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Lucia Clayton

Phone: (+61 8) 6488 2896

Start date

Apr 2011

Submission date

Jun 2015

Lucia Clayton

Lucia Clayton  profile photo


Contextualisation of Indigenous Rock Art in the Western Pilbara: a landscape study of coastal sites.


The Pilbara region is one of the major rock art provinces of Australia, with rock art sites located both inland and on the coastal strip. The Dampier Archipelago stands out for the extreme stylistic heterogeneity of rock art motifs, especially on the Burrup Peninsula (Murujuga). This research is focused on the recorded petroglyph assemblage at Happy Valley located in southern Murujuga.

My research will be a spatial analysis of rock art to determine the structuring principles that govern the location of rock art motifs. What governs the placement of rock art motifs in a site? How do the motifs associate with each other - if they do? How do they relate to their surroundings and to the landscape? Does the landscape have a role in motif placement? What can the structuring principles of the rock art tell us of resource and land-use?

The research aims to identify rules and patterns in the rock art that occur at different scales of analysis – such as the site and the broader regional scale, and determine whether these rules are applicable to similar sites on Murujuga.

Why my research is important

Previous analyses of rock art in the Dampier Archipelago have been mainly focused on temporal and/or regional sequences rather than on comparative analysis or spatial distribution of motifs. There have been approximations of spatial distribution of motifs, but they have been mainly focused on formal aspects and frequencies of motif types. There is plenty of scope for spatial analyses of rock-art in the Pilbara, and that there are many questions that have yet to be addressed in regards to motif distribution and their place within the landscape.

Understanding the structuring principles of the rock art in Happy Valley can provide information about the artists, and contribute towards the understanding of the nature of Aboriginal occupation of Murujuga.