Nine New Painted Rock Art Sites from East Timor in the Context of the Western Pacific Region




O'Connor, Susan

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University of Hawaii Press


Few rock art sites are known for the islands of Wallacea. This paper reports nine new painted rock art sites located in East Timor during archaeological reconnaissance in 2000 to 2001; bringing the total number of painted rock art sites in East Timor to 15. Both the new and previously known rock art sites in East Timor are reviewed in the context of painted rock art elsewhere in the western Pacific region. They are also evaluated in terms of the criteria used by Ballard (1992) to define the "Austronesian painting tradition" and the relationship between the art, topography, and language groups for the new sites is described. Motif content, motif placement within the sites, and design elements are compared in a preliminary fashion with that of other painting sites known from East Timor and the western Pacific. The East Timor sites are conformable with Austronesian-painted rock art sites elsewhere although they display some features that appear to be locally or regionally distinctive. It is likely that with systematic survey, and thorough inspection of cave and shelter walls, many more sites will be found in East Timor and elsewhere in Island Southeast Asia. The faded and deteriorated condition of many of the East Timor paintings indicates that recording should be undertaken with some urgency.



Keywords: cultural tradition; rock art; East Timor Austronesian painting tradition; East Timor; Island Southeast Asia; Painted rock art; Western Pacific



Asian Perspectives


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