The cover of this book shows an example of Australian Aboriginal rock art from the Kimberley region of Western Australia, and is reproduced here by courtesy of Graham Walsh of the Takarakka Rock Art Research Centre. The paintings were first reported by the explorer Joseph Bradshaw (1891). Because they are unusual and the details are unique there has been some speculation as to their origin. And because these paintings have no direct connection with the traditional owners of the land they have not been retouched as part of tribal ceremonies as is often the case. They are deteriorating as the rock substrate ages and organic binders and pigments oxidize and polymerize, which demands that some conservation measures be initiated for their preservation for future generations.
The rock art paintings illuminate the twin aims of this book: the use of archaeometry to determine the age, and perhaps some of the forensic details about the artefacts under examination; and the use of scientific techniques of analysis to determine the most appropriate strategy for their conservation.