The Bradshaws
September 11, 2010 12:59 PM   Subscribe

The elegant and sophisticated paintings found in the north west Australia, are claimed to be the oldest figurative paintings in the world, known as the Bradshaws, or Gwion Gwion. The Bradshaw Foundation website has an awesome online collection of rock and cave art paintings with extensive information.

Bradshaw rock paintings, or the Bradshaws are a distinctive style of rock art found in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. They are named after the pastoralist Joseph Bradshaw who was the first European to discover them in 1891, whilst searching for grazing land for his cattle. The Bradshaws are also known as Gwion Gwion by the local Aboriginal people.

Debate rages as to who actually created the art. On one side of the debate is Grahame Walsh, an amateur archeologist and the leading expert on the Bradshaws with over 1.2 million images he has amassed over 21 years studying them. His hypothesis claims that the Bradshaws were painted by a culture predating present day Indigenous Australians. On the other side are the mainstream scientific community who believe that it is completely plausible that the art was produced by the local people. Controversy surrounds this debate as it is believed by some non-indigenous Australians that if the Bradshaw art is found not to be Aboriginal in origin, land rights claims by Indigenous Australians may be undermined. Regardless of whether the Bradshaw art is Aboriginal or exotic, "mainstream" Indigenous art is also found in the Kimberley region - proof that Indigenous people have inhabited and had cultural connection to the area."
posted by nickyskye (6 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Gorgeous. (Insert obligatory rant about slow, painful, flash interface here.)
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 2:19 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been meaning to make a post on the Gwion Gwion / Bradshaws for a while. I really wanted to put together something slanted towards the archaeology and the beauty of the art (I've seen some photos, but they're not online). Instead, I found most of the info on the web was either espousing or criticising dodgy theories.

Anyway, this seems a good place to dump the less crappy of the links I scraped together. I hope you don't mind, nickyskye.

The Riddle of The Bradshaws trailer
Article about Grahame Walsh
Another article about Walsh and Ian Wilson
Wilson wrote "Lost World of the Kimberley" which was pretty controversial too
A short overview of some of the conspiracy theories
Some analysis of some of the figures
An online copy of a University of Sydney (I think) honours thesis on the Gwion Gwion
posted by GeckoDundee at 5:01 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Brilliant GeckoDundee. The more links the merrier. Excellent additions to the thread and much appreciated.
posted by nickyskye at 5:10 PM on September 11, 2010

Simply lovely.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:55 PM on September 11, 2010

Wonderful. Thank you for this.
posted by Hickeystudio at 12:43 PM on September 12, 2010

Not all of that interface is Flash. Quite a lot of it is Javascript optimised for NS4! Plus some jQuery on top.
[end snark]

These are really fascinating. But Walsh's quest to unlock hidden meanings in them sets off alarm bells for me - anyone who's trying to find a secret meaning when we're not even sure of a surface interpretation is generally missing the forest for the trees.

Ian Wilson is also the author of several books claiming that the Turin shroud really is the burial cloth of Jesus, so his is not a ringing endorsement.

The analysis of the figures that Gecko links to is interesting. They posit that the paintings were at ceremonial sites rather than campsites, which seems reasonable. The locations sound difficult to get to - maybe some dudes just wanted to get away from it all and paint some pictures in their free time.
posted by harriet vane at 4:07 AM on September 13, 2010

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