Monday, May 31, 2010

Eye-Witness Paleoart

Above: A more speculative take on Genyornis by somebody (Nobu Tamura) who has never seen one in person. Licensed.

As noted on the DML, the ABC is reporting on a pretty awesome find:

That there is some Aboriginal rock art depicting the long-extinct Australian flightless dromornithid Genyornis newtoni. All paleontological evidence suggests that this bird became extinct at least 43 thousand years ago, based on the dating of eggshells. According to a paleontologist (unnamed in the linked article) who examined the site, the details of the painting match well enough to known Genyornis specimens that it must have been done by an eyewitness, and probably is not a handed-down cultural memory of the bird.

Dan Pigdon on the DML also pointed out that the oldest dated rock art in Australia is 40,000 years old, and that also happens to be the limit of carbon dating, so human art on the continent conceivably could be even older, which would certainly overlap with the fossil range of Genyornis. Either way, this represents some of the earliest evidence of humans in Australia and may have been done near the time humans first arrived there. The art itself is pretty cool, and the animals as depicted look more moa-like than emu-like to me, but of course they're fairly abstract. They also seem to have some kind of banding pattern, I wonder if that represents their coloration in life... The one on the right is smaller and more gracile, maybe a juvenile or a smaller sexual dimorph?