Summary: A complex and well-documented site on a rocky spur in Woy Woy, which is known for its "seven dancing rabbits"

woy woy overview Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

This complex site near Woy Woy Road contains many Aboriginal engravings across multiple adjacent rock platforms. The site has been extensively documented by W.D. Campbell (1899), Ian Sim (1966), Fred McCarthy (1983) and Stanbury & Clegg (1990).

A sketch of the main site by Stanbury & Clegg (right) shows the location of the engravings at both ends of a long series of rock platforms. Additional faint engravings are also present between these sites, but you need the right lighting to see many of them. As is typical of many ridge engraving sites, there are expansive views – from most of the rock platforms you can see across to the ocean, and the entrance to Brisbane Water.

Site 1 – Man with Boomerang

Near the entrance to the site (Sim Group 156 / McCarthy Mankind Group 156) are 28 figures in two groups, which includes a Man with a Boomerang… or Club…

Woy Woy Sim Group 156
Man with Boomerang Fish

Man with Boomerang

AWAT3889 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

AWAT3890 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

Two ovals (a third one is not highlighted), mundoe and fish/cuttlefish

Fish

AWAT4004 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

These were described in detail by Ian Sim:

“The figures are in two compact groups. The first comprises three circles, two fish, a five-toed footprint, a hand and forearm (?) and several short lines or parts of figures.

Sim in Mankind Vol 6, No. 8 (1966)

One of the three ovals has a fish inside it (although this can’t easily be seen), and what was described as a fish – but may also be a cuttlefish.

Between the fish/cuttlefish and oval are a small fish, a fish’s tail and some parallel lines.

The second group, a few feet north-west comprises two ovals, part of a large circle, several lines or parts of figures and a man. The man has a short line running from each instep, an anklet, girdle and necklet, and has an elongated oval headdress (?) with a transverse line across it. Touching his waist is a large boomerang (?) with five transverse lines… on the south-western side of the two groups is a fish (?) and two short lines”.

Sim in Mankind Vol 6, No. 8 (1966)

The figures were quite faint and hard to make out on my first few visits, but when “highlighted” (which is done from time to time by NPWS using non-destructive techniques) they are much easier to see!

Site 2 – Dancing Rabbits

Further down the rock platform is the “dancing rabbits” group of engravings (McCarthy Group 179 Series 1 / Campbell Plate 28 Fig 3). “two small figures of men, sixteen feet apart, and near one is a large fish, and extending in an arched line over the fish is a string of nine small animals, evidently rabbits, and forty feet to the northward is a large kangaroo” (Campbell).

Campbell Plate 28 Fig 3
Rabbits Man Man Fish

Rabbits

rabbits2 Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

Photo from Sydney Rock Art showing the nine "rabbits"

Man

AWAT3909 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

Man

AWAT3908 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

Fish

AWAT3917 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

The reference to rabbits by Campbell is intriguing, and has led to the site being referred to as having “dancing rabbits”. Stanbury & Clegg suggested they may be rabbits (which dates the engravings as being sometime in the early 1800s), or as rabbit-eared bandicoots (which are only known to have lived west of the dividing range). Others have suggested they represent bilbies, which are now extinct in this area, or dancing people wearing head-dresses (Sydney Rock Art). McCarthy was far more descriptive and contemplative in his intepretation of the mammals:

The first and third ones are most unrabbit like, the 2nd, 4th, and 5th resemble rabbits, 6th is nondescript, 7th is like a koala bear sitting on a branch, and the 8th and 9th are small examples of the 1st one. The long ear is typical of the rabbit bandicoot and of the rabbit, the short foreleg and long hind leg typical of the rabbit bandicoot, the even lengths of the legs are more rabbit like, 7 of the heads are pointed like the rabbit bandicoot and only 2 are rounded like the rabbit’s head, none a tail, and the bodies vary so much in shape that they are not typical as a series of either mammal. There appear to be 3 of them like rabbits, 3 like rabbit bandicoots, and 1 like a koala bear, but in individual characters they resemble the rabbit bandicoot more than the rabbit; in addition they are not particularly recent engravings as Campbell stated as one would expect them to be if they are rabbits. They also give one the impression of a procession of animals in file wearing headdresses and thus representing men in a totemic ceremony.

They are fairly distinctive figures, which can also be seen at a few other sites in the area (including the nearby Bulgandry 2 site).

There are two men, with McCarthy commenting that “it is notable that the heads of both men are pointing toward the mammals [the “rabbits”] but whether the men, whose eyes are not shown, are approaching them or facing away from them cannot be decided as they may be shown from the back”.

A large fish below the mammals is over a metre in length, with a long pointed head, no eyes and one fin.

AWAT3917 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

Site 3 – Mammals and Fish

The third site is very close to the “dancing rabbits”, with the group described by McCarthy as illustrating “local mammals and fish” (McCarthy Group 179 Series 2 / Campbell Plate 28 Fig 4).

Campbell Plate 28 Fig 4
Slender Fish Eel, Shield and Fish Kangaroo and Fish Skate Slender Fish Man and Fish

Slender Fish

AWAT3937 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

Slender fish with long pointed head

Eel, Shield and Fish

AWAT3934 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

A curved eel with five bars across it's body, shield and a small fish.

Kangaroo and Fish

AWAT3935 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

Leaping wallaby ("posed with its head up and forward and its body upward in a leap".

Skate

AWAT3933 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

Skate (stingray), which has a "long triangular body, 2 eyes, broad tail"

Slender Fish

AWAT3936 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

Slender fish with "long pointed head"

Man and Fish

AWAT3922 LR Dancing Rabbits (Woy Woy)

A man overlapping a fish

The carvings include a large shield, an eel, a skate, a large whale-like fish, some smaller fish and a leaping kangaroo or wallaby. Most of the figurs are fairly distinct.

The most intriguing figure in this group is the “man with the curious head” – his head is “a low bulge incorporating left shoulder and upper arm”, and overlapping his body is a large fish, with an unusual tail.

Not documented by Campbell or McCarthy is a large turtle, with two rounded flippers.

Other sites

There are over twenty additonal sites across the many rock platform, many of individual figures. This includes an oval, or skate (stingray) on the side of a sloping rock.

There are also some grinding grooves: these are two very shallow grooves.

Further along the extensive series of rock platforms is the Seven Shields engraving site.

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