We don't expect high culture in Kimberley Australia more than 17000 years ago. Neither do we expect the skill of making perspective in a picture or sorting out the world of virtual giants from ordinary people. Anyhow the girls in Gwion Gwion are images of humans
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…..Oh, I am in love
Food on table
Now I am going to show my review on the ultimate rock art of Kimberley. Pilbara and Gwion Gwion are both territories in Kimberley in Northwest Australia. They have their exceptional rock art in common. Both may be much older than rock art in Europe and it is good to know that the history did not begin in the caves 10000 years ago.
They have dated art in Australia that is 17000 to 19000 years old and some recent dating gives older evidence. In Namibia we can find art that is 27000 years old. At least the art is as old as the oldest known caves and we get much more information from this rock art. All parts of the world want to possess the "oldest remains"
Yet, people in Australia and South Africa at that time had of course their own history 27000 years older or whatever number we figure out. I think we in the rest of the world need this as a reference and the earliest normal we can get. Our ancestors that far ago were much like us.
This picture is from Zimbabwe and can be as old as the age mentioned.
Recently I saw a National Geographic programme about the "Masai Brothers". In a scene I saw almost exactly this position with a forward leaning hunter. It tells us that the lifestyle is stable and also that the essential thing is to get food on table. Most of the male pictures in the subtropics show hunting and that is only natural.
The Australian natives of today do not really recognise the Kimberley ancestors as their own. That is only natural when we think of the far distance in time. Maybe they were some occasional tribe that died out. We in Europe do not really see our ancestors as Great Great Grandpa or Grandmother 5000 years ago.
The native Australians are much alienated and the Europeans mostly caused that. However in our days most of the old rural people feel their world is gone. In the entire world they are in the same boat as in Australia and many other places.
Paintings of working women are rare, but in South Africa, Ndedema we find these women with the digging stick that has a weight.
In Africa we find in different places the motif "Mother and child" and also working women. We also see some with bows and in Australia we see some with a bend thing that may be a boomerang. Still as a whole we can expect that harvesting vegetables were women's work. Their nature was rich and they could get all they needed at least in the best settlements and the normal years..
We know nothing about the size of the population but a natural guess is that it was smaller than today. That means they could live a good life with the means they had. The Masais still manage to live almost like thousands of generations before them. Do our technique withstand 27000 years more?
In the Sumerian literature we are told that they kept in memory that there was a time when they used a digging stick and sought for eatable roots. Nowadays automatic machines dig the potatoes.
Mother Earth in Pilbara
The Australian part of these analyses I have in parts discussed with Michael Barry at the University of Sydney. I am not going to mention him in connection with every conclusion we may have in common. Here I tell that he is part in this. He told that the area with these carvings surely was a "women's place".
They are very lovely with a distant humour and they are telling about the essential things in women's and family life. I have only seen natives on television, but I feel that the ancient Pilbara girls were much like the women of our days. Every time I get a feeling of cool women with humour and good temper.
These kinds of rock pictures are very individual and everyone looking at them get his/ hers own impression. At the same time the painter hide some of his feeling but get out it by doing the painting. It is like therapy and could give fellow women in the clan something to feel. Modern people often talk too much and create more problems than is solved because of our insufficient language and too many words. Words are easily misunderstood while images gives more freedom of speech.
Birth giving is naturally an important part of a woman's life and occupies many years
Maybe the Pilbara mothers have used these pictures as a companion when they tried to figure out what motherhood is to them. We always need some bandying wall to our mind. Much we can discuss with other while other matters are for one's own mind too solve.
Still there is some humour in the picture at left. The right picture gave a piece of the solution to the two dots. Since milk is flowing from her breast we know she has a child. This is the only of that kind. Other pictures have just two dots on each side above the hips. Then telling about pregnancy or motherhood. About 1/8 of my ca 250 pictures are of that kind.
I think the lady at left say with some disrespect in the voice "Yes Master!"
Many pictures show their monthly and that is about the longest plague in woman's life ... if she has a good husband! Others show gestures and attributes we hardly understand. I know too little about the environment in Australia
However I think those figures with a head like a vegetative ear and maybe roots from the vulva are speculation about vegetative life. Gathering vegetables must have been a great part of their work.
I have long and big ears and hear that especially young girls use much time to chat about boys ... and even women do it.
The Pilbara humour reaches the highs when it comes to picture a man-like being. The left situation we have all seen among young boys I think. The pair at right may be kangaroos but men are doing the same to empress the girls.
Others show that they surely gave their men animal names like in my childhood. Names like Beanstalk, Bumble(bee), Marsu(pial), Walla(by) and Cricket come to my mind when I see some of the images. Still it happens that someone gives me an animal nickname. My former used often Honeypaw, which is a nickname for the bear. It is a part of life in every time.
The Pilbara girls are like Mother Earth and they are telling what life really is about independent of time and space. People may think as they like, but my aim is to see what we have in common with far ancestors in Dreamtime. The world Dreamtime is just poetry for the Otherworld as our ancestors, the Celts would say. Kimberley gives us perspective and a root. The Aborigines are of course right that most of our thinking about ancestors that far is mostly dreams or with our word speculation.
I am searching for what we have in common and I am just a visitor that tries to get a comprehensive picture of some questions I know much about. I do not know their environment and what is normal life. But I think I can find something about their customs and rituals and point it out in their images.
It is easy to understand that we Westerners often come as foreigners with our cameras and "take their soul", without asking and not telling for what use. We threat them as being from a different planet and we are just ridiculous when we think they are primitive with their poetic images. It is not easy to understand the song of the Nightingale. I admire much of their heritage and I like them as brothers and sister in the way I am a world citizen.
Their World Heritage is also my heritage. I do not want to use too much sugar, but it is obvious that they know their world much better than I do. I just want to know them, as I know my neighbours.
Gwion Gwion genres
On many of the paintings in Southern Africa are colours left from the original painting. In Australia they better the colour in many places. We do not know for sure what was the purpose of body painting, but they used it also at burials and in some ritual dances. Of course it is a different world when you hunt dangerous animals.
From Scandinavia we know that they thought them going into "another world" when hunting. As always it is up to us to understand the poetry of the old language. At my confirmation at fourteen it was like an initiation and I got my first black suit. The black suit was used at funerals and feast and other special occasions. When one put on the black suit it is like going to another world … often people take it too seriously. Nowadays I think they use the black mostly at funerals. In some of our customs we are not far from our relatives in Australia. In the monsoon climate it would be pretty hot with a black suite.
I do not know what they are thinking in our elk game. They use special clothes in green and brownish supposed to camouflage that they are not animal lovers. Then they use a bright red headgear that should tell other hunters that the moving beast in green and brown is not an elk. Maybe the elk tribe soon learns to watch out for those with a special headgear. To me it looks, as that old game is the same over the history we can overlook. Some get caught and are like wicked predators killing much more than they can eat.
I did not know that The Creator has missed something in planning the life in nature so that the Swedish Hunters Organisation has to correct the order of nature. Not long ago managers and hunters forced the Swedish Parliament to open the grouse shooting in Lapland for the big hunters in Southern Sweden. So now we see them come with their automatic riffles shooting bundles of grouse.
I learned the lesson long ago when I was fishing in my free time in a river between two power plants. I found a dozen old perch with a skin like armoured tanks. I got them with a net and none will get fish there for 10 years. In nature man is just like another predator and nature can only feed predators to its limits. Otherwise the nature ... and the predators die. It is as simple as that. When humankind was living on gathering and hunting they needed much space for a family clan, perhaps five square miles each as a normal figure. It is all depending on the local environment.
I have read works that are gathering and sorting out pictures from the entire subtropics. Then it easier for us latecomers to work with the images and naturally I am grateful. They usual sort them into genres. That means that similar images are put into a genre. Some of the pages look like a sketch block of an artist. I have got about 2500 images from the tropics and subtropics and 900 are from Australia.
I can at least get a hint about their long history before the present days. However as an interpreter I would rather have the pictures in their context since if we want to understand we should consider all facts in the picture, surrounding, local environment and culture
Still in our days they train in Art Schools to draw images of the human body. They have to learn anatomy too to know the muscles under the skin. Especially the artists from Southern Africa are skilled in naturalistic drawings of the body and also in movements.
Since much of the rock art is surely male made it is natural that we find many images of hunters. They are running with spears and bows over the cliffs in Africa, Spain and Arnhem Land in Australia. Although I have found only one image with a bow in Arnhem Land. Instead they use spear and boomerang. That is surely up to the local environment that "select" the best methods. We should not forget that many animals are hunted by "the pack" when several hunters are tiring off the animal.
Then we come to the question of scientific sorting of images and the methods we have to use if we want to give objective explanations. We need always to compare the unknown with something known to place it on the general agenda. We have to define the local agenda too.
We have to define what are normal attributes and tools in their gathering food and what are ritual attributes belonging to their world order. Then maybe we also can understand why we Swedes are dancing "the Frog Dance" at midsummer. To foreigners it surely looks like a wild dance from the Scandinavian woods.
Roman sculptor sometimes used fantasy or old myths when they needed to picture things. Here it is bad weather during a Roman "peace" campaign.
Since at least I "know" how glorious and bright the modern man is I need not compare my generation and me with people 17000 years ago to feel my superiority. I am mostly interested in what we have in common with our ancestors. Maybe I will love them very much once I learn to know and understand them.
Then it calls for using the theorems of special relativity. It says that the hunting game of the hunters in Arnhem Land 17000 years ago have to be measured by the rules and patterns that were valid then. Our big Elk Game should be measured with the riffles and red hats of our time.
If we need to compare we have to create an objective normal that include sufficient aspects to tell us which style of life is best in preserving our own specie. In technical sciences we always use a normal to get the exact proportions and qualities so that we can manipulate the world and get expected results ... and maybe we can correct the mistakes of The Creator. Then we can compare our superiority with the reference normal and do the same with the life style of the people from other places in different times.
In the spark-gap the engine ignite continuously. So it is also with cultures. Two identical cultures would not learn anything from each other. Comparison is a way to place ourselves "on the map" as they say. With no reference and nothing to compare with and we are just flying alternatively we dwell in our own little cell. Ideas know no borders and limits in time.
Generally Westerners want to be better than others are: The wish of being different and maybe supreme is maybe in our genes since we can not it in early cultures. It is the question that "My pack should survive". But in the extremes people need to rely on others. That is true in harsh environment as well as in crowded areas where only collective agreement can keep the evil forces in place.
In abstract matters we can handle several poles at the same time. We can fly from Northern cultures to Australia and Africa and we can use the time machine. In Scandinavia it usually means that it all stops at the Ice Age and before that we were nothing.
Our imagination about our ancestors is almost that they were apes and we do not want them to be intelligent beings. What if they were more intelligent than we and think of aliens from space being intelligent? Neither we want to hear about ancestors being like us say 27000 years ago. However the logic must be in their environment they needed more brain than we in a world where others do the thinking needed. It is impossible to compare if we want them furnished with cars, air-conditioned houses refrigerators and all those things that are our invisible dress. We have to make a fair comparison ... or let it be. What do we need that kind of air bubbles to?
If our reference is our basic needs and our basic problem for surviving and our spare-time we are very much alike for instance the Gwion Gwion people that painted the girl above. We do not know if the colours have stayed intact. But presented like in these pictures they are very great art and the ultimate World Heritage. The drawing is on the ultimate artistic level. They just loved to make beautiful pictures.
As a Scandinavian I must ask, were our ancestors great artists like the Gwion Gwion Masters 17000 years ago? I think my answer is YES. In Europe we have a different kind of art. From that time we find mostly small figurines but an enormous number of animals in the cave reliefs and paintings. If they wanted they could create great art … naturally our ancestors living outside the glacial ice were much like the Australians.
Until about 10000 years ago it was pretty easy to reach Australia since the land almost connected Asia and Australia. On the other hand our ancestors had guts and were not afraid of being in a canoe on the big ocean. Still today some of them need only a peace of lightwood and a paddle and then they go for long distance fishing/ visits.
I think that the Aborigines should just laugh at the Westerners. Some scientist told us recently that we use only one half of the brain. In cultures with pictorial symbol languages or poetic languages both halves are in use all the time. Yes, the Aborigines are right that Westerners do not understand what is Dreamtime. As soon as a Westerner meet something odd or different he thinks the worst and since he seldom uses fantasy he has no control. The Gwion Gwion girls were beautiful and I hope our ancestors were like them!
From Australia and their Dreamtime we can take this cut from a present folk memory:
"Gwion Gwion is the name of a long-beaked bird which pecks at the rock face to catch insects, and pecks into tissue, sometimes drawing blood. In Ngarinyin cosmology the Gwion Gwion started out as a spirit-man. He cracked open rocks to reveal the stone tools locked inside, the gimbu (knife), spear point and axe. The gimbu was then able to be used for initiation, and with the other stone tool technology, for hunting and gathering."
In the short piece we see how focus change from the bird to man and mankind and everyday life. That is because the Dreamtime is endless of course since time is added all the time. Dreamtime has no timeline and there is not border/ step between the idea and reality. Still it is like our folk memory The Australians have their language and we have ours. We hardly understand that our ancestors for instance the Celts were using the concept worlds instead for grammatical tenses like past tense, future tense and present time. For people living at that time it was no problem to move between the past world/grave and the present. As 'spirit-man', Gwion Gwion is also known as 'Djinarrgi Djinarrgi', or 'Messenger'"… Gwion Gwion is also the name of the area with the style we are going to analyse.
In Scandinavia we have no carnivals with jesters and clowns and figures out of old folklore. Then it is difficult for us to imagine that the figure with boomerangs and basket perhaps is celebrating a feast and is dressed like a figure out of their folklore. I think they began to use mask and dresses to give and image of the abstract beings we call gods symbolising important matters in daily life. We can write the word "Christmas" and we know it is that feast. But we can also paint a Christmas goat and we know what time we mean.
Maybe they picture the winds or maybe the monsoon
In Scandinavia I would immediately seek a structure telling about the four seasons of a temperate climate. In North-West Australia they have the monsoon climate I do not know too much about. I learnt from the Kakadu territory that they burn the grass when the migrating brown falcon comes. In illiterate cultures with no calendar they used "old marks" as time signals. It also means time for hunting the kangaroo and for travelling. We know the structure from Scandinavia.
Compare the left figure with the Roman cut above. At right an image of the Thundering and Lightening Man from Arnhem Land.
From the Kakadu people I learnt that the right figure pictures thunderstorm and is called Namarrkun in some dialect. All the stone axes make the lightening ... it is easy to think about our Northern Thor with his hammer that surely was a stone axe in the beginning. Then these are season mark in the round. Maybe we can find more of the kind when we look for them. We get also the explaining that the bow may be the rainbow or something like that for instance in other cases the Watergate. On should have experienced the monsoon and four months of rain in Himalaya before we imagine the Rain Man
… We find Him also in the sandy Australian desert as the true evil force in sandstorm. They call him Witdukurra in some dialect and they warn for the Kadairaman in the storm since he eats people and especially children. Naturally mankind needs powerful metaphors so that the children can look out.
The weather is not those hard in Scandinavia but we have the old Tjatse, storm, fog, frost and snow in the mountains. In southern Scandinavia I we have the fall and well god Necken that plays his fiddle and lure especially young girls to the deeps. Many years ago I heard a mother warn her youngest children for the Old Well-Ek
Here we should not forget that making stone tools is more than a million year old habit. Some of the rock carvings are as said maybe 17000 years or more oldTo second section