From what would have been potentially hundreds of thousands of rock art sites around the Sydney metropolitan area when Europeans colonized Australia, about 10,000 Aboriginal rock art sites are currently registered with the Office of Environment and Heritage. Of these sites, only a handful are sign-posted or publicly documented, in order to protect them. Some engravings are in spots you least expect them; on other occasions huge rock platforms that would seem to be an ideal canvas contain no rock art.

Sadly, while all Aboriginal rock art sites in NSW are under the protection of the National Parks & Wildlife Act 1974 (which makes it illegal to disturb, damage, deface or destroy any relic), they are gradually disappearing. It’s possible that by 2060 there may be almost no Aboriginal rock art left. This is partly though erosion, with engravings losing about half a grain of rock per year – which is equivalent to 1mm every seven years. More disturbingly, between 2005 and 2009 the NSW government approved 541 permits to destroy or disturb Aboriginal heritage sites. (Why Australia’s Aboriginal rock art will disappear.)

The summary below represents the most significant and well-preserved Aboriginal rock art sites in and around Sydney; a separate page for each national park provides a more comprehensive listing of the Aboriginal engravings, cave art and other historically significant indigenous sites.

MAP KEY
Green: Site located on an official bushwalking track (may also be signposted)
Orange: Site reached via an informal track
Red: Site is off-track or not easily reached
** Not all sites below are shown on the map; many locations are not disclosed

Sydney & Sydney Harbour National Park

There are a surprising number of Aboriginal rock art and engraving sites across the inner suburbs of Sydney and around Sydney Harbour – although many are now isolated from their natural environment… some are on golf courses, in small reserves and on private property. A few engravings were re-grooved in the 1950s and 1960s. View all sites.

IMG 5571 LR highlighted Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Balls Head (Waverton)
An engraving of a whale around six metres in length. Within the body of the whale is a faded, but just-visible figure thought to be of either a man curing himself of an illness or a magician enticing the whale to become stranded.
Distance: Right next to the road.
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 3/5
Location: In front of Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability on Balls Head Road

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Grotto Point (Dobroyd Head)
Located along the popular Spit to Manly bushwalk, this signposted site includes boomerangs, fish, sharks, an enormous kangaroo and a fairy penguin. The engravings are about 1,000 years old and have interpretative signage. 
Distance: 0.4km
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 4/5
Location: About 400m return from end of Cutler Road and on the Spit to Manly bushwalk

Royal National Park

Not many Aboriginal rock art sites have survived in Sydney’s south, due to development and erosion from weather and foot traffic. Over 650 sites are preserved in the Royal National Park, where archaeological excavations in the 1960s (amongst the earliest in southeastern Australia) demonstrated how the tools and equipment used by Aboriginal people and their way of life had changed over time.

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Jibbon Head Engravings
The only signposted Aboriginal rock art site in the Royal National Park, the Jibbon Head Engraving Site has an elevated boardwalk with interpretive signage. This significant site has 11 figures, including a large spiritual figure described as a “mumuga”.
Distance: 2km (bushwalk from Bundeena)
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 3.5/5
Location: On Jibbon headland near Bundeena

Lane Cove National Park (Sydney North)

Part of the Sydney Basin, the Lane Cove area had many engraving sites and the Lane Cove Valley provided a wide range of food for multiple Aboriginal language groups. However, with Lane Cove National Park occupying a relatively small area mostly along the river and urban development adjoining all side of the Park, many Aboriginal engraving sites were destroyed over time or are now situated on private land. Over 40 sites have been recorded within the park, but many of these were on the river bank and flooded by the building of the weir in 1938. View all sites.

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Max Allen Track (Killara)
Located right next to the Max Allen Track is a quite clearly defined kangaroo, and some smaller engravings. Both upper and lower limbs of the animal are shown, which is stylistically different to most macropod engravings north of the Georges River.
Distance: 150m return.
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 5/5
Location: Next to Max Allen track

Garigal National Park (Sydney North) and surrounds

Garigal National Park has extensive Aboriginal rock art sites, with over 300 Aboriginal sites recorded – the Guringai people are the traditional custodians of this land. Heritage sites include cave art, rock engravings, shelters, middens and grinding grooves. Many sites are also preserved in Crown land and land managed by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council. View all Garigal National Park sites.

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Bantry Bay (Frenchs Forest)
An enormous Aboriginal rock art site, the Bantry Bay Aboriginal site was the first to be visited by Europeans in 1788. There are 82 figures in total, including mundoes, people, animals, fish, shields, a canoe, boomerangs, circles, stone axes and clubs, snakes and whales.
Distance: 1.8km return.
Ease of Access: Easy.

Quality: 5/5
Location: Access via Engraving Track from end of Bantry Bay Road

1X3A2049 LR highlighted Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Gumbooya (Allambie Heights)
A significant Aboriginal rock engraving site, Gumbooya Reserve has 70 figures (many are very weathered or no longer visible) in three groups. The site includes four whales, although some of them have been lost to weathering.
Distance: Next to road
Ease of Access: Easy.

Quality: 4/5
Location: Access via Engraving Track from end of Bantry Bay Road

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Moon Rock (Belrose)
A significant Aboriginal cultural site, Moon Rock was declared an Aboriginal Place in 2016. The site has over 50 engravings, including tools and weapons used and animals caught and eaten in the area. The name of the site is derived from rare engravings that are thought to depict the eight phases of the moon, beginning with the creator Biaime’s boomerang.
Distance: 3.5km return.
Ease of Access: Moderate.

Quality: 5/5
Location: Access via Slippery Dip Trail

AWAT0703 LR highlighted Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Wheeler Heights Aboriginal Site (Cromer Heights)
A large site documented by W.D. Campbell in 1899, who described it as “one of the finest groups the Writer has come across”. The carvings include a line of mundoes and a successful kangaroo hunt. 
Distance: 2.2km return.
Ease of Access: Easy.

Quality: 4/5
Location: Located just off the Cromer Trail

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (Sydney North)

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, located in Sydney’s north, is the largest park in the Sydney metropolitan area and the and the second oldest national park in Australia. Named after its original inhabitants, the Kuringgai or Guringai Aboriginal people, it’s rich in Aboriginal history with about 800 known Aboriginal engraving sites – Ku-ring-gai Chase is one of the areas nominated by Australian Geographic in Australia’s top 7 Aboriginal rock art sites.

Ku-ring-gai Chase has a number of Aboriginal heritage sites which are accessible, and thousands more which are hard to reach, or are yet to be recorded.  View all Aboriginal Engravings in Ku-ring-gai Chase

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America Bay Track (West Head)
There are multiple sites along the America Bay Track , including one featuring a large Daramulan, and another with a five-metre long orca, as well as a female figure, stingray and goanna.
Distance: 0.3km return.
Ease of Access: Easy/Moderate

Quality: 5/5
Location: Main site is just off America Bay Track

AWAT4000 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Basin Aboriginal Site (West Head)
A well-preserved and popular engraving site, with interpretative signage and a divided walkway to keep people off the engravings. The many figures include people, kangaroos, fish, and symbols. View sketch.
Distance: 0.8km return.
Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Signposted side-track off The Basin Trail

AWAT0051 highlighted LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Bobbin Head Track
A short side-track to a signposted Aboriginal engraving site; many of the figures are very indistinct. Continue a bit further to another rock with a clearer engraving. Across the multiple sections there are a goanna, greater glider, two birds, two emus, a wallaby or large tiger quoll and some figures.
Distance: 3.2km return from Bobbin Head Road. Ease of Access: Easy/Moderate
Quality: 3/5 (many are very faint)

Location: Just off Bobbin Head Trail (there is a sign)

AWAT5943 LR highlighted Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Elvina Aboriginal Site (West Head)
One of the largest engraving sites in Australia; the drawings include a giant whale, an emu and a Daramulan creator spirit with his emu-wife. View sketch.
Distance: 0.5km return.
Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Elvina Track carpark near start of West Head Road (on the right)

Aboriginal engraving of man or woman near Gibberagong Track

Gibberagong Track (Bobbin Head)
Opposite a signposted Aboriginal engraving (of a single human figure) are a number of axe-sharpening grooves. There is also a fish and small shield nearby.
Distance: 1.6km return from Bobbin Head.
Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 4/5
Location: Both sides of the Gibberagong Track / Rainforest walk. 

Montage1 stitch edited LR highlighted Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Mt Ku-ring-gai
A small Aboriginal rock art site sandwiched between the old Pacific Highway and the railway line and accessed by an unmarked track. The site features three figures and the longest single line of mundoes (footprints) ever recorded.
Distance: 0.1km return
Ease of Access: Easy/Moderate

Quality: 4/5

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Red Hands Cave (West Head)
Regarded as one of the best showcases of Aboriginal art in the area, the cave is reached via the Red Hands Cave walking track. The hands are thought to have been painted between 500 and 1600 years ago using a mixture of ochre and water.
Distance: 0.6km return.
Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Trail starts from Resolute Picnic Area

AWAT7145 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Resolute Track “Garigal Site” (West Head)
A small, sign-posted site with well-preserved Aboriginal engravings depicting a man, shark/whale and two eels. There is a second site 80m further down the track, with a shark and some eels. View sketch.
Distance: 0.9km return.
Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Just off Resolute Track (signposted)

Engraving of a man at Spirits Rock (Cowan Trail) - highlighted

Spirits Rock, Cowan Trail (Duffys Forest)
A signposted rock platform near the end of the Cowan Trail has numerous engravings (most fairly distinct) including a dozen figures, shields, an assortment of fish and a very large carving of Baiame.
Distance: 8km return.
Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 5/5
Location: End of Cowan Trail

Berowra Valley National Park (Sydney North)

Berowra Valley National Park is within the traditional country of the Guringai people to the east of Berowra Creek and the Dharug people to the west. It contains a number of significant Aboriginal heritage sites, including engraving sites, cave art, artefacts, middens and campfire sites. View all Berowra Valley sites.

AWAT5777 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Benowie Track (Berowra Waters)
An unusual Aboriginal engraving site on a vertical rock surface, which includes a Baiame figure, and what is probably a seated Daramulum figure with an infant or small child on his lap. 
Distance: 0.1km
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 3/5
Location: Near Benowie Track.

Large Daramulan figure at Currawong Road site

Currawong Road
A large rock platform features a six-metre Daramulum figure, who is holding an axe (not easily visible) and has a band across his penis (suggesting circumcision, which has been argued is generally not performed in eastern NSW), or a painted band. Another male human and a half-finished figure are no longer visible. 
Distance: 100m walk from road. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 3/5
Location: Bushwalking track off Currawong Road

AWAT6166 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Westleigh Aboriginal Site
A signposted site next on Quarter Sessions Road is a rock slab with an engraving depictig a pair of leaping kangaroos. The rock was relocated here from a nearby housing development to save it from destruction. Nearby are some more engravings in their original location.
Distance: On side of road.
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 2/5
Location: Adjacent to 280 Quarter Sessions Road (Westleigh)

Central Coast

The Central Coast – the traditional lands of the Darkinjung and Kuringgai / Guringai people – has one of the highest concentrations of Aboriginal rock art. The rock art sites include animals, birds, sea creatures, bird tracks, human footsteps, male and female figures, hunting weapons and ancestral beings. Many of the sites were documented by W. D. Campbell in 1899, and later by Fred McCarthy and Ian Sim.

An article by Coast Magazine discusses some of the significant rock art sites of ther Central Coast, accompanied by photos from this blog.

For a more comprehensive list of sites, refer to the Aboriginal Rock Art on the Central Coast page.

Brisbane Water National Park

Four Aboriginal rock art sites are signposted by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service: Bulgandry, Girrakool, Howe Aboriginal Area and the Mooney Mooney Aboriginal Area. 

sim bulgandryman Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Bulgandry (Kariong)
A timber boardwalk with interpretative signage circles a small site, which has many engravings. The site is named after “Bulgandry Man” (left), who has an elaborate head dress and holds a round object in his right hand. There’s also a kangaroo, octopus, shark, fish and an eel. Next to the path are some axe-sharpening grooves. 
Distance: 0.5km from carpark.
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 5/5
Location: Off Woy Woy Road (look for signs)

AWAT1782 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Howe Aboriginal Area (Somersby)
One of the most important ceremonial Aboriginal rock engraving sites in the Sydney area the Howe Aboriginal area was thought to represent Daramulan directing two men to kill the Rainbow-Serpents, which are under his control. The figures at the principal site include an enormous Daramulan, three Rainbow-Serpents and two men.
Distance: 300m walk along service trail. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Grants Road, Somersby

Engraving of a man along the Girrakool Track - highlighted

Girrakool (Somersby)
An engraving of a man, located on a rock platform along the well-marked Girrakool Loop walking track. It can be a a bit hard to see.
Distance: 150m walk from carpark.
Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 2/5
Location: Girakool Picnic Area at the end of Girakool Road.

Large anthropomorphic figure at Mooney Mooney Aboriginal Area

Mooney Mooney Aboriginal Area (Somersby)
Created in December 1979 and adjoining Brisbane Water National Park, this Aboriginal site protects a number of engravings which are on an enormous rock platform. The figures include an enormous figure with an elaborate head dress, as well as fish, a kangaroo, eels and a lizard.
Distance: 200m walk from Old Pacific Highway. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Just off Old Pacific Highway, Somersby

Bouddi National Park

Bouddi National Park and the surrounding area has over 100 Aboriginal sites, including rock shelters, rock engravings, middens and grinding grooves. Only two sites (Daleys Point Aboriginal Site and the North West Ridge) are signposted; many sites are close to walking tracks they abut hidden from view.

To learn more, Girri Girra runs guided tours in Bouddi National Park which includes a visit to some indigenous rock art sites.

IMG 3292 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Daleys Point Aboriginal Site 
Below the Daleys Point Aboriginal Site has a large amount of well-preserved engravings (mostly consisting of aquatic animals) as well as a long cave which has Aboriginal drawings in charcoal.
Distance: 3.2km return from Wards Hill carpark (Killcare Heights).
Ease of Access: Moderate

Quality: 4/5
Location: End of Daleys Point Trail. Site is signposted.

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North West Ridge Aboriginal Site
There is a large orca or whale and a dolphin on a large rock platform – they are quite weathered, and only the orca can be seen in its entirety. View sketch.
Distance: 2.2km from The Scenic Road.
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 2/5
Location: End of North West Ridge Trail

McPherson State Forest / Warre Warren Aboriginal Place

The McPherson State Forest, near Mangrove Mountain, contains over 200 mapped sites of cave paintings, rock engravings and grinding grooves. Although a network of forestry trails criss-cross the area, none of the Aboriginal sites are signposted or easily accessible. The Warre Warren Aboriginal Place is within McPherson State Forest.

AWAT5674 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Corroboree Shelter
One of a cluster of four shelters within the McPherson State Forest, which has Aboriginal drawings and stencils across two alcoves. These include a row of 13 human figures with upraised arms.
Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 5/5

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Site of the Emus
This remote Aboriginal rock art site contains a number of figures – the most distinctive are a set of three emus drawn in red ochre.
Ease of Access: Moderate/Hard
Quality: 4.5/5

AWAT6782 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Snakes Cave
A shelter with spectacular Aboriginal drawings in the McPherson State Forest: the figures include snakes, macropods and an echidna in charcoal, red ochre and white ochre. The largest panel contains at least 30 figures, many of them overlapping.
Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 4.5/5

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Swinton’s Cave
This sacred and significant rock shelter depicts generations of markings and drawings, with 857 motifs (mainly handprints) – the largest assemblage of motifs of any currently known sites in NSW. Above the cave is a set of axe grinding grooves. 
Ease of Access: Restricted area
Quality: 5/5

Popran National Park

Located north of the Hawkesbury River about 50km north of Sydney, one of the major reasons for Popran National Park’s dedication as a protected reserve was its high density of Aboriginal sites. Over 800 sites have been recorded, the majority being engravings and grinding grooves. The park covers an area used by the Ku-ring-gai, Darkinjung and possibly also the Dharug people, and it is thought that a travel route used by both inland and coastal Aboriginal groups traversed the area which is now Popran National Park. View all Popran National Park sites.

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Emerald Pool – engravings and grinding grooves
Remarkably well-preserved engravings of two fish alongside Hominy Creek with clearly visible peck-mark. Nearby are a significant number of axe grinding or sharpening grooves.
Distance: 10km return or loop. 
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 4/5
Location: Downstream of Emerald Pool (Emerald Pool Loop bushwalk)

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Upside Down Man Cave
A cave shelter with over 274 motifs dating back to around 1500 AD, which represent three different engraving types. A pecked upside-down-man (one of three male anthropomorphs) at the far end of the far shelter is the source of the shelter’s name.
Distance: 1.8km return
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 5/5
Location: Calga section of Popran NP

Maroota and Marramarra National Park

Maroota is located to the north-west of Sydney, just south of the Dharug and Yengo National Parks. It has a high concentration of (known) Aboriginal sites, with 12 engraving sites being located in one square kilometre at Maroota south of the Hawkesbury River; significantly higher than the Mangrove Creek valley which was also systematically sampled. The original inhabitants of the Maroota area were the Darug (or Dharug) people. View all Maroota sites.

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Devil’s Rock
One of the most significant sites in the Sydney Basin, Devil’s Rock has over 67 figures, situated between engravings of Baiame and Daramulan.
Access: Restricted
Quality: 4/5. Varies – some engravings very indistinct. 
Location: Near Laughtondale Gully Road

AWAT6244 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Canoelands 1
A spectacular and significant Aboriginal site which was of great importance in the ritual and mythology of the local tribe and includes cave art in different pigments dating over six periods.
Ease of Access: Moderate/Hard
Quality: 5/5. Over 130 motifs.

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Canoelands 2
A significant Aboriginal rock art site in the Canoelands area, which has about 50 motifs in charcoal, yellow and red ochre, including a large kangaroo and many hand stencils. Nearby are three axe grinding grooves.
Ease of Access: Moderate

Quality: 4.5/5

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Coat of Arms Cave
The Coats of Arms (or Koh) shelter in the Canoelands area contains considerable Aboriginal rock art, and has been associated with the Canoelands 1 and Canoelands 2 sites. The relatively small shelter has over 50 motifs.
Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 4.5/5

1X3A0345 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Layburys Creek axe grinding grooves
A significant Aboriginal rock site with an incredibly large number of axe grinding grooves (>250), this site along Layburys Creek may have been an “axe making factory” using stones brought up the Hawkesbury River (Deerubbin). Nearby are two shelters with rock art.
Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 5/5

Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area

The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is the traditional homelands of six groups of indigenous people – Darug, Gundungurra, Wiradjuri, Wanaruah, Darkinjung and Tharawal. It has many culturally significant indigenous sites, including a number of signposted and accessible rock art sites. While over a thousand Aboriginal heritage sites have been recorded, the rugged and remote landscape of this vast area means many sites have yet to be “discovered”.

Blue Mountains National Park (and surrounding areas)

Originally inhabited by by two major indigenous tribes – the Gundungurra and Dharug people – the Blue Mountains National Park protects many indigenous art sites, as well as ceremonial and meeting places. There are a small number of signposted sites, among the hundreds of unpublicised sites, with some of these being in Council parks and reserves.

Kings Tableland Aboriginal Place

Kings Tableland Aboriginal Place

One of the most-visited indigenous sites in the Blue Mountains (after the Red Hands Cave), the Kings Tableland Aboriginal Place has over 120 grinding grooves mostly located around potholes in the sandstone platform, and two bird/emu tracks carved into a rock shelter.

Distance: 1km walk (approx) for both sites
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 4.5/5
Location: Trail from end of Queen Elizabeth Drive in Wentworth Falls

1X3A1867 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Lawson Kangaroo Aboriginal engraving
A carving of a wallaby or kangaroo on a small rock platform on Kangaroo St in Lawson is one the most easily accessible Aboriginal rock art sites in the Blue Mountains (it’s not within the national park).
Distance: Next to road.
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 3.5/5
Location: Parking bay on Kangaroo St

AWAT9945 LR Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Red Hands Cave (Glenbrook)
One of the most well-preserved and accessible Aboriginal rock art sites in the Blue Mountains, featuring close to a hundred hand stencils in red, yellow and white on the back wall of the cave.
Distance: 1km.
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 4.5/5
Location: Bushwalking trail from end of Red Hands Firetrail

Ticehurst Park Aboriginal engraving site

Ticehurst Park Aboriginal site (Faulconbridge)

Most likely representing an emu hunt, the Ticehurst Park Aboriginal engraving site in Faulconbridge has three very distinct emu carvings, as well as six mundoes (footprints) and a number of axe grinding grooves.

Distance: Next to road
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 4.5/5
Location: End of Jeffs Road, Faulconbridge

Wollemi National Park

Wollemi National Park has about 300 recorded Aboriginal heritage sites in the national park, but the rugged and remote topography means there are likely to be many more not recorded. Some of the most spectacular and spiritually significant sites in NSW are in the Wollemi, including Eagle’s Reach (a sandstone shelter with drawings and stencils) and Gallery Rock (a rock engraving site). View all Wollemi NP sites.

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Cave of Many Hands
Located just outside the Wollemi National Park, this Aboriginal rock art shelter has over a hundred hand stencils.
Ease of Access: Restricted
Quality: 4.5/5

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Sheep Cave
A long rock shelter with spectacular Aboriginal cave paintings in red ochre: four large figures are said to represent quails, painted significantly larger than their real size.
Distance: 22km.
Ease of Access: Hard

Quality: 5/5

Yengo National Park (Lower Hunter Valley)

Yengo National Park was an important spiritual and cultural place for the Darkinjung and Wonnarua People for thousands of years, and 640 Aboriginal cultural sites are recorded in the park and nearby areas. Being a largely untracked wilderness area, many of these are difficult to access. It is said that Baiame, the ancestral being, stepped off from Burragurra to the flat top of Mount Yengo and back into the sky when he finished his creation. View all Yengo National Park sites.

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Devils Rock (Burragurra)
Accessible by four-wheel drive (or by walking), this deeply spiritual site is located along the Boree track. In the distance is Mt Yengo and Mt Wareng. The rock itself is covered with carvings including the spirit footprints of Biame, who is said to have entered and left the earth from here. 
Distance: 9km if walking / 200m return from 4WD track. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 3/5
Location: Boree Track, 23km (45min) from Laguna. 4WD may be needed for last 9km.

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Finchley Cultural Walk
A short walk with informative signs leads to the Finchley Aboriginal engravings, considered to be one of the best publicvly accessoble Aboriginal sites in Australia. Includes multiple figures and an emu.
Distance: 400m.
Ease of Access: Easy

Quality: 4/5
Location: Near junction of Yango and Finchley Track, about 17km (30min) from Laguna

1X3A1624 LR ywe Aboriginal Rock Art around Sydney

Spirits Cave
A large sandstone shelter in the Macdonald River district, Spirits Cave comntains an “unusually wide range of subjects, including, in addition to the more usual ones, such as anthropomorphs and macropods, species such as tortoise, lyre bird, eagle, wading bird and owl, subjects which are generally rare in the rock art of the New South Wales Central Coast region.
Ease of Access: Hard
Quality: 5/5

Just outside the Gardens of Stone National Park (it’s in the Maiyingu Marragu – Black Fellows Hands Reserve) is the Blackfellows Hand Cave, which has an impressive array of stencils in an equally impressive shelter.

Locations and Size

The average engraving site contains 10.9 carvings, and sites with larger numbers of motifs are rare (only 8.5% of engraving sites have more than 30 motifs present and 0.6% of sites have more than 100 motifs present). The largest site – Burragurra – has 174 engravings.

  • Some sites (19.1%) contain only one engraving
  • The majority of sites (83.4%) have less than 16 engravings
  • About two-thirds (66.1%) have less than eight motifs (Figure 5.1)

The most common location for engraving sites are ridgelines (55.9%) and on the side of hills (41.2%). They are relatively rare on the bottom of valleys (2.8%) – and almost half (45%) of engravings in valley bottom locations were vertical engraving sites, on boulders adjacent to major waterways.

Reference: Dreamtime Superhighway (Chapter 5)

Rock Art Engraving styles

The rock art of the Sydney Basin is defined as the Simple Figurative style. Figurative in that there is a high level of recognition between the art and a ‘natural’ assemblage (human figures, animals, birds, fish) and Simple in that a minimum amount of detail is provided:

The style is dominated by figurative motifs … the majority of (these) … conform(ing) to a pattern of crude naturalism. Whether the motif is engraved or painted, in outline or solid form, it usually consists of a very simple silhouette of a human or animal model. Most portrayals are strongly standardised. Human beings are depicted frontally, animals and birds in profile, snakes and lizards from above.
An archaeological approach to the study of Australian rock art, L Maynard, 1976).

Two “artistic units” were defined within the broader Sydney region: one of these being located around the Upper Hawkesbury and the other south of Botany Bay. Some general observations that apply to engravings across the Sydney region include:

  • Human figures are sometimes depicted in profile, while some animals (e.g. the echidna) are not always
  • In rock paintings Baiame is often depicted as a human figure with a large head-dress or hairstyle, with lines of footsteps nearby. He is always painted in front view; Daramulum is drawn in profile.
  • Macropods and other zoomorphs (figures relating to a deity or god or representations of an animal form) are depicted in profile with all four legs south of the Georges River, and with only two legs to the north (known exceptions being a macropod located just south of Port Jackson with four legs and another near the Lane Cove River (Max Allen Track in Killara)
  • Whales south of the Georges River are less highly stylised than their northern
    counterparts, with few containing decorative infill or anatomical details (such as gills or eyes)
  • Echidnas north of the Georges River are depicted in profile and to the south they are depicted from beneath as ‘pelts’.

References: Dreamtime Superhighway (Chapter 5) & Wikipedia.

On-line Aboriginal Rock Art Resources

For more information on some of the most influential Aboriginal rock art researchers and recorders – and their publications – have a look at Australian Aboriginal anthropolgists.

The Web sites below offer more photos and details on many of the engraving sites summarised above, as well as additional information on the Aboriginal rock art.

Aboriginal Engraving Web sites

Research, References and Interesting Reading

Books

Two of the the most comprehensive books on sites around Sydney are A Field Guide to Aboriginal Rock Engravings by Stanbury & Clegg (which is no longer in print) and Aboriginal carvings of Port Jackson and Broken Bay by W. D. Campbell (written in 1899). More recent books tend to focus on a smaller set of engraving sites.

A Field Guide to Aboriginal Rock Engravings: with Special ...
5/5. A comprehensive guide to Aboriginal engravings. Sadly, it’s been out of print for a while. 

Aboriginal-Sydney
3/5. A good introduction to Aboriginal culture; some rock art sites listed.  Purchase

Sydneys-Aboriginal-Past
5/5. Very detailed guide to Aboriginal history, with detailed reports on a small number of engraving sites. Purchase

  • Aboriginal carvings of Port Jackson and Broken Bay by W. D. Campbell (1899) – available on-line or as a PDF download

  • Dreamtime Superhighway (Sydney Basin Rock Art and Prehistoric Information Exchange) by Jo McDonald – available as a PDF download

  • Rock engravings of the Sydney-Hawkesbury District (Part 1) by F.D. McCarthy (1959) available as a PDF download
  • Rock engravings of the Sydney-Hawkesbury District (Part 2) by F.D. McCarthy (1959) available on-line or as a PDF download

 

3 Comments

yeverett · July 14, 2020 at 8:43 am

Muogamarra Nature Reserve has some wonderful engravings. It’s only open a few weekends a year in Spring. Put it in your diary and go on a guided walk!

    oliverd :-) · July 14, 2020 at 9:22 am

    yes thanks – I was thinking I’d visit this year if it opens – haven’t been for quite a few years!

Devines Hill and Finchs Line (Dharug NP) – Hiking the World · January 10, 2021 at 11:02 am

[…] a quick stop to look at the Maroota Aboriginal engraving site, we take Wisemans Ferry across the Hawkesbury River for a short loop walk that’s focused on […]

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