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Ref ID: 26736
Ref Type: Journal Article
Authors: Veth, Peter
Myers, Cecilia
Heaney, Pauline
Ouzman, Sven
Title: Plants before farming: the deep history of plant-use and representation in the rock art of Australia's Kimberley region
Date: 2018
Source: Quaternary International
DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2016.08.036
Abstract: The orthodox notion of agriculture cumulatively and inevitably developing from foragers' gathering practices is increasingly untenable. Recent archaeological, botanical and genetic research from Asia and Australia show precocious manipulation of plant resources that continue for millennia within a forager ideology and practice without culminating in ‘agriculture’. Australia's Kimberley is an especially productive research region with a wide range of environmental niches on a topographically varied landscape that has had human settlement spanning over the last 50,000 years. Previously characterised as ‘foragers’ until contact with travellers from Indonesia and then Europeans over the last few hundred years
new research questions this simplistic characterisation of Aboriginal people, and suggests instead a particularly complex and enduring set of people-plant relationships. This complexity is given material witness in the form of Kimberley rock art, which stands out globally in having an enormous body of direct and indirect depictions of plants, including: grasses, trees, tubers
pigment-soaked plants imprinted on rock shelter walls
anthropomorphism of plants
and plant-based material culture such as digging sticks, dilly bags, and wood-hafted stone axe. These are more than simple illustrations of a forager economic base. Instead, rock art is a primary record of long-term sophisticated physical and symbolic manipulation of plants that fits neither into the simplistic categories of ‘foraging’ or of ‘agriculture’. Rather, we have a society in which people actively chose not to pursue orthodox agriculture while according plants a central place in their lives.
Date Created: 9/18/2018
Volume: 489
Page Start: 26
Page End: 45