The history of Oceanic art can be separated into two main phases, corresponding to the periods previous to and after Western contact. This is due not to the changes ensuing from contact with Europeans, as to the protection of otherwise short-lived material by Western collectors and researchers. The complete loss of early artworks and the scarcity of archaeological discoveries render the understanding of ancient Oceanic art fitful and incomplete. What has survived hints at the antiquity of art traditions in Oceania and sometimes enlightens the origins of more current methods.
The Australian continent is filled with thousands of rock-art sites. (Gardner) They contain rock shelters, outcrops of rock, and surface sheets of rock and are adorned with painted, pecked, or engraved forms in a plethora of styles. These are testimonials to the prehistoric art of the Aborigines. Long necklaces made of teeth and lizard vertebrae, bone beads, and rock pendants have been found in burials and elsewhere dating from 15,000 BC and later. (Ellis) Long bone pins indicate the existence of garments, likely cloaks made of animal skins. These rock art sites served for a key purpose in the Oceanic culture. These works serve as a spiritual tribute to the Aborigines that came before them. They see it as very important to pay tribute to past peoples in order to keep their spiritual behavior in order. These rocks serve as extremely important spiritual artworks in the Oceanic society.... [continues]
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