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Aboriginal Rock Art

Rock art is the common denominator in most Aboriginal sites - where there was no rock, tree carving was practised. This art takes the form of paintings on rock surfaces and illustrations carved into rock surfaces. Most paintings occur in rock overhangs and caves, whereas engravings are most commonly found on the top of ridges of headlands, at water level around the bays and coves of the harbour or near a waterhole or campsite, they are generally horizontal rather than vertical. Every piece of art had a particular significance to the tribe, some told of their tribal ancestry, others identified the land as theirs. No art was created without a reason, therefore all art that remains today had tribal significance, though often that significance is no longer known following the destruction of the culture and breaking of the continuity of tribal religious and cultural activity.
The creation and maintenance of existing of rock art was the responsibility of select tribal members and no other person was permitted to become involved in rock artistry. Under tribal law, the rock art which survives today can only be re-grooved or repainted by authorised tribal members. As many of the original tribes and clans were wiped out and have no survivors, their art cannot be touched by other tribe and clan members, which is why much of the rock art around Australia is not being maintained.
Engravings are often shallow grooves less than 5 mm deep formed through the pecking of a series of holes in the soft sandstone by a hard rock (often brought in from another area). These holes were then joined by scraping away the rock between them, possibly over time and repeatedly, at ceremonies. As few sites are maintained, weathering by wind and water erosion, cracking and flaking of the rock surface, people walking over them and pollution has caused irreparable damage. Much of the art has been weathered away completely, and only those sites that are protected from the elements and man, or are in areas where the rock is hard and resists erosion, have survived. As they are best seen in low light, early morning or late evenings are the best viewing times. Viewing at night by torch light, with a diverse rather than concentrated beam, is also recommended though this limits photography.
Rock engraving is most common near the coast, whereas inland, painting is more prolific. The only colours used in painting were white, black and back, with yellow being used sparingly. White came from pipe clay; black from charcoal; red ochre came from nodules of laterite or ironstone; yellow was created from the dust of ants' nests, which might explain its rarity.
Motifs seen in rock art vary from animals (often recognisable only after you have disentangled the lines), hands, footprints (human footprints are known as mundoes, pronounced mun-doe-ees), small stick figures of humans and larger, more impressive figures of ancestors. Animals include fish, eels (the most common), kangaroos, emus, koalas, goannas, echidnas and dolphins.

Significant Aboriginal Sites
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Aboriginal Implements

Tools and implements reflect the geographical location of different Aboriginal groups. For example, coastal tribes used fishbone to tip their weapons, whereas desert tribes used stone tips. While tools varied by group and location, Aboriginal people all had knives, scrapers, axe-heads, spears, various vessels for eating and drinking, and digging sticks.
Aboriginal people achieved two world firsts with stone technology. They were the first to introduce ground edges on cutting tools and to grind seed. They used stone tools for many things including: to make other tools, to get and prepare food, to chop wood, and to prepare animal skins.
After European discovery and English colonisation, Aboriginal people quickly realised the advantages of incorporating metal, glass and ceramics. They were easier to work with, gave a very sharp edge, and needed less resharpening. Their traditional tools and implements are no longer used but many of the sites where they were created - axe sharpening grooves by creeks and rivers and trees where the bark has been removed to create a bark canoe, for example, still remain.
Easy to find Implement & Tool Creation sites >>>

WARNING: Aboriginal sites contain irreplaceable examples of the art of the indigenous peoples of Australia. The engraving and rock paintings found at these sites are often the only tangible surviving evidence of what in many places across Australia is a lost culture. As such the artwork that remains is a valuable part of their history and the cultural history of Australia as a nation, and these last remaining links to our past will be lost forever if it not treated with respect. Though all such sites are protected by law, and to deface, modify or remove them in part or in whole is a criminal offence, please do not deface or add to the art for that reason alone, but because it is an irreplaceable part of Australia's heritage.

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