There are several reasons I appreciate rock art. It’s beautiful. It’s a type of art which can be added to and modified over generations. And like all indigenous art, it represents the time it was created in. Traditions are not static.
In Australia they’ve recently found rock art panels suggesting there was contact between Australian Aborigines and Indonesian people long before contact with Europeans occurred. They’ve also found panels showing ships from World War II that passed by the northern shore of Australia. Now they’re trying to do more archaeological research in the region, because there should be material evidence of the Indonesian contacts as well.
There’s an historic site here in the Great Lakes that has a birch bark carving of a boat. I keep meaning to get a copy of the image to someone with some nautical history knowledge to see what time period the boat dates to – as the site has 2 distinct historical occupations.
Lakota people document history via a ‘winter count’ – where each year a picture is added to a buffalo skin, representing that year in the tribe’s history. These also document contact with new cultures, but in a traditional way.
In his research on traditional pottery makers in Ecuador, Norm Whitten found that, following the local release of ‘Godzilla’ at the movie theatre, one of his potters incorporated Godzilla into her pot-styles, in amid all the traditional forms.
Art is fluid and can be traditional and contemporary at the same time. Heart heart heart.