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style does not fit the ‘typical’ images made by

Aborigines and in some respects resembles African

rock art more closely; it is also striking that two

species of baobab tree only grow in the Kimberley

Region, and the other boabab species can only

be found in Africa. Because their seeds are not

resistant to salt water, it is tempting to suspect

that at some point people from Africa must have

travelled across the ocean to Australia, bringing

the fruit of the baobab with them. Having said

that, we now know that the Australian Aborigines

represent one of the oldest continuous human

cultures outside of Africa. They likely reached

Sahul, the then connected land mass of New

Guinea and Australia, roughly 55,000 years ago.

Because there is no genetic evidence of further

migration into Sahul in the Holocene, possible

African seafarers would have had to have already

reached Australia before its settlement by


In addition to its section for the natural sciences,

the Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch also has

archaeological and ethnological sections, and as

such, I was very pleased when Reto Weiler asked

me if we might have space and interest in holding

an exhibition on Australian rock art in 2017. I

gladly agreed, and now we are not only a platform

for a discussion of who the creators of the rock

art were, but also the question of to whom the art

belongs. In the chorus of voices that say that one

can only examine and interpret this rock art in

the presence of the Aborigines because it belongs

to them, as an ethnobiologist, I lean towards

scientific freedom. That means that members of

other nations and scientific fields must be allowed

to determine the origin of art without prejudice.

This is the only way that one can achieve sound

results without ruling out specific assumptions in


We are pleased to be the first museum in the

world to present photographs of Bradshaw

figures together with an insight into the scientific

questions that surround them, as well as

contributions from an artistic perspective.

Dr. Peter-René Becker,

Director Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch