Rock art and Yura malka: A study on the relevance of archaeological rock art practices and theories from Adnyamathanha perspectives

Author: Jacinta Koolmatrie

Koolmatrie, Jacinta, 2019 Rock art and Yura malka: A study on the relevance of archaeological rock art practices and theories from Adnyamathanha perspectives, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This thesis specifically examined the differences and similarities between Adnyamathanha understandings of Yura malka (Aboriginal markings) and archaeological theories about symbolic communication. Malkai, a rockshelter located in Adnyamathanha Yarta (Land) has been included in this research as a case study. Theories and practices surrounding symbolic communication have demonstrated that archaeologists aim to attain an objective perspective of rock art that is achieved through the employment of quantitative and occasionally qualitative methods. Using this framework, Malkai’s motifs were placed into classifications. The results of this analysis show a high percentage of geometric motifs, particularly linear. An analysis of the use of coloured pigments at Malkai identified that red ochre was favoured. Adnyamathanha understandings were explored through yarns with Adnyamathanha people. Themes from these yarns related to their experiences of being at Yura malka places, meanings of motifs and narratives connected to these places involving ancestors from living memory and non-living memory.

There are clear distinctions between Adnyamathanha understandings and archaeological theories and practices. Malkai shows that understanding narratives and how people connect with place can inform research to a greater extent than archaeological methods alone. The disconnection between Indigenous peoples and their heritage in research often allows for an absence of these narratives. Integrating these narratives in the research recognised that who a communicator is and who the receiver is determines what Yura malka is produced. Understanding how Malkai has been used in the past also explains the over representation of geometric motifs and the colour red. This thesis demonstrates that an understanding of Adnyamathanha knowledge of place is necessary for archaeological research. Solely relying on archaeological evidence has the ability to disconnect Indigenous peoples from their heritage; however, enabling Indigenous understandings to be privileged in research can ultimately maintain and enhance these connections

Keywords: Rock art, Adnyamathanha, archaeology, Yura malka, Indigenous knowledge, Aboriginal knowledge, Indigenous history, Yarning, Indigenous women's standpoint, standpoint theory, archaeological theory, Archaeology theory, ethics, Indigenous Australian archaeology, Indigenous archaeology

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2019
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Amy Roberts