L’art pléistocène dans le monde / Pleistocene art of the world / Arte pleistocénico del Mundo
or Bradshaw art style of Australia’s Kimberley régionis undoubtedly among the earliest rock art in the country –but is it Pleistocene?
The spectacular and finely executed paintings of human figures that havebecome known as “Bradshaws” intrigue all who see them in the remote rock sheltersof Western Australia’s Kimberley. In the sequence of Kimberley rock art, thesefigures, termed Gwion
by some Aboriginal groups, clearly pre-datethe
paintings that form part of the region’s ongoing Aboriginal culture, and which dates back almost 4,000 years. Although dating the Bradshaws remainselusive, tantalizing optically stimulated luminescence dates of sand grains from mud wasp nests that overly “Bradshaw style” paintings suggest a minimum age of 17,500 years for the art work.
The Kimberley region of north-west Australia is a largely wilderness area almost thesize of France (Fig. 1). The richness of the area’s rock art has been appreciated for many years, and there is a strong continuing indigenous culture relating particularlyto the spectacular
represent just one of many art styles that occur throughout the Kimberley (e.g. Crawford 1968; Walsh1988; Flood 1997; Morwood 2002; Donaldson 2007). The paintings span a period of perhaps 40,000 years, and four distinct periods are recognised (e.g. Welch 1999;Walsh 2000):• early naturalistic animals with irregular painted infill (Fig. 2)•
or Bradshaw figures (Fig. 3)•
(Fig. 4)• Post-European contact art (Fig. 5).The Post-European contact art dates from perhaps the mid 17
art has recently been confirmed to date from almost 4,000 years ago(Morwood
2010). Reliable dates for the earlier art styles remain elusive, butsome results suggest the
paintings are at least 16,400 years old (Roberts