National Geographic : 1988 Oct
/M igratory water birds in flight, carved in ivory (below), were prominent images at Malta. One highly abstract rendition, a pendant, was part of a bead necklace (bottom) in a child's burial. Birds were not the primary food source for Siberian hunters, who relied mainly on mammals. Were the bird images, as Ice Age experts suggest, indicators of the arrival of spring and new life? Do they evoke further layers of meaning by their placement with the dead? "It's maybe an instinct because our tribe went out and attacked at night, and I get the feeling that perhaps we'll be attacked too." Mary's memories had linked me with the past, a way of looking at the world that has largely vanished. But there was another win dow on the Aboriginal soul. SHE HELICOPTER scudded across a sea of grass and trees, then climbed over the great sandstone escarpment. Its S fortress-like walls were gray, layered, fractured, like sores of Indian stupas crushed together. Inside lay gorges, rivers, waterfalls, and a collection of art to rival that of prehistoric France. Here in Arnhem Land in northern Australia thousands of rock paintings-singly or in great jumbles-record thousands of years of the Aboriginal past. My companion was George Chaloupka, who has spent 30 years discovering, cataloging, and classifying the art. The helicopter landed on ridge after ridge; we clambered up or down to the sites. Once a black wallaroo appeared as suddenly as a ghost, vanished as quickly. Another time we paused to watch two rare grasshop pers-bright orange, blue, yellow, rocking gently, mating.