The highly structured organisation of the Code 5.8 motifs, their relative abundance and the nature of the shelters in which they occur suggests that this image was a significant addition to the animal repertoire in Phase 3 rock art. A number of marsupial motifs are drawn in a manner suggestive of movement (Codes 5.14, 5.16 and 5.17), the first two of which also occur in Phase 2 rock art.

Macropod: A total of 29 macropod motifs occur in 11 different forms (see codes in Dibden 2011:Appendix 3) and are distributed between 19 shelters. The most common macropod motif is Code 5.11, which also occurs in Phase 2. Generally, macropod motifs occur singly in shelters. They are drawn in a variety of poses including very formal stances; however, frequently, they are in a state of animation. The AF3 shelter is notable for containing seven in a row, upright and in a ‘fighting pose’.

Anthropomorphic Categories

In Phase 2, anthropomorphic imagery was relatively uncommon (n = 17) and occurred in 11 different forms. Anthropomorphic motifs have been categorised in five overall categories: female, male, anthropomorph, anthropomorph imaginary, and profile anthropomorph. The female category is identified on the basis of having breasts. The male group is distinguished usually by the presence of a penis, although sometimes solely by association with what appears to be obviously a female. The male category was reasonably coherent in regard to Phase 2, where paired anthropomorphs were more common, and is less so for Phase 3. The anthropomorph category includes images that appear human in a ‘life-like’ manner. The imaginary category is somewhat arbitrary, but captures motifs that are only slightly modelled on a human form. The profile anthropomorphic category is a new category that does not occur in Phase 2.

Phase 3 anthropomorphic imagery is described below:

Female anthropomorphs: A total of 15 charcoal female anthropomorphic motifs occur in seven forms in seven shelters (two occur in Phase 2). In Phase 2, the few anthropomorphic motifs were frequently drawn in male and female pairs—for example, in EC17. This small shelter has four anthropomorphs added in Phase 3, one of which is female, in addition to the large numbers of small gliders, as discussed previously. It has already been noted that two gliders were added to the panel in which the earlier pair of anthropomorphs reside and, in addition to those on a panel in a group of 10, one has also been drawn with the four new Phase 3 anthropomorphs. The association between anthropomorphs and gliders in Phase 2 is dominant in this site. The shelter UA36 has been referred to before in that it is a Phase 3 counterpart to UA47, with paired animal imagery. It contains a similar suite of animal pairs and, in addition, a pair of anthropomorphs, one of which is female (with ‘eyes’). While anthropomorphic motifs have not been added to UA47 in Phase 3, the shelter UA1, which is comparable with UA47 but has anthropomorphs in the Phase 2 suite of rock art, has had numerous Phase 3 anthropomorphs added to it, one of which is female.

The Phase 3 shelter (RL18) contains a pair of female and male anthropomorphs, the female being larger than the male. A large female anthropomorph with complex infill is beside the pair. This shelter, located in a cliff, contains a limited number and a small range of motifs, and the anthropomorphs appear to be significant in this site. A small pair occurs in SCR11. These motifs have their formal counterparts in SCR10. A12 has one small female motif, which, unusually, is in a hidden location, and is an addition to an animal motif dominated Phase 2 site. Two females occur in a row of around eight large anthropomorphic motifs that dominate the rock art panel in BR24. A similar configuration of Phase 3 anthropomorphs occurs in one other shelter only, Cad44. Notably, the anthropomorphs in BR24 are accompanied by a pair of motifs, a small eel and a small glider, these being the only other recognisable motifs in the shelter. The eel and anthropomorphic-dominated shelter BR29 has one female anthropomorph (also two others that are weathered, which may be female). SCR15 is largely an eel and anthropomorphic-dominated site, and has one female. DCC12 contains a large number of graphics, including eel, snake, macropod, marsupial and three rare or unique anthropomorphic motifs, one of which is female. DCC30 is dominated by marsupial motifs and has one female anthropomorphic motif.

Male anthropomorphs: A total of 15 male anthropomorphs occur in five different forms (one of which occurs in Phase 2) in six shelters, the majority of which have been discussed above.

Anthropomorph imaginary: This category of anthropomorph is a significant addition to the graphic imagery in Phase 3. A total of 83 motifs occur in 37 different forms (many of which are similar). This category is distributed between 28 shelters in the Research Database. Two major forms occur: one that is large, elaborate and often highly inscripted, with colour and/or complex infill (and other accoutrements such as long appendages, which extend from the head, ‘rays’, ‘hair’ and ‘eyes’) and another that is small and highly schematic. While occurring in single instances in 13 shelters, frequently they occur in groups of two, three or more. The large category will be described first.

This category of anthropomorph was intended to be seen and is visually dramatic. This is evident on the basis of numerous criteria. They are typically in locations, both geographically (but not always) and micro-topographically (always), where they are visually dominant. They are large (c. 80 centimetres or more high) and sometimes very large (see Plate 1.2). As indicated above, they are highly inscripted and frequently contain complex infill. They occur commonly in rows, usually of three or more, and are sometimes the only motif type or the visually dominant motif in a shelter (TL6, C38, BR24). Typically they have long ‘tails’ or ‘penises’, ‘hair’ or ‘rays’, and sometimes long appendages extending from their heads, mouths or bodies. Frequently this motif has ‘eyes’, a trait shared only with other anthropomorphs and two unique animal motifs (Codes 11.8 and 2.41). While visually dominating on all levels, the presence of ‘eyes’ in these motifs creates an imagined space where the image is read as entering the viewer’s actual lived space.

The other type of anthropomorph in this category is less visually dramatic, but while being a highly schematic and simplified form, it is frequently inscripted with the use of colour. This motif occurs in two main and significant shelters, BR29 and SCR10 (see Plate 7.7).

Profile anthropomorph: This category of anthropomorph is also a new, and arguably a significant addition to the suite of rock art in the Upper Nepean. A total of 32 motifs, in seven different forms, occur in 11 shelters. This motif is also sometimes large and dramatic (see motif in DCC12 located 3 metres above the ground, on the outside face of the shelter: Plate 6.3), but can also occur as very small motifs. It commonly has ‘eyes’. A group of small profile anthropomorphic figures in a single small panel in T4 is a composition. This is a unique occurrence. Profile anthropomorphs occur frequently in shelters that have rows or groups of other anthropomorphic types (BR24, BR29, C44, UA1). They also occur singly, or with very few other motifs in shelters, such as BR17, which is simply a small, scalloped surface in a cliff, rather than a shelter (see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1). With their typically large size, ‘eyes’ and prominent micro-topographic locations, profile anthropomorphs frequently create an imagined space that occupies that of the viewer.

A small range of new animal imagery occurs in Phase 3. One macropod with a joey is associated with an emu in Wall13. Another unidentified animal with a joey, in EC5b, has a highly schematic form and drawn in black and white. Both shelters also possess Phase 2 imagery, and EC5b is a significant early site. Fish can occur in groups (schools) of three or more, where their schematic construction is identical (e.g. UA1 and BMS18: see Dibden 2011:Appendix 1). In BMS18, a school of six fish occurs in a small concavity. All fish motifs are relatively small, however; one very large fish (c. 2 metres) dominates a rock art panel in SCR10. This motif is formally comparable with an engraved whale/fish motif, which occurs as a single motif in the open context site EC12. It is also notable that a unique emu form in SCR10 is also represented in one instance in the open engraved rock art of the Upper Nepean catchment (as discussed above). Tortoise motifs are uncommon (n = 8), and occur in three different forms in five shelters. Significantly, three occur in UA43, the Phase 3 counterpart of UA47 that contains the paired animals. The three tortoise motifs in UA43 are the only ones inscripted with complex infill.

The ‘possible European animal’ category has been defined for the purposes of capturing, in the analysis, motifs that possess characteristics of European animals. There is no certainty in the identification of these motifs, but it is considered worthwhile to contemplate their form and the resulting implications, if they are indeed representative of introduced species. Two appear to be horse heads, including Codes 5.19 and 5.21, and both occur in the one shelter, TL18. The motifs have long ‘heads’ and tall ‘ears’. This shelter is rare because it contains relatively few charcoal rock marks (n = 18), but many of them are gestural pigment marks (n = 8). The other motifs, while relatively well preserved, are figuratively unidentifiable.

The Phase 3 shelter UA49, remarked upon previously for its rare collection of scratched graphics, a stencilled fist and scratched gestural marks, contains a large motif (Code 11.8), which appears to be a cow or horse/emu-morphed animal. The animal is typically drawn in profile, but, unusually, with the head turned to the viewer. It has a long cow/horse type head, with a large, upright ‘ear’ and, notably, two large ‘eyes’. Its rear end is emu shaped and it has two legs, although its feet are neither hoof-like nor emu feet. The shelter EC5b was noted above for the large charcoal-and-white animal with joey it contains. On the same panel, another highly weathered but large charcoal-and-white animal is present (Code 11.15); only the bottom of the image remains. It is possibly a cow or horse with four legs. Three other smaller animal motifs have been identified as possibly European (Codes 5, 5.25 and 5.36).

The Phase 3 ‘unknown’ categories are described minimally below:

  • A number of motifs include simple trident form motifs, some of which also occur in Phases 1 and 2. Their inclusion in Phase 3 is normally as small charcoal drawings; however, they also occur in white and in red in two instances.
  • Several motifs include simple circle, or slightly elongated circle, shapes. Numerous oval shapes occur, some of which are slightly eel-like. Many motifs are only subtly different and frequently occur once only. Several unknown motifs in this grouping have forms evocative of animals (e.g. Codes 2.27 and 2.28), but are nevertheless figuratively unidentifiable. They may be entirely imagined in form, or simply not recognisable to the uninformed eye. The most frequently occurring of these is Code 2.5, which appears in 103 instances in a highly restricted distribution and, primarily, in A16 with eels and SCR10 with a large snake. Four occur in A12, one of the Phase 2 sites in which this motif is present; notably, six occur in SCR15, a significant eel shelter with gestural marking (pitting).
  • Codes 2.31, 2.32, 2.33, 2.34 and 2.35 occur in a single panel in EC5b. Their figurative model, given their shape and short, stubby tails, can only be conjectured, but it is grub-like. One has ‘eyes’ and ‘hair’, and two have complex infill. They occur with a large, slightly anthropomorphic type motif (but categorised as ‘unknown’), which has complex infill and a long appendage. Similar motifs, Codes 11.13 and 2.36, occur in DCC4 and Gill34 shelters respectively, and these also have complex infill. These motifs are all unique and, given their large size and inscription, are significant motifs.
  • Many motifs in the ‘unknown’ category are relatively large and animal-like, such as those in the code sequence 8. The motifs in the code sequence 9 are all small, highly schematic motifs.

8.4 Summary: Rock Art in the Upper Nepean Catchment

In this chapter, the analyses have sought to describe and quantify the formal and material nature of the rock art of the Upper Nepean catchment within a temporal framework. The approach has identified that the imagery possesses considerable variability, both formally and materially, and that many images are either unique or rare. However, it has also demonstrated that the repetition of specific motifs, both on an inter- and intra-site basis, is a strong characteristic of this rock art. Furthermore, the analysis has established that, while there is considerable change and innovation in a diachronic context, there is also some continuity of motif production. The analyses have also confirmed that there is significant intra- and inter-site structure in the rock art, particularly in Phases 2 and 3. The patterns in inter-site variability will form the basis for exploring spatial and geographic distribution in Chapter 9. Table 8.15 summarises the nature of temporal variability in the rock art in the Upper Nepean.

Table 8.15 Summary of temporal change in the rock art of the Upper Nepean catchment.

Phase

Rock art

Object/model

Phase 1

Intaglio engravings

Bird and macropod tracks; other simple forms (and anthropomorphs elsewhere on Woronora Plateau)

Phase 2a

Gestural: red hand stencils and handprints; red pigment smears usually over large areas

Hands located in a range of shelter morphologies. Sites with large counts are small, non-habitation shelters

Red wet graphics

Limited range of motifs: trident forms and simple motifs. Present in a restricted number of shelters and all motifs in highly visible locations

Phase 2b

Red drawn graphics

Animal and anthropomorphic imagery: macropods, marsupials, birds, eels, snakes, lizards, echidnas, gliders, ‘unknown’: simple forms. Frequently in habitation shelters, but also in non-habitation sites. All imagery in visible locations and some in isomorphic congruence.

Phase 3

Gestural: white and cream stencils; non-graphic pigment applications, including pigment blobs, circles, rock-surface marking, strokes and random; non-graphic scratch, pitted and rubbed marks

Stencilling activity of decreased abundance. Stencils predominantly hand, but including a fist, small numbers of human feet, animal paws, and objects. Sites with large counts are potential habitation shelters

Significantly greater diversity in non-graphic pigment applications and the introduction of non-graphic, gestural rock marking

Charcoal graphics; white wet or drawn graphics; scratched graphics; small numbers of red drawn or wet graphics (usually highly schematic)

Animal imagery, including most of the forms previously produced; however, with the addition of others, macropods with joeys, tortoise, fish and small marsupials, such as bandicoots, etc.

A wide range of anthropomorphic motifs, and the addition of a range of unique or rare forms, many of which have an ‘unknown’ figurative referent

Shelter morphologies highly variable, and include locations perched within cliffs. A diversification in the micro-topographic contexts of graphic locations and imagery produced in ‘hidden’ locales

Source: Table reproduced from Dibden (2011).

The temporal patterns in the Upper Nepean rock art sequence that have emerged in this chapter are summarised below:

Phase 1

Only two Phase 1 rock art shelters occur in the Upper Nepean catchment. These are clearly distributed in very low density in the broader local area (south of the Georges River). The Phase 1 engraved rock art is comprised of a restricted range of graphic forms that are predominantly trident-shaped bird feet and macropod feet/tracks. This rock art is mostly figurative and, given its formal and iconic properties, is interpreted as reflecting the encoding of symbolic values of the animals and beings they represent. Taking into consideration the seven shelters on the Woronora Plateau with this art (albeit a small sample), the engraved intaglio rock art occurs in a diverse suite of shelter types that vary considerably in terms of their morphology, size and whether they contain living space. This diversity suggests that the nature of the shelter itself was largely incidental to its choice for marking. The micro-topographic location of imagery within shelters is similarly diverse.

Phase 2

Phase 2 rock art occurs in 173 rock shelters in the Upper Nepean catchment, and is comprised of both graphic and gestural marks. The analyses have identified that, during the Phase 2 period, stencilling was the dominant mode of marking the land, but that graphic production was not insignificant. The overall distributional pattern of stencils and graphics is such that the majority of shelters contain low numbers of motifs, contrasting with a small number that contain relatively high counts. The frequency of stencilling is geographically varied and decreases from north to south. The Cataract contains the greatest abundance and density of Phase 2 stencils. Graphic rock art, however, has a different spatial distribution. While the general trend is one of decreasing graphic production, north to south, in contrast to Phase 2 stencils and open grinding groove densities, higher densities of graphics occur in the Cordeaux and Avon.

The strong separation between stencils and graphics, in respect of inter- and intra-site distribution, suggests that the two rock art categories were produced within different sociocultural contexts. Furthermore, while stencils occur in a range of shelter morphological types, those shelters with stencils only typically do not contain living areas, and all shelters that have high stencil counts have no or negligible living areas. These trends indicate that shelter morphology was largely incidental to stencilling activity and, generally, stencilling took place in locales that were separate from those that may have been used for habitation or other activities. A contrast with this pattern is evident in shelters that have a combination of stencils and graphics. These sites typically have large living areas, especially if high stencil counts are present. More than half the shelters that have graphics only do not contain significant potential living space. Typically, shelters with high graphic counts do. This is not to imply, necessarily, that the space was used for habitation. The relationship may relate simply to the size of either the rock art panels or the shelter itself, to accommodate on one hand an abundance of art and, on the other, larger numbers of people for rock art production and associated activities.

It has been argued that within the suite of Phase 2 graphic rock art, an earlier sub-phase is probable (Phase 2a). This rock art is formally comparable with the Phase 2 rock art identified by McDonald (2008a) in the Upper Mangrove Creek catchment. In the Upper Nepean, it is comprised of painted motifs, including tridents, trident configurations, other simple forms and possibly highly schematic anthropomorphs. This rock art is not abundant. It occurs in very few shelters, and this density distribution is comparable with Phase 1 rock art distribution; although, in contrast to Phase 1, it occurs almost exclusively in large shelters that have large floor spaces. Accordingly, the location of Phase 2a rock art is strongly tethered to shelter morphology and, arguably, an ability to accommodate large numbers of people. The nature of the data, and level of analysis used in this research, does not provide the capacity to unravel the implication of the presence of these motifs in the suite of earliest pigment rock art. Given that it is formally comparable with Phase 1 engraved motifs, doing so may be of considerable interest. It is possible that the pigment motifs were produced synchronically with the intaglio motifs and, accordingly, they may each be contextually different. On the other hand, if they are temporally discrete and separate, the formally comparable Phase 1 motifs in Phase 2a may represent some continuity of tradition. However, it is also noted that this analysis has not actually identified, with any certainty, the temporal order of these two types of rock art in the Upper Nepean, other than that they are both early in the relative sequence.

It has been argued in this chapter that stencils, and also pigment smears, via their gestural and participatory manner of production (embodied connection with the land), may have emphasised people and land relationships. Graphic rock art, on the other hand, given its potential to encode conceptual meanings, may have been used to mark localities within a supra-individualised context, thus serving to establish and maintain, via inscription, a corporately mediated social geography.

The figurative element of Phase 2 graphic rock art is believed to be a later component of this phase (Phase 2b). It includes animal and anthropomorphic motifs in low counts, and a generally restricted range of formal diversity. Anthropomorphic motifs are uncommon. They are frequently paired, including a male and female form. Animal motifs can be either formally static or animated. They often occur in pairs, in triplicate or more, in individual shelters. As noted above, the Avon and Cordeaux contain the highest Phase 2 graphic density. The analyses have also shown that these catchments contain more shelters with graphics only, compared with either the Cataract or Nepean. Furthermore, the shelters in these catchments with high graphic counts do not contain stencils. These patterns suggest that the Cordeaux and Avon were contextually significant areas for the production of this earliest figurative rock art. The analyses have demonstrated the highly restricted distribution of animal motifs. Several animal species are present only in the Avon and in either one or very few shelters.

The similarity of schematic organisation (as grouped in individual codes), the relatively few motifs that occur in the various figurative and code categories, their typical patterns of co-occurrence, and the highly restricted range of shelter and geographic locales in which Phase 2 rock art occurs indicate that its production is likely to have been generated within a highly organised corporate structure.

Phase 3

Phase 3 rock art occurs in 449 rock shelters in the Upper Nepean catchment, and this contrasts with the 173 Phase 2 shelter frequency. Phase 3 rock art accounts for three-quarters of all rock markings, and is mostly graphic imagery. There is no indication that stencilling with red pigment occurs during the Phase 3 period. All stencils were produced with white or cream pigment, except for three black stencils. Stencilling is significantly less frequent compared with Phase 2, and is a minor practice within this phase. Stencils are distributed in a pattern comparable with that encountered in Phase 2, decreasing in abundance from north to south. Notably, one Phase 3 stencil only occurs in the Nepean. This result is in accordance with the overall pattern of Phase 3 stencilling, which is largely confined to the interior of the study area. The two shelters located near each other in the Avon each contain the highest stencil counts.

It has been argued that the motivation and meaning of stencilling changed in Phase 3. A shift in the sociocultural context of stencilling is indicated by its preferential location in shelters with relatively large living space, the diversity and nature of objects stencilled, including animal paws and feet, and their association with graphic imagery. Where animal paws and feet occur, human stencils accompany them, and this suggests the emphasis of a relationship not only between people and land, but also in association with animals. In Cad39, the prominence of a highly inscripted black-and-white pigment wombat on the rock art panel, in association with the human and animal paw stencils, may well be amplifying this conceptual relationship.

Phase 3 graphic production happened in a wide range of shelter types and sizes. A greater diversification of micro-topographic contexts used within shelters occurs, with ‘hidden’ locales employed for the first time. In addition, shelters located high within the vertical faces of cliffs were utilised. These shifts suggest that the sociocultural context of graphic production became diversified, and this may represent both a sociocultural structural difference and change in purpose and motivation when compared with Phase 2 graphic rock art. In respect of hidden imagery, an audience beyond that of the makers is not implied by this practice, and this suggests that the purpose resided primarily in the act of marking itself. The use of new shelter types in Phase 3, such as those located in cliffs, suggests a new restriction in sociocultural context, in which the production and perception of rock marking was enjoyed by a select group within society, in these locales.

The majority of Phase 3 graphic motifs are drawn with dry pigment; however, white pigment and scratching are also used. Phase 2 graphics are frequently redrawn, usually with charcoal. During Phase 3, pigment is used in a greater diversity of ways to gesturally mark the land. Non-graphic, gestural pigment marking occurs in one-quarter of the Phase 3 shelter assemblages in the Research Database. Accordingly, this practice is not infrequent and, hence, can be considered to be purposeful marking of the land. Given that the form of these marks is not regulated by corporately defined conventions, as graphics are, they may reflect, similar to stencils, individualised expressions of people and land relationships. These types of marks, typically, have been applied to natural features within rock art panels and, therefore, the shelter morphology appears to strongly influence their nature and location. The expressive behaviour implied by these marks may well have been motivated by the simple need of uniting people and land. It is possible that this type of marking may well have functioned similar to stencils in this regard, and may have occurred as a substitute in a context, for example, where the acquisition of suitable stencil pigment was hindered.

Similar to Phase 2, the graphic rock art in Phase 3 is comprised of animal, anthropomorphic and ‘unknown’ motifs. There is the continued production of schematically similar motifs and indications that, furthermore, many of these continued to be conceptually meaningful and relevant. This is suggested by the additions to specific shelters of motifs of the same figurative referent and schema as those that already existed, the production of older comparable imagery in those sites, the re-marking of older imagery and the inscription of imagery with colour and complex infill. Many Phase 2 shelters do have new and different images added to them; however, these motifs are frequently restricted in number, and are made in intra-site locales where they do not interfere visually with older graphics. This pattern is particularly evident in the few shelters that contain very formal displays of animal imagery. For example, in UA47, with its suite of gliders, echidnas and other Phase 2 imagery, a row of ‘new’ animal motifs (bandicoots) are drawn close to the floor at the base of the panel. However, there does not seem to be an aversion to creating Phase 3 rock art, gestural or graphic, on panels that contain Phase 2 stencils. These results indicate that the corporate graphic imagery of Phase 2, unlike the individualised marks (stencils), given that they were frequently curated and reproduced by subsequent generations, continued to be relevant to the needs and concerns of people in the period encompassed by Phase 3 rock art.

The motif categories echidna and glider continue always to co-occur in Phase 3 shelters as they did in Phase 2. However, notably, gliders become considerably smaller. All Phase 3 gliders, except for one, are small. The association between large bird (emu) and macropod motifs also continues in Phase 3. While many Phase 2 motifs exhibit a highly restricted geographic distribution, the same motifs occupy a greater spatial distribution in Phase 3. Snakes, for example, are infrequent in Phase 2, and restricted to two catchments. In Phase 3, not only do they become more abundant, they are drawn in all catchments. Anthropomorphic imagery becomes significantly diverse and abundant in Phase 3, and profile anthropomorphic forms are added to this category. It is particularly within the anthropomorphic category that motifs, for the first time, are drawn with ‘eyes’. This feature, and their often large and commanding presence, act to occupy the viewer’s actual lived space. It is notable that an emu motif, a macropod motif and a whale motif, which occur in three open engraved sites, have their formally comparable counterpart in Phase 3 images in a single shelter (SCR10). In summary, Phase 2 imagery continues to be produced in Phase 3 in a structured manner that is comparable with the earlier patterns.

However, there are also significant changes. Many new motifs, both animal and figuratively ‘unknown’, occur in Phase 3. Tortoises appear for the first time in a very similar structural pattern as existed during Phase 2, when animals are first introduced to the rock art repertoire of the Upper Nepean catchment. That is, they are rare, occurring in eight instances only, and are distributed between a small number of shelters. Three, which are highly inscripted with complex infill, occur in one site. Furthermore, this shelter, UA43, is used in Phase 3 for the first time; it does not contain Phase 2 art. The shelter UA43, in terms of its contents and structural organisation, is comparable with UA1 and UA47, two of the three significant Phase 2 animal motif shelters.

In addition, a suite of new and usually unique motifs, which are frequently large and drawn with complex infill, and which have no obvious figurative referent, suggests that while older motifs continued to be relevant, newer forms were required to satisfy corporate goals. This may imply that the sociocultural context had undergone change, and that a new ideational system came into being in order to mediate that change.

In this chapter, the nature of the rock art of the Upper Nepean catchment has been explored in accordance with the structure of the relative temporal sequence. The nature and diversity of the expressive behaviours relating to rock art, as practised within each phase, have been described, and they have formed the basis for conceiving the nature of the relationships between people and their world, and how these changed over time. The environmental and spatial signature of each temporal phase will be examined in Chapter 9, in order to expand the interpretive potential of the patterns identified in this chapter.


1 All imagery is coded—see Appendix 3 in Dibden (2011).


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