The Destruction of Heritage: Rock Art in the Burrup Peninsula

By José Antonio González Zarandona.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The destruction of rock art in the Burrup Peninsula, performed by several
mammoth industries strategically located in the Peninsula since the 1960s,
allows me to analyse the concept of heritage within a global history of art and
find meaning in the difficult task of interpreting rock art. The Burrup
Peninsula not only hosts the largest rock art site in the world, but also one of the largest deposits of natural gas, iron ore and salt. As a consequence, the land (sacred to the Indigenous people), becomes extremely important in order to sustain the booming economy of Australia. In this difficult negotiation between heritage and progress the rock art is embedded with new meanings and the heritage becomes ephemeral. Failing to include the site in the World Heritage Site list created by UNESCO, the roles of identity and memory are contested by the two groups represented on each side of the debate: on one
hand, the Aboriginal Traditional owners and the archaeologists; on the other,
the Australian government and the cultural establishment that denies the rock
art an aesthetic significance by considering it “primitive” and “archaic”. The
debate becomes even more pertinent after realizing that the Australian
government has flagged other buildings and natural parks as World Heritage
Sites, while the rock art in the Burrup Peninsula is catalogued as national, but not World, Heritage. As a result, the concept of heritage can be defined on
several levels: local, regional, national and international.

Keywords: Destruction, Heritage, Colonialism, Identity, Land

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp.325-342. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.218MB).

José Antonio González Zarandona

PhD Student, Department of Art History, School of Culture and Communication, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

I was born in Mexico in 1980, where I did my undergraduate studies in Communication Sciences. During 2002-2003 I studied literature at the University of Salamanca, Spain, on an exchange student program. Back in Mexico, I graduate in 2005 with a thesis on the history of experimental cinema, which led me to apply to a Master Degree in Film Studies at the University of Melbourne. In 2008 I earned my Master of Arts degree, and was later accepted to pursue a PhD in the Department of Art History within the same university, supervised by Professor Jaynie Anderson FAHA CIHA. My topic is the destruction of heritage and I am looking at two case studies: the destruction of rock art in the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia, and the Buddhas of the Bamiyan Valley, in Afghanistan. Between 2007 and 2009, I also worked as a multimedia designer at the National Gallery of Victoria, a role I performed in several small production companies in Mexico.


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