Dark red ochre paintings preserved in two rock shelters on the south-eastern slopes of Mount Manning, in Yengo National Park.

The well preserved paintings in two adjacent rock shelters were most likely first seen by Europeans in the 1930s, and subsequently “chalked” in 1961. These markings have all since been removed, when the artwork was researched in the 1960s. These are though to be the first Aboriginal rock art to have been dated in Australia.

The six ochre paintings in the southern shelter are thought to have been painted around AD 1400, from a radiocarbon analysis of charcoal associated with matching ochre in the floor deposits of the cave.

The paintings include a female and male echidna, male dingo and two anthropomorphs (above) and another dingo. The figures are of ritual significance, perhaps associated with rain, lightning and fertility. Dingos and echidnas are also thought to be related to fertility rituals.

Further along the cave are more paintings of a similar style, but much fainter – they are thought to be a replica of the first group. At the very end of the cave are charcoal drawings of wallabies or kangaroos.

The paintings in the northern shelter are more recent, thought to have been painted between 1750 and 1830 and in a different style.

The northern shelter paintings are in charcoal, white and ochre colours – and are much harder to discern.

The motifs are generally of local fauna, and include snakes, eels, wallabies or kangaroos, stencilled hands, shields and a boomerang. I couldn’t make out any of these with certainty.

What’s also interesting is that there are (at least) twelve additional caves within 500m of this one – many seemingly better for shelter, cooking or painting – but none were found in the 1960s survey to contain any evidence of Aboriginal occupation…

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