Summary: The Basin Aboriginal Site is a significant, signposted rock engraving site along the Basin Track. It has 53 figures, and interpretative signage.

One of only two sign-posted Aboriginal sites at West Head (the other being the Red Hands Cave), the Basin Aboriginal Site is very accessible, with interpretative signage and distinct engravings. Although the engravings have not been re-grooved, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) undertakes periodic ‘highlighting’ of the engravings so they are more easily seen and less prone to vandalism.

img 7600 lr Basin Aboriginal Site

Among the 53 motifs on the large rock platform, is a “particularly artistic composition” (Ian Sim) of an intertwined couple. Above the couple is a moon or boomerang… early descriptions of the site (McCarthy and Sim) describe a sword club or boomerang above the man and woman, and don’t link the two engravings. However, a later interpretation of the site suggests that the couple is reaching for the moon. In Astronomical Symbolism in Australian Aboriginal Rock Art, Norris and Hamacher argue: “it is unclear why a man and woman should reach up towards a boomerang in the sky. The engraving makes more sense if, as suggested above, the crescent represents a Moon rather than a boomerang, but is still unusual in that the moon is shown with the two horns pointing down, a configuration normally seen only when the moon is barely visible in the early morning or late afternoon. But such a configuration can be seen during an eclipse, and this suggestion is supported by the two figures, one of which partially obscures the other. Such carefully drawn obscuration is unusual in these rock carvings, and in this case may represent the Moon-man obscuring the Sun-woman (or vice-versa) during an eclipse. Other circumstantial evidence for this hypothesis is that the man and woman face toward the northeastern horizon, in the direction a solar eclipse could be seen in the early morning.”

Norris and Hamacher explain: “there is a clear difference between a boomerang-shape and a crescent moon: boomerangs typically have straight sides and rounded ends, whereas the crescent moon always has a curved shape and pointed ends“.

AWAT4009 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

Norris also adds that John Clegg speculated that “a hermaphrodite figure near this engraving may represent the moon-man and sun-woman fully superimposed during a total eclipse.

There are a few male figures around the site: the man below has a fish next to his right leg.

AWAT4020 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

Another man (described as a male anthropomorph figure by Sim) has a long narrow object projecting from his head, and a fish within the outline of his body. A large fish (six feet in length) is next to the man.

At the north-east corner of the site are two more men, and a woman. The largest figure, a man has a four-rayed headdress and is holding a broad fish in his right hand, and a sword club (boomerang) in his left hand. The woman has breasts, but no hands, feet or genitalia. The second man has no eyes or neck, and four pointed figures on each hand.

IMG 7596 LR Basin Aboriginal SiteIMG 7596 LR highlighted Basin Aboriginal Site

AWAT4038 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

Near these three figures is a pair of legs and a “long, conical penis” – the rest of the man’s body is missing.

AWAT4051 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

Another male figure is depicted with a much broader left arm, and an odd-looking right foot.

AWAT4067 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

At the southern end of the site is an arc of seven kangaroos or wallabies, all leaping northward and in close formation.

AWAT3980 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

Next to the leading kangaroo is a large fish (one of six fish in close proximity).

AWAT4074 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

The interactive site map below has links to many of the engravings.

Basin sitemap
Man's Legs Man Male Anthropomorph Man Man and Woman Man with fish Couple Moon (or boomerang) Fish Leaping wallabies Wallaby and Fish

Man's Legs

AWAT4051 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

Two legs and "long, conical penis" - rest of figure is missing

Man

AWAT4069 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

A male figure with broader left arm, and an odd-looking right foot.

Male Anthropomorph

AWAT4026 LR 1 Basin Aboriginal Site

A man (described as a male anthropomorph figure by Sim) has a long narrow object projecting from his head, and a fish within the outline of his body. A large fish (six feet in length) is next to the man.

Man

AWAT4038 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

The second man (in a group of three figures) has no eyes or neck, and four pointed figures on each hand.

Man and Woman

IMG 7596 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

At the north-east corner of the site are two men, and a woman. The largest figure, a man has a four-rayhed headdress and is holding a broad fish in his right hand, and a sword club (boomerang) in his left hand. The woman has breasts, but no hands, feet or genitalia.

Man with fish

AWAT4017 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

A man with a fish next to his right leg.

Couple

AWAT4006 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

An intertwined couple (man and woman): early descriptions of the site (McCarthy and Sim) describe a sword club or boomerang above the man and woman, and don’t suggest any connection between the couple and the boomerang. However, a later interpretation of the site suggests that the couple is reaching for the moon.

Moon (or boomerang)

AWAT4009 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

Moon (or boomerang) above couple. (Boomerangs typically have straight sides and rounded ends, whereas the crescent moon always has a curved shape and pointed ends.)

Fish

AWAT4080 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

Single fish (near boardwalk)

Leaping wallabies

AWAT3981 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

Two wallabies (or kangaroos) in a series of seven

Wallaby and Fish

AWAT4074 LR Basin Aboriginal Site

First wallaby (or kangaroo) in a series of seven, next to a fish

More information on The Basin Aboriginal Site

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Basin Aboriginal art site Web page has some very basic information on the site. An old (1987) flyer has a lot more detail on what can see at this site.

Basin Aboriginal Site - Site Summary

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