Before Farming

Dreaming the country and burning the land

rock-art and ecological knowledge

Before Farming (2003), 2003, (3), 1–13.

Abstract

Human relationships with the world are deeply affected by the images used to understand and express our place in nature. Ecologically, art and symbolic modelling demonstrate an ordering of information about the world. They are bio-cultural artefacts necessary to ordering human socio-cultural life, and while our regard for art may be predicated on aesthetics, our need for art is biological. The biological imperative of symbolic modelling has not, however, been adequately analysed. Rock-art documents vast environmental knowledge of indigenous and local peoples. A people's ecological knowledge affects its subsistence and adaptation, is relevant to interpreting rock-art, and relates to broader issues of contemporary environmental predicaments. Recent work in this area suggests the value of traditional ecological knowledge in addressing socio-ecological problems, and sheds light on diverse ontologies of knowledge. Ethnoecology has importance in an increasingly interconnected world, and illuminates human encounters with nature. This paper provides a theoretical insight into traditional ecological knowledge as elucidated through rock-art.

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Faulstich, Paul