Student Spotlight: Sam Harper

Sam Harper is a postgraduate student within CRAR+M working on the Port Hedland rock art.


My research is focused on the engraved rock art of the Port Hedland region. A distinct and heterogeneous style can be found here, limited to calcarenite ridges fringing the Port Hedland harbour and adjacent tidal islands. Two key sites, the tidal islands South West Creek 4 and Mourambine Kariyarra 3, have approximately 10,000 visible engravings. These engravings are located within a rich archaeological context, including scattered shell and midden deposit, portable and fixed grinding patches, stone arrangements, modified shell and some lithic artefacts: indicating complex, multi-functional places.


The core question I am asking is how group identity is shown through the engraved repertoire here, drawing apart a small unique figurative style, dominated by two distinct anthropomorph types (culture heroes?), marine fauna and material culture, from a larger arid geometric and track style repertoire. This formal analysis of group identity will be interpreted within a broader cultural framework, informed by mythological narratives and linguistic markers, which are used to understand the movement of people and culture through this part of the Pilbara landscape. 


I am currently 2 and a half years into this project: finishing up the analysis phase, writing up background chapters, and just back from the IFRAO conference inCáceres, Spain, and the ACRA III conference in Alta, Norway.

Mailing Address:

Centre for Rock Art, Research + Management,

School of Social Sciences,

M257, 32 Stirling Highway, Perth WA 6009

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