See Australia’s top 10 Aboriginal art sites before they disappear

ByRV DailyJanuary 20, 2017
3 MINUTE READ
See Australia’s top 10 Aboriginal art sites before they disappear

Be it due to weather, vandalism or access, these important sites may soon be gone from view. We highlight the best for you to see… while you still can.
By Colin Kerr

Think of an art gallery and immediately our minds turn to those buildings in towns and cities crammed full of oil paintings and watercolours with which we are all familiar. Few people, however, realise that some of Australia’s greatest works of art are not actually hanging in galleries but are resting on stone in remote, isolated bushland – far away from any form of modern civilisation.

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Unlike the city display centres that offer a high degree of protection and preservation of their exhibits, Australia’s Aboriginal rock art galleries lie mostly open to the elements. Exposed to the destructive effects of sun, wind, rain, heat and cold, these priceless artistic pieces are slowly but surely disappearing – literally melting back into the landscape.

Not only are some of these works unique in their formats and styles, it is believed that in many locations they are the oldest and most significant ‘Art Galleries’ anywhere in the world – up to 40,000 years old (or even older). Throughout Australia there are more than 100,000 rock art sites of significance so far recorded. Here’s our top 10 – go and see them before they are gone forever.

1 Arnhem Land, NT – Mount Borradaile (Awunbarna) and the Arnhem Escarpment near Oenpelli.
This area has some of the most extensive rock painting sites with unique styles (including a massive serpent at Mount Borradaile that visitors will long remember) not seen anywhere else. Guided tours available with local guides.

2 Mutawintji National Park, NSW
A large overhung cliff face with a variety of ochre paintings and a nearby hillside with many rock etchings (petroglyphs) are the highlights of a visit to the historic site within the park. Accessible only with a guide.

3 Carnarvon Gorge National Park, Qld
The quite spectacular landscape here has extensive rock paintings where many hand stencils are a real feature. Self-guided walks lead to the best areas.

4 Burrup Peninsula, Dampier, WA
Thousands of etchings (petroglyphs) can be seen over a wide area here (including the easily accessible Deep Gorge which has many sites) on rusty ironstone rocks. It is great fun for all the family exploring these rocky hillsides spotting many etchings (animals, birds and spiritual beings) as you walk around.

5 Punda Art Site, near Newman, WA
Along a 4WD track north of Newman, rock etchings cover a large hillside with plenty of animals and symbols to be seen everywhere. A self-guided walk/climb through the rocks continues to amaze visitors with something different every few metres around the hillside. Nearby Wanna Munna is another terrific site with more rock engravings along the edge of a creekline and a semi-permanent waterhole.

6 Central Australia, NT
Self-guided walks at Ewaninga south of Alice Springs and Roma Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges feature extensive rock engravings with animals, animal tracks, abstract circles, wavy lines and also water and sun symbols. Roma Gorge is accessible by a 4WD creek trail. Both sites are great spots to explore.

7 Laura, Nth Qld
The area here (including Split Rock, Gu Gu Yalangi and other sites) is home to the Quinkins – evil spirits that are believed to live in the local sandstone escarpments. The prolific rock paintings and stencils here over a wide area also record Yam Spirits as well as ‘sorcery’ (or devil) figures. Aboriginal guided tours are available.

8 Kakadu National Park, NT
This park is home to probably the best known/most visited sites in Australia. Ubirr, Nourlangi and Nangulluwur are all famous rock painting sites with a wide diversity of animals, fish, rainbow serpents, sorcery/lightning man figures, symbols, and even an old sailing ship. The strange X-ray art style is also seen here. Self-guided and ranger tours are available.

9 Kakadu National Park, NT
This park is home to probably the best known/most visited sites in Australia. Ubirr, Nourlangi and Nangulluwur are all famous rock painting sites with a wide diversity of animals, fish, rainbow serpents, sorcery/lightning man figures, symbols, and even an old sailing ship. The strange X-ray art style is also seen here. Self-guided and ranger tours are available.

10 Mount Grenville Art Site, west of Cobar, NSW
The rock art paintings here are easily accessible along a self-guided defined walking trail. Red, white and yellow pigments were used to depict a number of different human figures, animals, mammals, reptiles, birds, motifs, lines and shapes.