Astounding Aboriginal rock art in Australia
There are over 100,000 rock art sites in Australia. Engravings found in South Australia’s Olary region are confirmed to be the oldest dated rock carvings found on earth, formed 35,000 years ago. It’s also thought that the Bradshaw paintings in the Kimberley go back an astonishing 60,000 years.
If you are traveling to Australia and you’re interested in Australia’s ancient Aboriginal culture, you’ll want to take a tour of some of these sites. Viewing rock art in the open air allows you to see it how it was originally intended: as part of the natural surroundings. Some of this context is lost when viewing a piece in the museum. To get started with exploring Australia’s rock art, it’s helpful to take a look at how and why it was created.
Creation and Significance
In case you are not one of those interested in Gold Coast shopping when visiting Australia but more of a nature lover, no worries. Many rock engravings are carved into Australia’s soft sandstone. They were formed with holes to form the outlines of the figure, which are then filled in during the second step of formation. You’ll see any number of figures depicted in Aboriginal rock art, from horses to handprints.
When you see a beautiful engraving, it’s easy to assume that it was intended to stand alone as an individual work of art. Many of these ancient rock engravings are quite elaborate and detailed, which makes them interesting to gaze at from an aesthetic standpoint. However, these rock art sites were not intended to be viewed as museum pieces. Instead, they are used to mark special places or to form an interconnected network of other sites. Many are used to tell creation stories. Each engraving tells a small piece of the complex story, and you can’t see the next “chapter” until you’ve visited the corresponding sites. These engravings show us how the Aboriginal people interacted with their environment, as well as how they interpreted their own existence.
Sites to Explore
If you’re interested in getting out there to see these sites for yourself, you can find literally thousands of engravings to choose from. However, many of these are grouped into more accessible sites. One of the most notable is the Woy Woy Rock Art Site, although it can be a bit of a challenge to find. The site is about 2 km outside of the Great North Walk, off the F3 motorway. You’ll see a number of engravings here, including a line of rabbits, a fish, an emu, and male figures.
The Girrakool Rock Site is also part of the Great North Walk but is easier to access. It’s helpful to find a car that’s suitable for off-roading from a local website like Motoring to gain access to these remote sites. The oldest rock art in the Kimberley region, the Bradshaw paintings, are thought to date back 60,000 years. Indigenous legend states that they were painted by birds using their tail feathers. These paintings are extremely intricate, showing the signs of an advanced ancient culture. The Burrup Peninsula is another top spot for rock art, with the largest collections of carvings dating back to the ice age. There are over 10,000 engravings to admire in this region.
Whether you’re a budding anthropologist or take an interest in art history, you’ll find these various paintings and engravings well worth a visit while staying in Australia. Although you can see them in museums throughout Australia, you’ll truly get a sense of the scope of Aboriginal rock art by seeing it out in the wild.