New kind of ancient stencil graffiti found in northern Australia

In Australia, ancient Aboriginal rock artists are known for using body parts, plants, and everyday objects as stencils and then blowing pigment across the masked area like spray paint. Recently though, archaeologists found small-scale artwork of characters created using handheld figures seemingly made specifically as stencils. The researchers found the artwork—one of only a few examples of miniature stenciled rock art in the world—in the northern Australia's Limmen National Park at the Yilbilinji rockshelter, traditionally owned by the Marra Aboriginal people. It's thought to be approximately 500 years old. From Archaeology magazine:

This previously unknown tradition includes miniature depictions of kangaroo tracks as well as geometric and linear designs. The images' shapes suggest they were made with stencils molded out of a malleable material, most likely beeswax, which Marra children are known to have used in the past to sculpt small figurines. The team created their own beeswax stencils [below], which they used to produce figures identical to the ones discovered at Yilbilinji and nearby sites. They hope that consulting with additional Marra people will yield further insight into the meaning of these miniature masterpieces.

"A rare miniature and small-scale stencil assemblage from the Gulf of Carpentaria: replication and meaning in Australian rock art" (Antiquity)

top and bottom images: Flinders University