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Bradshaw Chronology and Nomenclature.

The term Bradshaw was first used by Agnes Shultz (1956) and although the term was commonly used by subsequent researchers it was firmly consolidated into the literature by Graeme Walsh in his famous publication Bradshaw Rock Art of the Kimberley published in 2000 (refer to bibliography section of the website), although the term had been used by a number of archaeologists researching rock art in the Kimberley. The term Gwion Gwion, now the most common word to describe this body of rock art,  first found its way into the literature in 2000 with the publication by Jeff Doring titled Gwion Gwion (refer to bibliography section of the website).  Numerous other terms have found their way into the literature to describe the Bradshaw rock art such as Bramba Bramba, Giro Giro, Guion, and a number of others.


The present nomenclature used in Kimberley rock art and the increasingly politically correct way of interpreting Bradshaw/Gwion and recognised rock art sequences of the Kimberley’ makes it clear that the scientific research direction of rock art research in the Kimberley is facing a crisis. The introduction of multiple terms based on an ‘interpretation’ of superimposition and the identification of certain accoutrements and other variables to define the Bradshaw/Gwion period has produced a list of conflicting names and identification issues at a regional and broader geographic level.

The identification of certain accoutrements to define the stylistic differences and similarities has produced a chronology that has forced painted images to ‘fit’ identified sequences with possible contemporaneous rock art motifs resulting in some styles being assigned incorrectly. This problem is reinforced by the lack of empirical data to support these observations. The present nomenclature used to identify and describe Bradshaw/Gwion rock art does little to define what the stylistic variations found within the identified Bradshaw sequence may actually represent.  It also ignores unusual and isolated Bradshaw / Gwion-like motifs and other regional stylistic variations that appear un-associated with the current proposed chronological sequence. Until we determine the dates for the rock art motifs and styles, the ability to establish a chronological sequence should be more simplistic and less politically motivated when proposing nomenclature for Bradshaw/Gwion rock art.

Research studies into rock art of the Kimberley are essentially directed by the chronologies of David Welch and Graham Walsh (see bibliography section on this website). Their research has identified three chronologically distinct periods (See Bibliography section).

  • Irregular infill Period (includes cupule and early hand stencil style)
  • The Bradshaw/Gwion Period (includes dynamic & Clothespeg or straight part style)
  • Wandjina; (includes contact period of painting).

While there appears to be a general support of the broader chronological sequences there has been much debate about some of the nomenclature used, particularly in reference to the use of the term Bradshaw. This has resulted in the addition of even more conflicting nomenclature (Table 1). The results of this research indicate that while the new terminology being used may be politically correct it might also be scientifically incorrect.

Welch
1990; 1993 a & b; 1996.

Walsh
 2000

Donaldson
2012 a

Donaldson
2012 b

The Archaic Period

Pecked Cupule Period

Irregular Infill Animal Period

Irregular Infill Animal Period

Tasselled Figures

Tassel Bradshaw

Mambi Gwion

Ngunuru Gwion

Bent Knee Figures

Sash Bradshaw

Yowna Gwion

Yowna Gwion

Dynamic figures

Elegant Action Figures

Dynamic Gwion

Dynamic Gwion

Straight Part Figures

Clothespeg Figures

Wararrajai Figures

Dalal Figures

Panted Hand

Clawed Hand

Painted Hands

Painted Hands

Wandjina 

Wandjina

Wanjina

Wanjina

Contact

 

 

Contact

Table showing current terminology being used to describe the Bradshaw figures.