Dating Murujuga’s rock art: new scientific approaches

A project that aims to learn more about WA’s ancient past through rock art and climate change in the Dampier Archipelago, has received $1.3 million in research funding from the Federal Government’s Australian Research Council.

The funding, announced by the Education Minister the Hon Dan Tehan MP, is part of the Australian Research Council’s linkage project scheme for research projects that are based on strategic research alliances with various industry and community groups.

Researchers from the UWA Centre for Rock Art Research and Management will deploy innovative science to understand the age of the rock art and stone features in the Dampier Archipelago.

Working with traditional owners (Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation) and Industry (Rio Tinto and Woodside) the project will result in new knowledge about the culturally significant heritage-listed site.

The project aims to find out more about the people who produced rock art and stone structures over time.

The Dampier Archipelago is on Australia’s National Heritage List because of its significant rock art and stone features. Known as Murujuga to its traditional custodians, this land and seascape has over one million art works.

While the scientific and cultural significance of this area is acknowledged, we still know little about the age of this landscape, the regional palaeoclimatology, and the timing and intensity of rock art production since Aboriginal people moved into this region 50,000 years ago.

This project will develop new scientific approaches to direct-dating engravings and stone features, reconstruct climate from geological proxies, and model voyaging opportunities as this unique cultural estate transformed to an archipelago together with the impact of climate change and water availability in the region.