Summary: The Wilton Shelter is a significant and spectacular Aboriginal rock art site in Sydney's south-west. The long shelter has over 60 motifs, all drawn in charcoal including two life-size kangaroos and a large anthropomorphic figures.

A significant Aboriginal rock art shelter in the Wilton area, the Wilton Shelter was extensively documented and analysed by Ian Sim in 1964, although it had been known to locals for over 100 years prior. The charcoal drawings can be seen in two sections.

Southern Section

The southern section of the long sandstone overhang has the most art, and is in better condition.

The rock art within the Wilton Shelter is typical of the rock shelter art of the Sydney in style and subject matter, but with several unusual features:

Large anthropomorphic figures, although common among the rock engravings, are a rare subject in the cave drawings of the Sydney-Hawkesbury district. In the few sites where they have been recorded, these figures are more elaborately drawn in red and white, and in one case, in red, yellow and black. In most of the sites where the drawings have an obvious ritual significance, bichromes in black and red or black and white are more common than simple black monochromes. Large charcoal drawings are uncommon in this area, particularly north of the Hawkesbury River.

Ian Sim

At the southern-most end of the southern section are infilled figures of two men, who were described as having bulbous heads or headdresses Thry have been drawn over a series of lines. Next to them are the upper parts of two kangaroos.

AWAT8666 LR Wilton Aboriginal Art ShelterAWAT8666 LR lbk Wilton Aboriginal Art Shelter

Next to the men are a life-size male and female kangaroo facing each other; the slimmer female kangaroo has a joey in its pouch.

A “small outline figure resembling a four-petalled flower” above the male kangaroo can no longer be seen, while outline of a kangaroo had between the two large kangraroo is only visible with some image enhancement.

Next are three men, shown in profile and about 40cm in height.

(1) The first is “rotund and hump-shouldered, with slender legs and no arms. Most of his head is obscured by a long horizontal headdress, the extremities of which taper and terminate in rounded knobs”.

(2) Below him is another man who has “a slender figure with rounded buttocks, a long penis and scrotum reaching to his feet, and thin arms and legs… He holds an elongated object in each hand”.

(3) The third figure “is that of a stockily built man holding an axe and cutting or trimming a vertical pole. His body is drawn to morphological detail”.

There’s also the outline of a kangaroo head, four small, infilled figures (one of them described as an emu track) and outline figures of an echidna and a small animal. To the right is an infilled figure of a woman who is 1.2m high, and is holding am elongated object in one hamd. There is some graffiti in this area, including a red hand stencil which can barely be seen – but has resulted in damage to some of the charcoal art.

AWAT8662 LR Wilton Aboriginal Art ShelterAWAT8662 LR lds Wilton Aboriginal Art Shelter

The next figure is the largest and most impressive: “a male anthropomorph about seven and half feet long. He is drawn in a horizontal position with arms stretched above his head. His trunk is relatively long and slender, the legs short and thick.” The body of the anthropomorph has been drawn over a kangaroo, and an outline of a large emu is drawn over the arms and head. Below the anthropomorph are two small infilled figures of men, one holding a boomerang. Next to the anthropomorph to the right is “a grotesquely shaped emu-like bird with a squat and misshapen body, a long thin neck thickened at its extremity for a head and a small penis (?) and long legs terminating in large club-like feet, each with three toes”.

The anthropomorph’s “hands are outspread, each with eight sharply pointed fingers”.

To the right of the anthropomorph and “grotesquely shaped emu” are some more outlined figures.

Shown in Sim’s site sketch but not described in the text is the outline of a hand.

AWAT8683 LR Wilton Aboriginal Art ShelterAWAT8683 LR lbk Wilton Aboriginal Art Shelter

Next is a man holding an object, a partly-infilled kangaroo and two more outlined figures, which may be kangaroos or a kangaroo and a wombat.

Next are a series of small figures: heads and and shoulders of two kangaroos (one infilled), an indeterminate figure, an animal which may be a dingo, another kangaroo and a man holding a long object.

The final two distinct motifs are “the figures of two men fighting with clubs (?) and shields. They are about 10 inches high, shown in profile, with slender waists, powerful chests and buttocks, arched bodies and spread and flexed legs. Each is protecting himself with an upraised narrow shield in one hand and holds in the other a club (?) ready to strike”.

The last figures at the northern-most end of the southern section are an outline of a boomerang and two indeterminate, infilled figures (these last two being almost impossible to make out).

Northern Section

The figures in the northern section are much more weathered; even in the 1960s Ian Sim noted that “the series is very poorly preserved”. At the northern end of the northern section is an infilled kangaroo, and another six ot seven indeterminate figures.

AWAT8626 LR Wilton Aboriginal Art ShelterAWAT8626 LR lbk Wilton Aboriginal Art Shelter

On the roof are two fish, one larger than the other, which are still in fairly good condition.

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