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The rock paintings prove early contact between Indigenous Australians and Indonesians
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The rock paintings prove early contact between Indigenous Australians and Indonesians

Archaeologists from Flinders University have identified fishing boats from Indonesia and the Moluccas on rock drawings found in Uunparna, Arnhem Land, Australia. Heritage Daily.

Researchers say the finds are the first archaeological evidence of Southeast Asian visitors from outside Makassar on the Sulawesi peninsula arriving on the Australian mainland.

The two vessels that appear in the petroglyphs show motifs that also appear on Moluccan types of Southeast Asian vessels. They differ from other marine cultures in the region, so researchers can assert their identity with great confidence.

In addition to the distinctive shape and design, triangular flags and bow ornaments can be seen on both ships. By comparing the two images to watercraft historically recorded from islands in Southeast Asia, the researchers believe they are most likely from East Maluku Tenggara, Indonesia.

In the middle of the 17th century, Dutch explorers reported that the islanders regularly sailed to the northern coast of Australia.

The petroglyphs provide compelling new evidence of previously undocumented interactions between the Ounparna people of Arnhem Land and visitors to the Moluccas.

“These figures support current ideas that sporadic or random voyages from Indonesia to the Australian coast preceded or alongside regular visits by trepang fishermen,” said Dr Mick De Ruiter, from Flinders University.

According to Dr Daryl Wesley, “The drawings we have identified do not appear to represent any known European or colonial type of watercraft. Similar ‘boats’ have been depicted in petroglyphs elsewhere on the northern coast of Australia, but none are shown at the same level of detail.” Like the ones at Awunbarnais.”

Dr Wesley added: “Identification of ships from the Moluccas has important implications for the reason for the presence of sailors from these islands on the coast of northern Australia and for cross-cultural encounters on the coast of Arnhem Land.”

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