In Australia, researchers have discovered an entirely new style of ancient art showing humans and nature in harmony in the vast wilderness. The previously undescribed ‘Maliwawa Figures’ have been found lining the northwest Arnhem Land which is a historical region in the continent. From Awunbarna (Mount Borradaile area) to the Namunidjbuk clan state of the Wellington Range, researchers have uncovered at least 87 rock shelters having similar solitary figures arranged in compositions and scenes.
However, the newly found Maliwawa Figures, as per the study, are expected to date between 6,000-9,400 years of age. The comprehensive study on this art was put together by scientists and local Aboriginal research partners after a detailed analysis of 572 figures from all 87 sites in the continent. The expansive imagery stretches for 130 kilometres and each figure lays emphasis on the natural world with humanity in it.
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Discovered for the first time in 2008
The researchers have elaborated that such unique figures were discovered for the first time in 2008. From 2008 to 2011, they ended up recording 146 rock art sites in the Arnhem Land. As per the study, these figures had depicted both humans and animals in a “style unlike those previously described” for anywhere in Australia.
The researchers wrote, “Often the human figures were very large, even life-size, and composed in scenes. They differed from most large human figures that occur in other parts of Kakadu-Arnhem Land.”
After 2011, a two-year field season, the experts saw several other examples of the same kind of figures including undocumented large panels with a range of subject matter. It was in 2016 when senior Traditional Owner Ronald Lamilami decided to give the style and figures a local Aboriginal name in the Mawng language. Unlike the previously known rock art, Maliwawa Figures are less focussed on humans and more on animals. Only around 42 percent of the paintings discovered are of humans.
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