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Towards a theory of landscape iconoclasm
journal contributionposted on 2015-05-01, 00:00 authored by Antonio Gonzalez Zarandona
The destruction of Indigenous rock art sites in the Pilbara district in Western Australia has become a natural sight within the mining landscape of the area. Whilst much of the destruction is explained as acts of vandalism and as a result of the industrial activities that are propelling the Australian economy, I claim that a new theory of iconoclasm is needed to explain fully this disastrous example of heritage conservation. Henceforth, in order to explain the destruction of the Murujuga/Burrup Peninsula petroglyphs, the largest archaeological site in the world, this paper develops the theory of landscape iconoclasm. This theory states that the destruction of Indigenous landscapes can be compared to the destruction of religious images, by analysing the inherent symbolic functions of iconoclasm, together with those of heritage, the better to elucidate the state of affairs in the Murujuga/Burrup Peninsula. Furthermore, by drawing from Aboriginal mythology and art-historical and anthropological theories, the theory of landscape iconoclasm is able to explain the destruction of archaeological sites within a framework that falls outside prevalent discourses of heritage.