The ABC is running a four part look at Indigenous Australian history. Tonight, its third episode looks at Gwion paintings and the way they are overtaken by dynamic figures. The former express people at a time of plenty, the men wear huge, conical head-dresses stiffened with bees wax and interwoven with feathers, ending in a lengthened tip; they are ceremonial paintings. The archaeologists speculate that at a time when the ocean level rose, the land mass was reduced so peoples had to learn to live at closer quarters with each other; also the topography changed so hunting with the returning boomerang [planar/convex, gyroscopic procession] gave way in denser terrain to the use of the spear and spear thrower. The newer art work was tenser; the local indigenous custodian immediately recognised his ancestors as engaged in battle; the figures stood tensely, stiffly, they held weapons not ceremonial equipment.
These are speculations based on ancient artwork; but if such an ancient history of conflict became the norm it was only worsened when Europeans visited and colonised the continent.
My comments in the previous chapter notwithstanding, these are magnificent events for contemporary indigenous peoples to celebrate. I think for Australia to consolidate its status as a rich, varied, vibrant culture, it is necessary to reaffirm the place of the first nation citizens, in a way that helps them establish themselves psychically. Hitherto, this has been a difficult and rarely achieved process.
There is no point repeating the astounding conclusions that the academics reach during this documentary; watching the amazing visuals, especially the Arnheim Land rock paintings, and the rock carvings littered around Sydney harbour is an important part of the experience.