Summary: A significant Aboriginal cultural site, the Moon Rock Aboriginal Site was declared an Aboriginal Place in 2016. The site has over 50 engravings, including tools and weapons used and to catch animals that were eaten in the area.

The Moon Rock Aboriginal Site is one of the most fascinating and significant sites around Sydney, consisting of three groups of rock engravings along a thin, rocky ridge. It’s very easy to reach via the Slippery Dip Trail, or it can be combined into the Moon Rock Loop bushwalk or the longer Slippery Dip Loop. The site is thought to describe a hunting scene:

Hunting and fishing are the two themes of this fine group about which Campbell remarked that it was the finest specimen of picture-story work that it had been his luck to find.

McCarthy (1983)
Moon Rock
Hunter with echidna / turtle on back Man with overlapping fish & kangaroo Man with oval on head Goanna Striped Eel (1) Striped Eel (2) Three Eels Long fish spear Large fish FIsh and Bird Bulbous headed club Sword club and a line of circles and ovals Whale Eel (weathered)

Hunter with echidna / turtle on back

AWAT0688 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

A successful hunter is carrying either a large echidna or turtle on his shoulder

Man with overlapping fish & kangaroo

AWAT0693 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

Man with oval on head

AWAT0715 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

The oval was originally thought to be a head-dress or represent a waterhole frequented by eels (there are actually two men superimposed on one another, but one of the men is very weathered). Later interpretation of the site suggests this is Baiame, with a moon on his head.

Goanna

AWAT0710 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

A a four-foot long goanna with a "long pointed head bent to the right, no eyes, long neck, 2 very long forelegs"  which has been struck with a pointed throwing club.

Striped Eel (1)

AWAT0747 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

Two eels are swimming head to tail and touching one another

Striped Eel (2)

AWAT0748 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

Two eels are swimming head to tail and touching one another

Three Eels

AWAT0705 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

Three eels engraved near a shallow pool

Long fish spear

AWAT0723 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

Large fish

AWAT0694 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

FIsh and Bird

AWAT0725 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

A flying bird is attacking three fish, which are swimming head to tail

Bulbous headed club

AWAT0749 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

Sword club and a line of circles and ovals

AWAT0681 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

A sword club and a line of circles and ovals has been more recently interpreted as depicting the eight phases of the moon, beginning with the creator Biame's boomerang.

Whale

AWAT0658 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

Eel (weathered)

AWAT0654 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

Main Group (Campbell Fig 2 / McCarthy Group 36)

The site was first documented by W.D. Campbell in 1899, and later by Fred McCarthy, who described the main group as “A successful hunter is carrying either a large echidna or turtle on his shoulder – it is a puzzling figure because of the two long fore limbs which are too long for an echidna but the head and hind resemble those of the echidna and as it is a bush setting it is probably the latter animal; likewise the second man appears to be carrying a large fish upright on his right shoulder but he is also overlapping a leaping kangaroo…

AWAT0693 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

Nearby is another man who is “interwoven with a fish and a leaping kangaroo; he has a pointed head, no eyes, straight right arm downward and outspread left arm curved slightly upward… a broad bodied fish is engraved, vertically, over his right shoulder”.

IMG 5976 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal SiteIMG 5976 LR highlighted Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

A third man has large oval above his head; the oval was originally thought to be a head-dress or represent a waterhole frequented by eels (there are actually two men superimposed on one another, but one of the men is very weathered). Later interpretation of the site suggests this is Baiame, with a moon on his head.

IMG 5975 LR Moon Rock Aboriginal SiteIMG 5975 LR highlighted 1 Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

The two eels are right next to the man, swimming head to tail and touching one another – they are seven and eight foot long.

Above the eels is a bulbous headed club.

Next to one of the eels is a four-foot long goanna with a “long pointed head bent to the right, no eyes, long neck, 2 very long forelegs with feet like ends right one flat and round ended, left one convex and pointed, short hind legs, one shorter (and bent) than the other…“. It has been struck with a pointed throwing club.

Another three eels are engraved near a shallow pool in the rock platform “in a close parallel set”.

Alongside the eels is a long fish spear.

There are several fish around the Moon Rock site: one on it’s own, and another three swimming head to tail.

Overlapping the three fish is a flying bird: “a rounded head, no beak, no eyes, on a neck curved to the right, oval body, conical ended wings, rounded rump, 2 broadly grooved legs with three toes on each one projecting from the side of the body just behind one wing“. The bird is attacking the three fish. It’s also been described as a penguin attacking the birds.

Perhaps the most interesting and less obvious aspect of the Moon Rock Aboriginal Site is what McCarthy described as a sword club and a line of circles and ovals. More recent interpretation of the site – and the reason for the name of this site – is that these carvings are said to depict the eight phases of the moon, beginning with the creator Biame’s boomerang. It supports other research that demonstrates Aboriginal astronomical knowledge, and an association with astronomy and Dreamtime stories. “The engravings depict the creation story of Biame.. This is when the world changed forever, the sky lifted and life began”.

Boomerang and moon at Moon Rock siteIMG 5971 LR highligted Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

Across the Moon Rock Aboriginal Site are 40 mundoes (footprints).

At the eastern end of the rock platform (and not documented by Campbell) is a dolphin.

Whale and Eel (Campbell Fig 2)

A bit further east on the same rock platform is a whale, which was described as “very weathered”, but is fairly clearly carved.

Next to the whale is an eel, which is very weathered.

Getting to the Moon Rock Aboriginal Site

The signposted site ia along the Slippery Dip Trail, which is off Morgan Road (Ingleside). You can drive a short distance down the firetrail until you reach a locked gate, but there is very limited parking here. From the locked gate continue 1.1km along the firetrail to reach the start of the bushwalking trail up to the Moon Rock Aboriginal Site (it’s just part the junction with the firetrail to the Warringah Radio Control Society / WRCS). You can return the same way, or continue over the other side of the rock platform to re-join the firetrail.

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2 Comments

gourmetcampers · October 25, 2021 at 4:52 pm

Thanks for posting this. Living in Sydney for a decade now, and only now starting to discover some many ancient places just around the corner. Cheers!

    oliverd :-) · October 25, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    Moon Rock is an amazing site – and it’s equally amazing how many sites still exist around Sydney. It’s a shame they have to be hidden away to keep then safe.

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