Lecture 5. The Sounds of Dreamtime

To the east of Kakadu National Park is Arnhem Land, an Aboriginal reserve in the Northern Territory. The region is an immense landscape of rock shelters, some of which were manipulated by altering ceilings and removing natural stone pillars. Some rock paintings may be 45,000 years old. Subject matter includes Dreamings, supernatural spirits, rituals, fauna, and the arrival of Europeans. In a few cases, beeswax pellets were applied to cave walls to create relief imagery. The didgeridoo wind instrument developed in Arnhem Land; with clapsticks, it accompanied songs about Dreamtime and the natural world. Historic data and recordings offer a taste of ritual soundtracks. Land is the ever-present context, material, and referent of rock art and more recent bark paintings.

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