THE EVIDENCE SUGGESTS MARREE MAN WAS CREATED BY PEOPLE WITH EXPERT KNOWLEDGE OF ABORIGINES
|This article and the excerpts and photograph below,
show that the Marree Man is a detailed portrait of a Pitjantjatjara tribe hunter from
northern South Australia.
|THE EVIDENCE SUGGESTS MARREE MAN
WAS CREATED BY PEOPLE WITH EXPERT KNOWLEDGE OF ABORIGINES - An academic says the
huge carving in the South Australian desert is culturally accurate, writes Penelope
Anthropologists in South Australia are arguing over the cultural authenticity of the desert drawing known as the Marree Man, which may be more accurate than first believed.
A possible source of the drawing has also been identified by an anonymous South Australian academic who discovered similar photographs in journals of the Royal Society of South Australia from the early 1900's. (See below)
The figure looks to have been an amalgam of the body of a man photographed in the distinctive throwing stance depicted in the desert drawing and the head of another man wearing a headband and chignon.
The Marree Man, gouged out of red soil on a remote plateau 60km outside of the town of Marree on the Oodnadatta track, is the world's largest known art work but its authorship is unknown.
It is about 4km long and its scale is so vast it has to be appreciated from the air.
The creators meticulously and secretly surveyed the man's outline using a satellite based global positioning system then ploughed the figure into the earth where it was discovered by accident last July. No crime was committed and police investigations have been dropped but intense curiosity remains about who did it and why.
"At least 80% of the people who stay here at some point in our conversation will mention the Marree Man and ask a question or two," says Ms. Susan McGuire, proprietor of the Marree Hotel.
Detailed information sent to THE AGE disputes the judgement by South Australian Museum anthropologist, Dr. Philip Jones, that the figure was "cartoon-like" and culturally incorrect. It also challenges Dr. Jones' contention that the figure was holding a boomerang whose shape could not be clearly seen.
Instead of the weapon looks to be a throwing stick that historic records say were used by some South Australian desert Aborigines to throw into flocks of small birds.
An accompanying letter written by a South Australian anthropologist - and a member of an academic community still scarred by bitter divisions over who said what during the Hindmarsh Island bridge affair - says this is the strongest clue yet to who did it.
"Considering the size of the object, many details are astonishingly accurate, such as the perfect posture of the non-throwing hand in standard Aboriginal throwing technique, the perfect placement of chest initiation scars and the excellent representation of the hair ties," the letter said.
The writer concludes this level of knowledge points either to Aborigines themselves, or more likely, to those familiar with details of desert Aboriginal culture, " e.g. my own anthropological community".
But Dr. Jones, a published authority on boomerangs, said the Marree Man's characteristics - his beard, chignon, and chest scars - put him in a cultural region, namely the central desert, that did not use throwing sticks for hunting.
"You are looking at an image that amalgamates discordant elements together," Dr. Jones said. "So why be surprised that here is this central Australian figure using an artefact from south-eastern Australia?"
Contract pilot Mr. Mark Koster said the figure is still visible although its outline has blended in more with surrounding land.
Mr. Koster marvels at the ingenuity that went into the figure and is amazed that, having gone to so much trouble, no one has claimed it.
"I love it," Mr. Koster said, "I've seen it hundreds of times now and it never fails to amaze me that they'd go to so much trouble. Incredible stuff."
South Australian anthropologist says the notable similarities between the Marree Man and
the throwing stance of the figure (Far Left) and the distinctive hair style of the Man
(Right) provide clues to who made the drawing.
Pictures courtesy of Royal Society of South Australia.
EXCERPTS FROM "THE RED CENTRE" BY H.H. FINLAYSON
The photograph from "The Red Centre" which may be the inspiration for the Marree Man.