The Blackfellows Hands Cave (originally called Blackfellows Hands Rock) was once a meeting place for the Aboriginal tribes of the area (the Wiradjuri, Gundungurra and Dharug people). The enormous rock overhang contains well-preserved Aboriginal rock art – primarily hands and weapons stencilled on the wall. Even without the rock art, it’s an impressive shelter.
…a commodious arched rock shelter, which is liberally endowed with quaint designs of Aboriginal skill in the way of hands, feet and boomerangs that appear in the rock faces.Lithgow Mercury, 1907
The Blackfellows Hands Cave rock art is across multiple panels, with some having a large number of motifs. The art is thought to be between 500 and 1600 years in age.
As well as the boomerang (above) among hand stencis, there is a hafted axe.
The art is quite complex, with red ochre lines behind some of the stencils, which are hard to see without image enhancement.
There are many individual or small groupings of hands across the wall – mostly stencils, but there are also some “positive” prints which is unusual (the photo pairs below show the original and dStretch-enhanced image). The hands range from baby to adult-sized, and the red print is said to be that of an elder distinguished man.
There are some faint charcoal drawings, but it’s hard to make out what they represent.
One motif of a human figure was destroyed by fire.
The Blackfellows Hands Cave was said to have included a separate men’s and women’s area, and a women’s birthing area. A small stream near the end of the shelter would have provided a fairly reliable source of water.
Getting to Blackfellows Hands Cave
Blackfellows Hands Cave is 24km north of Lithgow, along the Blackfellows Hands Road which is off the Wolgan Road to Newnes (it’s about a 20min drive from Lithgow). You’ll first reach a parking areas with a sign that has information on the area. Continue another 800m along the unsealed road to a large carpark and picnic area.
From the locked gate, follow the obvious trail up some steps to the base of a tall cliff. Follow the base of the cliff to the left, and you’ll soon reach the start of amphitheatre-like cliffs that contain the rock art.
The site was formally on Crown Land and is now in the Black Fellows Hands Reserve, a protected Aboriginal Place under the control of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). It’s surrounded by the Gardens of Stone National Park.