Author Archives: robincoles1

Digital Imaging using “Windows live Photo Gallery’ and ‘Image Concept’ for Rock Art in the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges

In this final blog I would like to share some of the photographic techniques that I found useful in digitally enhancing faint rock art motifs. These can be done on a desktop computer with available software.
The study involved illustration and photography of rock art motifs using colour negative film, digital photography and computer enhancement of faint images. Digital images were enhanced more effectively than colour print images by altering: brightness; contrast; colour balance and saturation. Many of the faint motifs recorded were further enhanced using software to reveal deeper red ochres and outlining that was not visible to the unaided eye.
This is illustrated in the central anthropomorphic ‘reptile-like’ figures at Pym’s Road shelter (see Figures 1, 2). Other faint images in a granite shelter near Palmer show connected anthropomorphic figures that also responded well to this technique (see Figures 3, 4). The digital photo imagery show features in natural daylight and computer colour enhancement of the same motifs. This method can also be used on scratched figures that overlie paintings to show the contrast between the two and the rock patina.
The steps to achieve this on Windows 7 are: Open a daylight digital photograph (preferable taken on an overcast day) in ‘Windows Live Photo Gallery’; adjust exposure (top tool bar on right hand side); click on ‘adjust colour’, displayed will be: Colour Temperature, Tint and Colour Saturation. Hold the mouse over the horizontal adjustment bar and manually drag to the right or left. I usually drag the colour temperature to the right a little, and then the saturation bar almost all the way to the right. You can edit the controls to give a brighter or dimmer view. Then make a copy to save in a safe location.
The comparison between the unaltered and enhanced image will give you a greater depth of ochre colours. The background surface will appear green to blue which contrasts the orange-red motifs at the other end of the colour spectrum.
Another method is to use image enhancing software that can be downloaded for a free trial, such as “Imaging Concept.” This software was developed at Charles Sturt University for medical imaging. It is possible to enhance imagery of Aboriginal rock art with this program by manipulating colour histograms via a look up table (i.e. numbers of pixels in specific colours) it makes it easier for the unaided eye to observe (Faith Coleman pers.comm. 2013).

Figure 1

Figure 1. Faint red ochre figures photographed in daylight at Pym’s Road Shelter.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Same image as above but edited with Windows Live Photo Gallery.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Faint red ochre motifs photographed in daylight in a shelter at Palmer.

Figure 4

Figure 4. Same image as above but edited with Windows Live Photo Gallery.

Ritual Rock Art Sites in the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges

Ritual rock art sites in the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges
By Robin Coles
August 2013

The number of recorded rock art sites in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia has now reached seventy six (Coles, 2000). Most of these assemblages have been attributed to the Peramangk Aboriginal people. Of the forty two reviewed so far, six have revealed a regional subgroup that fit the criteria of ‘ritual rock art sites’ outlined by Ross and Davidson in 2006.

The criteria adapted in the study area are as follows: ‘ritual rock art sites’ are linked to large specific gathering places, in regions where ceremonies were held at specific times of the year, and they were probably associated with trade. The groups involved were the Peramangk, Ngarrindjeri and Ramindjeri who lived in the Mount Lofty Ranges, Lake Alexandrina and Victor Harbour regions. To the eastern Murray River plains were the Warki, Naralte and Nganguruka. The ‘ritual rock art sites’ are close to significant archaeological occupational sites and near permanent water courses. These water courses were once major trade routes.
The rock art motifs occur in rock shelters near extensive camping areas that were able to accommodate a large audience. The art is often done in bi-chrome colours, with figures larger in size. Many of the motifs show groups of people in profile performing dances or in active movement. These images are reminiscent of corroborees that were performed at specific times and places.

Other criteria aligning with the concept of ‘ritual rock art’ are the “characterisation of panels of repeated motifs produced using a similar and persistent vocabulary of core motifs” (Ross and Davidson 2006:327). Some prominent motifs may have held sacred significance within the rock art complex and they have been re-marked to indicating the continuation of “convention and participation of others at the sites” (Ross and Davidson 2006:332).
From the first analysis of the southern Mount Lofty Ranges rock art assemblage it is evident that sites fall into two different types: those that are related to supernatural ritual and those that relate to every day ritual and existence.

Coles, R.B. and Hunter, R. 2010 The Ochre Warriors. Stepney Adelaide: Axiom Publishing.
Chilman, J. 1999 Barossa Aboriginal Heritage Survey. A report to the Aboriginal Heritage Branch, South Australia Department of Environment and Planning.
Ross, J. and Davidson, I. 2006 Rock Art and Ritual: An Archaeological Analysis of Rock Art in Arid Central. Australia Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 13(4):305-341.
Tindale, N.B. 1974 Aboriginal Tribes of Australia. Canberra ANU Press.