A partly off-track adventure in search of two Aboriginal engraving sites in Terrey Hills. 

A short bushwalk in Terrey Hill leads to a couple of well-hidden Aboriginal engraving sites. The walk to the first rock platform is pretty easy, with the trail winding through eucalyptus trees and long grass.

Although the walking trail is unmarked, a blue sign in front of the rock platform states that this is a protected Aboriginal site. It was first described in 1940 by Fred McCarthy, who describes it as a hunting scene: “the hunter, wearing a rayed forehead band, is shown beside a large and small kangaroo, a doe and its young or a buck and doe. His footsteps (it should be noted that one is reversed) lead down the middle of the rock to his shield, which he had apparently dropped. His two wives are engraved on the eastern side of the rock”.

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Engraving-TerreyHills-Hunting

Stanbury & Clegg in their Field Guide to Aboriginal Rock Engravings refer to this area as the “Hunting Site”, and suggest that it denotes a successful kangaroo hunt. This would be used for an “increase ceremony”, designed to promote the fertility of particular plants or animals. There’s also an argument that because the man has a large penis, and is wearing a head-dress, the site might be associated with creator spirits such as Baiame (Ray Norris).

The line of mundoes (footprints) may represent the steps taken by the hunter as he stalks his prey (there are 8 between the man and the creek).

It’s a bit tricker to reach the second site, which is on the other side of a small creek. A rough and sometimes indistinct trail heads down to the clear and picturesque (unnamed) stream, which flows into Kierans Creek.

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Further up the hill on the other side is a long series of rock platforms, one of which contains a number of engravings.

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Engraving-TerreyHills-Lyrebird

In the middle is a lyrebird, after which the site is named (the tail feathers indicating it’s male bird). It’s the “most important feature of the group and the finest portrayal among the few known of this bird” (McCarthy).

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Other engravings on the rock include kangaroos (or wallabies) and a flying possum (below) as well as two echidnas and twelve arrows around the site, which may represent lyrebird tracks.

Not far away are some interesting rock formations and a sandstone cave, with a large column that’s been sculpted by the wind and rain.

On the roof of the cave is what appears to be another Aboriginal carving. I was initially advised it may have formed part of a larger drawing (the remainder having been damaged or eroded over time), and later discovered that it’s complete: “the head and arms are on the lower right with the body stretched around with the legs on the left”.

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It’s a nice spot that feels much further away from civilisation than it is; I’ll come back when I have more time and explore the area further.

Distance 1.5km return.
Grade Moderate. Partly off-track and some rock clambering.
Season/s All year.
Resources
  • Stanbury & Clegg, A Field Guide to Aboriginal Rock Engravings (p.43)
  • Fred McCarthy, Recordings of Rock Engravings in the Sydney District in Mankind Vol 3, No 2 (October 1941)

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3 Comments

mattniven · November 25, 2020 at 5:15 am

G’day, enjoying your content
Just wanted to leave a comment regarding the drawing in the cave, I’ve seen several sites that have similar images and the one you show is complete. The head and arms are on the lower right with the body stretched around with the legs on the left. As to what it represents we’ll probably never know but something spiritual would be my guess. None of the drawings in white I’ve seen had much detail other than an outline.
Sure is interesting looking at them and pondering on the magnificent peoples that once occupied the land on which we now live.
Happy Trails
Matt Niven

    oliverd :-) · November 25, 2020 at 6:59 am

    Thanks Matt – that’s good to know. I asked a few people who are more familar with Aboriginal art than me, and they thought part of it may have been lost to erosion. And yes, it’s amazing how much rock art still exists that reflect such a different culture! Appreciate your feedback. I’ll update the blog post!

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