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Title: Nautical Themes in the Aboriginal Rock Paintings of Mount Borradaile, Western Arnhem Land
Contributor(s): Roberts, David  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2004
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Abstract: The islands and coasts of northern Australia are the cradle of Australian maritime history. For at least the last 300 years the region has attracted a diverse host of international seafaring visitors who encountered and related with a variety of coastal Aboriginal communities. Primarily these were Asian visitors,particularly Macassans who, from around the early to mid 1700s, sailed annually from southern Sulawesi in vast flotillas to harvest trepang (beche-de-mer) for export to China. The British first sailed the coastlines of northern Australia in the early 1800s, though long before them, there were Dutch visitors to northern Australia. The area subsequently comprises a long and unique zone of crossculturalcontact in Australia.Much has been written about these voyages, mostly from the voyager's view, though there is an expanding literature on the impact of this traffic on Aboriginal society. This article considers aspects of the region's maritime history from the perspective of the Aboriginal artists who documented their encounters in rock paintings on the ledges and caves of this region. Aboriginal association with outsiders and the consequent introduction of foreign objects and knowledge is reflected in a number of 'historical paintings' or 'contact art', depicting introduced, non-Indigenous subjects and themes, especially ships, but also firearms, tobacco, pipes, axes, houses, horses and aeroplanes. Maritime vessels are the predominant subject of that contact art, attesting to the importance of sea-faring vessels as defining symbols of the technology and culture of foreigners.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: The Great Circle, 26(1), p. 19-50
Publisher: Australian Association for Maritime History
Place of Publication: Central Queensland University
ISSN: 0156-8698
Field of Research (FOR): 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Other Links:;dn=200409458;res=APAFT
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Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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