Summary: A spectacular Aboriginal rock art site in Yengo National in the lower Hunter Valley, Yengo 1 has over 500 motifs including stencils, paintings and engravings as well as engravings and axe grinding grooves.

A spectacular Aboriginal shelter in Yengo National Park, Yengo 1 (which is situated next to Yengo 2) has art (stencils, paintings and engravings) as well as grinding grooves and occupation deposit. Both shelters were excavated and extensively documented by Jo McDonald in 1987/88 – and they are believed to be the oldest in NSW. Both sites were named after the Aboriginal term “Yengo”, which is said to mean “mountain” – Mount Yengo is the highest peak in this area and was sacred to the Aboriginal people.

The easterly-facing Yengo 1 shelter measures 14m x 6m x 1.9m and has just over 500 motifs in stencils, paintings and drawings in white, red, yellow, pink and black pigment – the second largest assemblage recorded in the Sydney Basin.

The predominant motifs in Yengo 1 are hand stencils, with numerous variations (hand and arm, hand and wrist, finger manipulations) in multiple pigments:

  • white (73%)
  • yellow (10.1%)
  • black and red (4.9% each)

Stencilling is the predominant technique at Yengo 1 (82.9%), followed by engraving (7.1%), drawing (5.8%) and painting (3.6%).

Hand Variant2492
Bird Track21
Roo Track5
CXNF = Complex Nonfigurative Motifs


Of the 402 hand stencils (and hand variants), 237 of them could be measured and the majority were left hands (145). They range are mostly adult hands, with a small number (4.2%) of infant hand stencils. There are eight black stencilled hands, which are uncommon.

While most of the hand stencils have the fingers splayed normally, there are a number of stencil variations involving the stencilling of wrist and/or arm, as well as finger manipulations (‘mutilated hands’).

Prints (or positive stencils) are rare in this region: Yengo 1 has four hand prints (one yellow and three

There are eight stencils of axes: 8 in white and 2 in black, amongst the hand stencils.

Figurative art

Figurative motifs include two anthropomorphs, an emu and an eel (only 5.8% of the art consists of drawings) – although it’s very hard to see what they represent. (In comparison, Yengo 2 contains mostly drawings and paintings.)

Yengo 1 engravings

A rock at the front of the shelter has a complex of weathered pecked circles.

The large boulder contains bird and macropod tracks as well as engraved circles – there are 36 figures in total.

Yengo 1 Axe Grinding Grooves

There are a total of 56 axe grinding grooves, most of them in a large cluster at the southern end of the shelter, and a small number along a low shelf at the back of the overhang.


Yengo 1 occupation deposit

Approximately 1.6 cubic metres of deposit were excavated, yielding 10,100 artefacts, over two digs conducted by Jo McDonald (in 1987 and 1988).

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Aboriginal Sites by 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.
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.
A review of different techniques for photographing Aboriginal rock art. This includdes oblique flash, chain and planar mosaic imaging which combines hundreds of overlapping photos.
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.