Summary: The Elvina Aboriginal Site is easily accessed from the Elvina Track at West Head. This significant site contains over 50 figures, including an enormous six metrs high deity figure.

One of the most impressive and accessible Aboriginal engravings, the Elvina Aboriginal Site lies just off the Elvina Track at West Head. A narrow and unsignposted walking track leads to an enormous tessellated platform (the site was originally called “The Tesellated Pavement”).

AWAT5941 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

The Elvina engravings include a “large spiritual ancestor of the Daramulan type in the composite guise of hero and emu” which indicates that this is a ritual site of great importance. The emu is the totem of Daramulan, and he is associated with the two emus here. This group was regarded not as an isolated entity, but a part of many interconnected sites across the Lambert peninsula, including the Topham Hill Daramulan and the nearby Coal and Candle Creek engraving site.

Elvina Aboriginal Site

Emu in the Sky

The Elvina Aboriginal site is thought to have an astronomical connection – and forms part of a body of evidence that the Aboriginal people had a deep understanding of the motion of objects in the sky. One of the best-known Aboriginal constellations is the “Emu in the Sky”, which is formed by the dark patches between stars in the Milky Way. It was suggested by Hugh Cairns in 1996 that the engraving of the large emu at Elvina represents the Emu in the Sky – and not a real emu. This is based on how the legs trail behind the emu, a position that is unnatural for a real emu but is similar to The Emu in the Sky. Even more intriguing is that the time of year when the Emu in the Sky is correctly oriented to the engraving of the emu, is the same time that real-life emus are laying their eggs.

Emu in the Sky Elvina Aboriginal Site
Source: Barnaby Norris in Astronomical Symbolism in Australian Aboriginal Rock Art

The link between traditional Aboriginal Australian culture and astronomy is explored by Ray P. Norris and Duane W. Hamacher in “Astronomical Symbolism in Australian Aboriginal Rock Art” (Rock Art Research. 2010. Download PDF.)

Elvina Aboriginal Site engravings

Over fifty figures are scattered over the broad expanse of rock, which were documented by McCarthy in six groups or series.

Elvina Site
Shields Shield Small Man Koala Fish Shield and Fish Goanna Shield Boomerang Group of Fish Two fish Adult Emu Young Emu Whale Ancestral Being Eel and Shield

Shields

AWAT6005 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Two of three shields in a group

Shield

AWAT5991 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

One of three shields in a group (this one is the most weathered)

Small Man

AWAT5985 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

A man only about three feet in height, "in a stepping posture, with his hands above his head". He has a tiny half-oval head, no eyes or neck, arms upraised. He has a straight right leg with bifurcated foot vertically downward, left leg bent at pointed knee, concave and conical foot outward as if stamping or tapping the ground in front of him, conical penis".

Koala

AWAT5980 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

A"koala bear" posed as though climbing a tree and with a large human-shaped foot.

Fish

AWAT5947 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Large fish (6' 6" long)

Shield and Fish

AWAT5944 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Shield and fish with "pointed head, no eyes good tail".

Goanna

AWAT5973 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Goanna with a "long, conical head" and fin-like legs.

Shield

AWAT5974 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

A "poorly shaped" shield

Boomerang

AWAT5970 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Narrow boomerang (18" long)

Group of Fish

AWAT5959 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Group of fish; are all different shapes and sizes.

Two fish

AWAT5968 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Pair of bream-like fish

Adult Emu

AWAT5911 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Large emu (11 feet high) standing upright, with "an irregular neck as if swallowing food"

Young Emu

AWAT5929 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Young emu with a conical head bent downwards as if feeding and three pointed toes on its foot.

Whale

AWAT5934 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

A large whale (25 feet long) with long, conical head and a small (open) mouth

Ancestral Being

AWAT5920 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

An enormous ancestral (19 feet long), which has a human foot on its hind leg, and has a bag of magical quartz crystals held or suspended from its fore-limb. A head decorated with a rayed head-dress was added later, and is superimposed on the long neck of of the deity.

Eel and Shield

AWAT1182 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

An eel (with four bars across its body) and a man with upraised arms and a long straight-sided body.

Series 1 (A)

At the south-west edge of the site are three shields, which vary in shape and size.

About 15m away on the edge of the platform is a man only about three feet in height, “in a stepping posture, with his hands above his head”. He has a tiny half-oval head.

AWAT5985 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Nearby is a “koala bear” with fingers and toes. Posed as though climbing a tree, the koala a large human-shaped foot.

AWAT5980 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

In the south-west corner of this group are a group of 13 figures in close proximity. These include a large fish (6′ 6″ in length).

AWAT5947 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Next to the fish is a shield and another fish with “pointed head, no eyes good tail”.

AWAT5944 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

A goanna is depicted with a “long, conical head” and fin-like legs.

AWAT5973 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

A group or school of six fish are swimming together (the fish are all different shapes and sizes) and a “pair of bream-like fish”.

In this group is also a small and narrow boomerang (18″ long) and a shield which is “poorly shaped”.

Series 2 (B)

On a large rock surface in the north-western corner (separated by a narrow crevice) is a goanna.

Series 3 (C)

Located at the northern end of the same platfirm as Series 1, this is considered the most significant group. Three figures close together comprise an ancestral being (deity) and two emus. The larger of the two emus (“The Emu in the Sky”) is eleven feet high.

AWAT5908 LR Elvina Aboriginal SiteAWAT5907 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

It’s depicted standing upright and with “an irregular neck as if swallowing food”. It has a slightly curved leg with three big, pointed toes.

AWAT5911 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Facing away from this large, or adult, emu is a young emu. It has a conical head bent downwards as if feeding and three pointed toes on its foot.

AWAT5929 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

Completing the trio of figures is an enormous ancestral, described by McCarthy as “a majestic figure perched above the emus” and “an extraordinary and unique spritual ancestor figure”. It’s hard to photograph, being 19 feet long! The deity has a human foot on its hind leg, a bag of magical quartz crystals held or suspended from its fore-limb.

AWAT5920 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

The figure has a long neck; a head decorated with a rayed head-dress was added later, and is superimposed on the neck.

AWAT5926 LR Elvina Aboriginal Site

A short distance away is a large whale, which has a “large conical head with mouth open”. It has two dorsal fins and two ventral fins, and a good tail.

Near the whale are another two figures: an eel (with four bars across its body) and a man with upraised arms and a long straight-sided body.

Series 4 (D)

About 40 feet to the north on a rock in the scrub is a leaping wallaby and a pair of mammals (probably rock wallabies).

Series 5 (E)

A strip of low vegetation separates these figures from Series 2 and 3. This group has an eel, broad fish, a man and a shield.

Series 6 (F)

Situated on another rock outcrop to the east, this group has eight figures including three fish, part of a whale and an oval.

More information on Elvina Aboriginal Site

Elvina Aboriginal Site - Site Summary

Aboriginal Sites by National Park

Over a hundred Aboriginal sites have been recorded in the Hornsby region, with many of these in the Berowra Valley National Park and around the suburb of Berowra.
Over 40 sites have been recorded within the park; many were located along the river bank and were flooded by the building of the weir in 1938.
Many sites Aboriginal engraving sites across the inner suburbs of Sydney have been destroyed or are very weatheredl. The sites which remain are isolated from their natural environment.
There are over 350 Aboriginal engraving and sites recorded in the Central Coast region, many of these in the Brisbane Water National Park.
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.
Located to the north-west of Sydney, just south of the Dharug and Yengo National Parks, Maroota has a high concentration of (known) Aboriginal sites. Many more Aboriginal heritage sites are located in the Marramarra National Park. The original inhabitants of the area were the Darug people.
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