ACRA Conference 2016
In September rock art researchers from around the world descended on Alta, Norway for the ACRA III conference “Perspectives and Differences in Rock Art”. Australia, and especially members of CRAR+M, came out in force for this international conference showcasing new and exciting research from the past five years. It appeared to be a time of change in Alta – the famous red paint was in the process of being removed from the engraved rock surfaces (an act that surprisingly divided some of the international researchers). This year also marked the retirement of Prof. Knut Helskog, one of the leading researchers working on the Alta World Heritage rock art sites, with this conference given in honour of his work. Some of the papers that were given at the conference outlined pigment dating in South Africa; attempted to reconstruct ideas of regionalism; and challenged our ideas of seasonality and rock art production. Researchers also discussed visual narrative, location, and the acoustics of rock art sites and landscapes. CRAR+M’s own Prof. Jo McDonald presented on gorgeous decorative infill figures from the Western Desert (I might be biased, but they are definitely some of my favourite motifs), Prof. Ben Smith put forth the challenge on how we should engage the public with rock art, and Prof. Peter Veth educated the entire conference on how to present 14 lines of evidence in less than 20 minutes. From the heart of Mongolia to Port Hedland, and from Lesotho to the snowscapes of the north, the conference showcased some of the best work happening in our field at the moment. With rock art uniting this world of researchers, it was clear how differently everyone approached the study and analysis of the material. We are reminded that we need to constantly challenge each other and our interpretations in order to push our field forward.