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The characterisation of rock art paintings in Arnhem Land using synchrotron infrared spectroscopy

Project Member(s): Stuart, B., Hunt, A., Thomas, P.

Funding or Partner Organisation: Australian Synchrotron Research Program (Australian Synchrotron Beamline)

Start year: 2015

Summary: In recent years spectacular rock art sites of the Jawoyn people have been rediscovered in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory and are currently being documented by a team of archaeologists and scientists to provide an insight into the artistic practices of the Jawoyn people. This project involves the comprehensive characterisation of the paints used at these sites using synchrotron infrared microscopy. This project follows a successful preliminary investigation in 2014 that demonstrated the value of this approach to the identification of the mineral composition of the small paint fragments collected from the field site.


Stuart, BH & Thomas, PS 2017, 'Pigment characterisation in Australian rock art: a review of modern instrumental methods of analysis', Heritage Science, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 1-6.
View/Download from: Publisher's site

Hunt, A, Stuart, B, Thomas, P & James, D 1970, 'Characterisation of an unusual purple pigment from a rock art site in western Arnhem Land', Australian Archaeological Association 2015 Conference, Fremantle.

Hunt, A, Stuart, B, Thomas, P, James, D, David, B, Geneste, J-M & Delannoy, J-J 1970, 'The characterisation of Jawoyn rock art paintings in Arnhem Land, Australia using synchrotron infrared microspectroscopy', TECHNART 2015, Catania.

Stuart, B 1970, 'Shedding light on indigenous art: using vibrational spectroscopy to understand paint chemistry', 11th Australasian Conference on Vibrational Spectroscopy and 5th Asian Spectroscopy Conference, Sydney.

Keywords: rock art, synchrotron, infrared spectroscopy

FOR Codes: Archaeological Science, Chemical Characterisation of Materials, Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage, Archaeological science , Macromolecular and materials chemistry, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and culture