Global Rock Art: International IFRAO Congress,

National Park Serra di Capivara, Brazil, 29 June to 3 July 2009
1. Recent trends in world rock art research
During recent years numerous developments have taken place in rock art research throughout the world, for example in the scientific development of a rock art discipline through IFRAO’s development of a manual of rock art science, standard glossary, standard colour scale and Code of Ethics for the study, conservation and popularisation of the rock art heritage of humankind. Recent research on rock art throughout the globe has changed our perception about the abilities and cultural and cognitive development of early hominins, such as the proposal of the earliest figurative art in Europe being the creation of Neanderthals; that most of the palaeoart of Australia is Middle Palaeolithic; that iconic art is preceded by non-iconic art throughout the world, etc. Moreover, unambiguous evidence about the Lower Palaeolithic petroglyphs from excavations has come to light from central India. This is for the first time in the history of world archaeology that antiquity of rock art has been established to Lower Palaeolithic age. These evidences from different parts of the world have shattered all simplistic diffusion theories. Thus, many established myths are being replaced by a new vision of the human past. Many more such new evidences from many countries may be available about which we still know little. This symposium will provide a platform for all such groundbreaking new discoveries, ideas and achievements in different fields of the discipline of rock art research. It will provide an opportunity to present a comprehensive picture of global developments in rock art research and encourage constructive debate of them. We expect that it will be a stimulating and inspiring experience.
We invite research papers from scholars who have made such contributions in rock art research. You can send abstracts of your paper(s), of not more than two hundred words, to one of the following:
Dr Giriraj Kumar (India),
Robert G. Bednarik (Australia),
2. Involvement of children in palaeoart production
The subject of authorship of rock art and portable palaeoart has been considered from a variety of perspectives, usually derived from the perceived motivation of the artists or the purported purpose of the palaeoart. This has led to many fruitless speculations, including a search for evidence of shamanism, religious explanations, totemism, supplication hypotheses, and many others. However, forensic studies have shown that there are a few forms of palaeoart evidence that permit empirical identification of the ages of the artists involved. These show consistently that in those cases that can be determined, children or adolescents seem to be the main agents. This is particularly evident in the Pleistocene art of Europe. It would then seem premature to suggest that all other forms of rock art must necessarily be the work of adults. We propose to conduct a symposium of research results that provide evidence capable of shedding light on this question. A particular focus on Pleistocene palaeoart forms may be of interest, but it would be hoped that similarly based reviews of other, more recent traditions can also be attracted for this symposium. The co-chairs invite the submission of papers addressing this topic from any researcher willing to contribute to this investigative direction. Please submit prospective titles of presentations, together with abstracts of approximately 100 words in one of the four languages of the Congress either to:
Robert G. Bednarik (Australia),
or to Professor Kevin Sharpe (United Kingdom),
3. Rock art and museum
The name ‘rock art’ is traditionally attributed to all non-utilitarian anthropic markings on rock surfaces; the term ‘art’ is utilised latu sensu, without aesthetic implications, according to the Latin etymology that defines the human activity of producing artefacts, hence the derivation of the words artisan, artificer, artist. Rock art is today only the ‘residue’ of ancient cultural complexes, conserved over time, while songs, prayers, dances, gestures, votive offerings etc. are unrecoverable.
The keen interest in rock art derives from its relative rarity, as sites that externalise the cognitive dimension of man; the main problem facing us now is conservation, protection and communication. To identify the best procedures for a valid protection it is necessary to plan monitoring with instruments recording the variability in the environmental parameters and the impact on the rock art monuments.
This symposium will critically consider the propriety and feasibility of treating rock art of the past as a source of knowledge for the contemporary interpreter, examine the possibility that such knowledge may be distorted by subjective ethnocentric perceptions, and explore the necessity of evolving museological models, which can present and conserve rock art without reflecting current prejudices and predilections. The symposium will also focus attention on the existing and pristine relation of the rock art landscapes with adjacent landscapes, humanised by local communities. An attempt will be made to assess the possibility of restoring the custodial interest, if any, of such communities in the rock art landscapes; and to recognise the constructive, constitutive and creative role of rock art and the associated folklore in the conservation and replenishment of such landscapes. The contributors may like to address the question of inter-institutional co-operation across the globe for a quest into appropriate ways of documenting and presenting rock art within a museum, for inciting aesthetic, technical, ecological, cultural and touristic interest of visitors, and for fulfilling convergent objectives of conservation, education, research or appreciation. Rock art museums, projects or institutions, in open air or indoors, as cultural interpretation of reality, are a form of cultural heritage conservation technique. Museology and museography of rock art should be sciences devoted to the survival of this spiritual legacy of humanity.
Professor Dario Seglie (Italy),
Robert G. Bednarik (Australia),
Dr Georges Dimitriadis (Greece),
4. Prehistoric Art: signs, symbols, myth, ideology
This symposium is an important occasion for bringing together new ideas, researches, opinions, theories, hypotheses and information on Pleistocene art, in connection with the study of Homo’s metaphysics and ideology. The symposium provides the opportunity to discuss the role played by iconography and myth and the aid to the study coming from the traditional cultures of people still having a living heritage. In particular, the following aspects will hopefully be addressed:
New problems of archaeological documentation and excavation of art sites, also in connection with the palaeoanthropological data;
Correlations, synchronism and diachronism, of palaeo-ethnocultural areas of different periods and places
Iconography of Pleistocene art as a reflection of palaeo-ethnic traditions
Ritual aspects and meaning; possible roles of Pleistocene art (religions, eco-social-cultural changes etc.)
Hypothetic links between ancient literature, poetry, myth and Pleistocene art iconography
The relations between native groups, art sites and their environment
Problems in studying sites that are still ‘cult places’
Submissions and suggestions are invited, to be addressed to:
Professor Dario SEGLIE,   CeSMAP – Centro Studi e Museo d'Arte Preistorica,
      Pinerolo (TO), Italy –
Professor Luiz OOSTERBEEK,   IPT - Instituto Politécnico de Tomar,
      Tomar, Portugal –
Professor Marcel OTTE, Dr. Laurence REMACLE,   Service de Préhistoire, Université de Liège,
                                Liège, Belgique –
Pleistocene Art of the World: IFRAO Congress, Foix, France, September 2010
The existence of Pleistocene rock art, first proposed by Marcelino de Sautuola in 1879, was slowly accepted in the late 19th century. Since then, investigation of this phenomenon has been largely focused on a small region of western Europe, which has yielded over 300 cave sites of the most exquisite Palaeolithic rock art. Over the subsequent century, an elaborate stylistic chronology of this corpus, featuring naturalistic animal depictions and semiotic motifs, was developed. It also became the template of Pleistocene rock art in guiding the search for such phenomena in other regions of the world, prompting many reports of such rock art as well as portable art from across Eurasia. Research in recent decades has suggested that most Pleistocene palaeoart of the world may not be figurative, and most may be of Middle rather than Upper Palaeolithic modes of production. New evidence suggests there appears to be almost no figurative graphic art of the Pleistocene outside of western Europe. Typically, graphic Pleistocene art of Asia and Australia seems to be non-figurative (with very few exceptions), and the corpus of Australian Pleistocene rock art, which some assume to be the largest in the world, is entirely of Middle Palaeolithic traditions. Palaeoart of the final Pleistocene seems to occur in North America and may also yet be found in South America. Finally, India has yielded rock art even of the Lower Palaeolithic, and similarly ancient palaeoart may conceivably occur in Africa.
This scenario differs so significantly from the popular model of Pleistocene art that a congress should be dedicated to this subject, addressing questions of dating, of the definitions of palaeoart, and of regional distribution of evidence in each continent, re-evaluating the topic of the global phenomenon of Pleistocene palaeoart traditions. We invite contributions on all aspects of this subject.
Congress chairmen Jean Clottes, Giriraj Kumar and Robert Bednarik
Pleistocene art of Asia
Recent discoveries and scientific investigations have yielded new evidence about the Pleistocene art of Asia, the most significant of it being produced by the multidisciplinary project ‘Early Indian Petroglyphs: Scientific Investigations and Dating by an International Commission’ (EIP Project). It has demonstrated the occurrence of numerous exfoliated petroglyphs, and the hammerstones used in making the rock art, in Lower Palaeolithic strata at central Indian sites. Other but much more recent evidence of Pleistocene art, always in the form of mobiliary palaeoart, has been reported sporadically from Siberia, China, Japan, Afghanistan, Israel and also India. Therefore, palaeoart has been in use for a great length of time in Asia, but relatively little evidence of it has been reported so far, especially in comparison to Europe. It is the purpose of this symposium to place the extraordinary finds from India within a pan-continental perspective, to disseminate new claims for Pleistocene palaeoart, and to consider the limited available data in the context of scientifically based models of the cognitive and cultural development of hominins. The 2010 IFRAO world congress on the global palaeoart of the Pleistocene offers a unique opportunity to consider these subjects in a comprehensive form.
Research papers on the above and related topics are invited from the international community of palaeoart researchers. Subjects of interest include rock art as well as mobiliary palaeoart of Pleistocene Asia; materials and techniques used in their production; find contexts and dating issues; what this corpus might tell us about the development of art-like practices in Asia; patterning in the way graphic evidence appears to present itself temporally and spatially; and how it might relate to Holocene palaeoart. Please send the titles of proposed contributions, together with abstracts of about 100 words, to one of the two chairmen of this symposium:
Dr Giriraj Kumar (India), e-mail:
Robert G. Bednarik (Australia), e-maul:
Applications of forensic techniques to Pleistocene palaeoart investigations
In recent years scientific investigations in palaeoart have increasingly been relying on methodologies and techniques borrowed from the field of forensics. For the most part, the pioneering researchers and scientists have operated on the margins of an ill-defined discipline. This symposium will provide an opportunity for these researchers and scientists to present their work and establish the preliminary foundation for a standardised methodology based in the applications of forensics techniques in the study of Pleistocene palaeoart. Submissions of papers are invited on a large range of subjects, and may include, but not be limited to, the following:
Reconstruction of the gestures and kinetic activities involved in the production of palaeoart
Aspects of behaviour at rock art sites deducable from empirical evidence
Analyses of macroscopic and microscopic traces of palaeoart production
Sequencing of behaviour traces at sites
Behaviour traces in the context of site properties
Empirical evidence and site taphonomy
Controlled replication experiments of palaeoart production
Analyses concerning the ages of palaeoartists
Analytical studies of the tools and materials used in palaeoart production
Other forensic studies of rock art sites or portable finds
Prospective contributors to this pioneering symposium are invited to submit the titles of their presentations, together with abstracts of approximately 100 words, either to:
Dr Yann-Pierre Montelle (New Zealand) or Robert G. Bednarik (Australia); e-mails and
In addition to the above, symposium proposals are also invited on the following topics, and addressing any other subject directly related to the congress rationale:
Pleistocene art in Africa
Pleistocene art in the Americas
Pleistocene art in Europe
Pleistocene art in Australia
Defining palaeoart
Dating palaeoart
Taphonomy of Pleistocene art