Rock art research is central to answering some of the big questions about human migration.
KFA has been funding major research projects in the Kimberley since 2007. The Ian Potter Foundation gave us our first significant grant that year towards a Kimberley Regional Human and Environmental History Program. Since then we have underwritten four major Australian Research Council grants, seed-funded a number of other projects and collaborated on projects with five remote Kimberley Aboriginal communities.
We have supported more than 35 PhD, Honours and post-graduate students and fostered the work of more than 40 researchers across 10 Australian universities in rock art research in the past decade.
The impact made through KFA rock art research has the potential to rewrite the history of human migration. Recent research in Sulawesi has uncovered prehistoric stone tools thought to be 118,000 years old and nearby rock art at 35,500 years old. It bears a close resemblance to one of the earliest Kimberley rock art styles. This research including KFA-backed research is the latest in a string of findings that is re-shaping ideas about human migration. It has shifted the focus of early archaeological research from traditional Western hotspots to Australia’s doorstep.
A decade of achievement in Kimberley rock art research
In November last year KFA hosted its tenth workshop with the KFA Science Advisory Council. Thirty scientists funded by KFA came together to report on progress and present and share their research findings with each other and with the KFA Board.
In summarising the Foundation’s philanthropic approach to research John Dodson, former head of ANSTO’s Institute for Environmental Research and currently at the Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an, said that KFA’s model of a multidisciplinary and multi-organisational approach was extraordinarily successful. He said the proof of this is in the record number of Honours, Masters and PhD students involved in KFA-funded research; in the funds leveraged and grant successes; in the multiple number of publications and the growing media and public attention.
The body of knowledge gained over the last decade has been both critical and considerable. In particular, a growing palaeoenvironmental framework for the region is being constructed and will be a focus of on-going research.