Style and substance: McCarthy versus Mountford and the emergence of an archaeology of rock art 1948–1960

Anne Clarke, Sally K. May, Ursula K. Frederick, Iain G. Johnston

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review

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The Australian rock art research community is no stranger to epic battles between individuals with differing viewpoints on rock art. These disputes are not a new phenomenon, as this paper outlines. It is rare, however, for these arguments to reflect major shifts in the nature of rock art research and, more broadly, archaeological research. In this paper we present the story of two individuals – Frederick ‘Fred’ McCarthy and Charles ‘Monty’ Mountford – whose rock art research and ongoing debates and disputes over methodologies and interpretive frameworks represent a foundational turning point in the history of Australian rock art research. Spanning the 1940s to the 1960s, their documentation of rock art during the 1948 American–Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land and their subsequent arguments reflect both antiquarianism and innovation (Figure 2.1). Importantly, these debates reflect an attempt to introduce scholarly standards and recognisable archaeological methods into rock art research in Australia as well as early struggles to link the evidence from archaeological excavations and recordings of rock art.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistories of Australian Rock Art Research
EditorsPaul S.C. Taçon, Sally K. May, Ursula K. Frederick, Jo McDonald
Place of PublicationAustralia
PublisherANU E Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9781760465353
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2022


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