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Scientific Paper published by David M. Welch

Fight or Dance? Ceremony and the Spearthrower in Northern Australian Rock Art

Rock Art Research Vol 14, No. 2

Abstract. Aspects of Aboriginal dance and ceremony are defined in relation to their appearance in northern Australian rock art. Some paintings depicting human figures with weapons such as boomerangs, spears and spearthrowers have previously been interpreted as hunting or fighting scenes. Some larger groups of human figures have been interpreted as battle scenes, thought to be associated with competition for diminishing resources, in particular a shortage of land caused by rising sea levels over 6000 years ago. Human figures in these scenes are holding a ‘hooked stick’ thought to be a ‘fighting pick’ used to inflict harm. However, it will be argued that these are really dancing or ceremonial scenes and the ‘hooked stick’ or ‘fighting pick ‘ is a spearthrower being held or waved about.