FIrearms in rock art of Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia

Daryl Wesley*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    28 Citations (Scopus)


    Firearms form part of 1-listoric period rock art in the Northern Territory, Australia, and have been discussed in terms of initial and ongoing culture-contact between settler societies and Indigenous communities. Drawing on fourteen firearm paintings from eight archaeological sites in Arnhem Land, and a review of the historic literature, this study suggests that Indigenous communities experienced firearms in a variety of ways, progressing from early conflict through to ownership during the buffalo shooting industry. Firearm paintings demonstrate the influence on Indigenous society arising from the introduction of a powerful technological innovation. Firearms influenced Indigenous social organisation and became incorporated into the traditional belief system. Finally, firearm paintings reveal Indigenous perceptions of introduced technology and can inform on changes in settlement and mobility. This paper advocates the model of 'ownership equals painting' rather than simply painting what has been seen from afar as argued for depictions of maritime rock art.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)235-247
    Number of pages13
    JournalRock Art Research
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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