Many Aboriginal engraving sites are scattered over Topham Hill in West Head, an area which seems to have been of great spiritual significance to the Garrigal people. A number of the long rock ledges on both sides of the hill have carvings with a range of motifs.
Topham Hill Kangaroo
On of the lower ledges is a kangaroo or wallaby.
Topham Hill Trig Ledge engravings (McCarthy Mankind Group 17)
Higher up on the north-east of the hill, a series of ledges (Topham Hill Trig Ledge engravings) has shields, boomerangs, fish, a stingray and two koalas (or a koala and an emu).
Topham Hill Trig Eel and Club
On the southern end of the hill are views over West Head to the north, and more tesselated ledges interspersed with dense scrub.
From the eastern side of Topham Hill are views over West Head toward Pittwater and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
Topham Hill Fish (Campbell Plate 17 Fig 6,8 and McCarthy Group 103 S1)
Also on the eastern side of Topham is the Topham Hill Fish, an Aboriginal engraving site that many years ago had a walking track up from West Head Road. Today, just the old National Parks (NPWS) sign remains.
The site includes a school of 30 fish being attacked by a shark, as well as shields, a bird track and two figures a bit further to the west. Many of the fish are fairly distinct, but it’s a spectacular setting for the engravings, with Pittwater visible in the distance.
Topham Trig Red Hands Shelter
Continuing up Topham Trig towards the Trig Station is one of two (known) shelters with art on Topham Hill. The Topham Trig Red Hands Shelter has two very clear hand stencils in red ochre.
Continuing up Topham Hill, there’s another view of West Head Road; on the horizon is the Bahai temple at Ingleside and the city skyline.
There’s no shortage of caves, overhangs and rock formations to explore on the way up.
From time to time there are views of Pittwater through the trees.
There are a couple more potential unrecorded engraving sites higher up the hill – although I really can’t be sure if they are are natural erosion or Aboriginal rock art. I suspect there are many more Aboriginal sites to be “discovered” on Topham Hill.
Topham Trig Station
At the very top of the hill, with an elevation of 223m (only 10m less than the Willunga Trig, the highest point in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park) is Topham Trig Station (TS5653). The trig consists of just a steel post, with the rusted vane lying a few metres away.
There’s distant views of the ocean from the trig station; a few years ago the views were more extensive after a fire went through the area. Dependig on the you route you take up Topham Hill, there are some nice views over West Head and toward Pittwater in the distance from the ridge.
Topham Trig Station Engraving site (McCarthy Mankind Group 16)
Below Topham Hill in a natural amphitheatre is the most significant Aboriginal site. The Topham Trig Station engraving site features Daramulan, a large deity, as well as a man and a woman who is urinating and defecating.
While the Topham Track is a nice walking trail (with a “secret cave” at the end), heading off-track to explore Topham Hill is an even more rewarding experience.
Summary of Topham Hill Aboriginal art sites
|Site Name||No. Motifs||Motif Details||AHIMS ID|
|Topham Hill Trig Ledge (3 sites)||29||Fish, stingray, shields, boomerangs, koalas||45-6-0198|
|Topham Hill Club||1||Bulbous-headed club||45-6-3926|
|Topham Hill Eel||1||Eel||45-6-1875|
|Topham Hill Kangaroo||1||Wallaby or kangaroo||45-6-0895|
|Topham Hill Fish||66||Fish (30), shark, bird, goanna, kangaroo||45-6-0200|
|Topham Hill Man||1||Man with rayed headdress||45-6-3925|
|Topham Trig Red Hands||2||Red hand stencils||45-6-0894|
|Refuge Bay Shelter||2||Red hand stencils (faint)||45-6-3743|