Iain Davidson will be presenting at the Indigenous Arts in Transition Seminar on Tuesday, April 26 at 6 pm. His talk is entitled “Iconicity, Conventions of Representation in Prehistoric Art, and the Modern Mind.”

Iain Davidson is Emeritus Professor at the University of New England in Australia. He began his appointment at UNE in 1974, was awarded a personal chair in 1997, and was named Emeritus Professor in 2008 when he was appointed Visiting Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University (2008–09). His work has focused on Spanish Upper Palaeolithic, archaeology and ethnography of Northwest Queensland, Australian rock art, archaeology and heritage, colonization of Sahul, language origins, and cognitive evolution. Davidson has worked on projects with ten different Aboriginal groups in three states of Australia, and has undertaken major research projects arising from archaeological consultancy for many of Australia’s leading industries, including BHP, Rio Tinto, Woodside, and Glencore. He has been a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities since 1994, was awarded the Rhys Jones Medal of the Australian Archaeological Association in 2010, and is a member of the 2015 Excellence in Research for Australia – Research Evaluation Committee for the Humanities and Creative Arts. He received his PhD from Cambridge University.

Iconic resemblance has great importance in the recognition of rock art and cave art images, particularly in terms of identifying the intentionality of marks. A survey of images of animals suggests that in most rock art traditions, at different times and in different places, the iconicity of images was very much constrained by conventions of representation. Many of the non-representational marks in rock art also show the constraints of convention. In this talk, Davidson will consider two questions—did conventionality arise from iconicity or did the iconicity arise from traditions of conventionality, and how do these questions illuminate the cognitive changes that resulted in modern human behavior?