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National Museum of Australia

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Glass plate negative - Rock engraving of human form, Port Hedland, Western Australia, photographed by Herbert Basedow, 1916


Object information





L 100mm x W 125mm



Reproduced by Basedow in "The Australian Aboriginal", FW Preece and Sons, Adelaide, 1925, plate XL/1. Caption reads: 'Rock-carving of human form, Port Hedland.'

Physical Description

Black and white glass plate negative showing rock engraving of human form.

Educational Significance

This is a photograph by Herbert Basedow of a rock surface engraved with a humanoid figure and a series of what appear to be animal footprints.

Aboriginal people sometimes created rock art by engraving or pecking designs on rock surfaces. The designs are most likely created using a sharp-edged rock in a pounding motion. To maintain its edge the engraver stone would need to be much harder than the stone surface being worked. Some grinding or grooving action may also have been used. Basedow did not record any meanings for this engraving, which he photographed at Port Hedland in 1916.

Herbert Basedow was a doctor, anthropologist and explorer. From 1903 to 1928 he ventured to remote regions of central and northern Australia - places rarely seen by Australians even today. Aboriginal people often feature in his photographs. Basedow wanted to document Aboriginal cultures as they had been before British colonisation, and often went to some lengths to craft his photographs to appear as such.

This photograph was taken during an expedition in the Kimberley region of north-east Western Australia to investigate a reported deposit of metal that would be useful for munitions.


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