Tasmania’s Aboriginal Palaeo Art
Barry H. Brimfield 2013
This work is a collection of papers each pertinent to the art produced over thousands of years by the Palaeo-Tasmanian Aboriginal people.
Their art had roots extending back to their original homeland “Africa”, to what extent can only be wondered, but with obvious relationships that all foraging people have in common. I will not extend this work to cover such an ancient beginning, instead I will concentrate on the various expressions of art practiced in Tasmania that we know about. Obviously much has been lost.
Crafts such as necklace and basket making are not included being a part of another collection of papers, “Material Culture”.
Before listing the papers contained in this composite work I would make a final remark. The art of the Tasmanian Palaeo – people is a unique part of the Australian Aboriginal complex collection of peoples. It seems to me that this is lost on some who include art styles, mainly from the Northern Territory, not akin to Tasmania but suggesting it is. The work may be Aboriginal but it is NOT Tasmanian!
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The considerable size of some Aboriginal middens raises questions. These are constructed consciously and deliberately – they are not the result of people idly tossing discarded shells over their shoulder.
Human history in the Tamar Valley could extend back some 40,000 years considering that at least one site in the upper Forth River 200km west has such a basal date, but the Tamar lacks sites, caves, that could confirm this. The only site to yield a date is at Flowery Gully, near Beaconsfield, being calibrated to c.8,000 BP a bone deposit with a bone tool.
Ochres are earthy, pulverulent (reduced or crumbled to powder or dust) forms of Haematite and Limonite or friable (easily crumbled), earthy iron ore.
It is widely distributed in Tasmania, both as small pellets in gravels (Tamar Valley) or in reefs (Alum Cliffs). It takes the form of a natural pigment, browns, reds and yellow. Red in its most vivid state is most prized, yellow it seems is rarer.
In early 1801 Philip King, now Governor, decided to establish a government coal mining operation at Newcastle. Although the expedition was nominally under the command of another officer, it included William Paterson, newly appointed as Lt-Governor.
Until very recently it was thought that Tulampanga, near Mole Creek, was the only source of high-grade ochre available to Indigenous peoples.
This work, which comprises the three separate study papers, was put together being all connected to the Tamar Valley’s Palaeo-Aboriginal history.