Symbols of power: the firearm paintings of Madjedbebe (Malakunanja II)

May, Sally K., Wesley, Daryl, Goldhahn, Joakim, Litster, Mirani, and Manera, Brad (2017) Symbols of power: the firearm paintings of Madjedbebe (Malakunanja II). International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 21. pp. 690-707.

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Abstract

Depictions of firearms in Australian Aboriginal rock art provide a unique opportunity to archaeologically explore the roles that this type of material culture played in times of culture contact. From the earliest interactions with explorers to the buffalo shooting enterprises of the twentieth century—firearms played complex and shifting roles in western Arnhem Land Aboriginal societies. The site of Madjedbebe (sometimes referred to as Malakunanja II in earlier academic literature) in Jabiluka (Mirarr Country), offers the opportunity to explore these shifting roles over time with an unprecedented 16 paintings of firearms spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This rock art provides evidence for early firearms as objects of curiosity and threat to local groups, as well as evidence for later personal ownership and use of such weaponry. Moreover, we argue that the rock art suggests increasing incorporation of firearms into traditional cultural belief and artistic systems over time with Madjedbebe playing a key role in the communication of the cultural meanings behind this new subject matter.

Item ID: 71074
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1573-7748
Keywords: Rock art; Arnhem Land; Firearms; Weapons
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2017
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2021 03:19
FoR Codes: 45 INDIGENOUS STUDIES > 4501 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, language and history > 450101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander archaeology @ 50%
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430101 Archaeological science @ 50%
SEO Codes: 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1307 Understanding past societies > 130703 Understanding Australia’s past @ 100%
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