Aboriginal Engravings around Sydney

I’ve found it fascinating as I explore my local area, to the north of Sydney, to discover the prevalence of Aboriginal engravings which are often located quite close to bushwalking trails. From what is thought to be over 6,000 drawings around the Sydney metropolitan area when Europeans colonized Australia, about 4,500 sites are currently registered with the Office of Environment and Heritage. Of these sites, less than 5% are sign-posted or publicly documented. Some engravings are in spots you least expect them; on other occasions I’ve explored huge rock platforms that would seem to make an ideal canvas, and seen no rock art.

Sadly, while all Aboriginal sites in NSW are under the protection of the National Parks & Wildlife Act 1974 (which makes it illegal to disturb, damage, deface or destroy any relic), they are gradually disappearing. It’s possible that by 2060 there may be almost no Aboriginal rock art left. This is partly though erosion, with engravings losing about half a grain of rock per year – which is equivalent to 1mm every seven years. More disturbingly, between 2005 and 2009 the NSW government approved 541 permits to destroy or disturb Aboriginal heritage sites. (Why Australia’s Aboriginal rock art will disappear.)

The list below represents the sites in Sydney I have personally visited and photographed. Some are very well-known; others I’ve discovered on my bushwalks, and precise location details are not included. I’m regularly adding to this list as I explore the national parks around Sydney.

MAP KEY
Green: Site located on an official bushwalking track (may also be signposted)
Orange: Site reached via an informal track
Red: Site is off-track or not easily reached
** Not all sites below are shown on the map; some locations are not disclosed

Sydney & Sydney Harbour National Park

There are a surprising number of Aboriginal engraving sites across the inner suburbs of Sydney and around Sydney Harbour – although many are now isolated from their natural environment… some are on golf courses, in small reserves and on private property. A few engravings were re-grooved in the 1950s and 1960s. 

_MG_9668-LR Grotto Point (Dobroyd Head)
Located along the popular Spit to Manly bushwalk, the sign-posted site include boomerangs, fish, sharks, a large kangaroo and a fairy penguin. The engravings are about 1,000 years old and have interpretative signage.
Distance: 50m. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 4/5
Location: About 400m return from end of Cutler Road and on the Spit to Manly bushwalking route
More info: Spit to Manly hike, Sydney Coast Walks – Grotto Point
IMG_5571-LR Balls Head (Waverton)
An engraving of a whale around six metres in length, within the tail of which there is faded, but just-visible man (thought to be curing himself of an illness or a magician enticing the whale to become stranded).
Distance: 0m. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 3/5
Location: In front of Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability on Balls Head Road
More info: Atlas Obscura, Sydney Aboriginal Rock Engravings & Stanbury & Clegg p.22

Lane Cove National Park (Sydney North)

Part of the Sydney Basin, the Lane Cove area had many engraving sites and the Lane Cove valley provided a wide range of food for multiple Aboriginal language groups. However, with Lane Cove National Park occupying a relatively small area mostly along the river and urban development adjoining all side of the Park, many sites would have been destroyed over time or are now on private land. Over 40 sites have been recorded within the park but many of these were on the river bank and flooded by the building of the weir in 1938.

IMG_4789-LR Max Allen Track (Killara)
Located right next to the  Max Allen Track is a quite clearly defined kangaroo, and some smaller engravings. Both upper and lower limbs of the animal are shown, which is stylistically different to most macropod engravings north of the Georges River.
Distance: 150m return. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Near the start of Max Allen track on the left hand side (start at Terrace Road)
More info: Rockin On
IMG_5294-LR Commandment Rock (Macquarie Park)
This picnic area is named after a boy in the 1800s (when the area was a family farm) who etched the Bible’s Fifth Commandment on a rock. Partly hidden by shrubs, the engraving site hosts both Aboriginal rock art (of a moon’s crescent) and later European carvings (including a bow and arrow, cannon and sword). Nearby is a sunburst, which I haven’t been able to locate.
Distance: 20m. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 2/5
Location: At the edge of the Commandment Rock Picnic Area (Riverside Drive)

Garigal National Park (Sydney North)

Garigal National Park (which is divided into three distinct sections) has extensive Aboriginal art sites, with over 300 Aboriginal sites recorded. These include cave art, rock engravings, shelters, middens and grinding grooves.

IMG_4407-LR Moon Rock (Belrose)
A significant Aboriginal cultural site, Moon Rock was declared an Aboriginal Place in 2016. The site has over 50 engravings, including tools and weapons used and animals caught and eaten in the area. The name of the site is from rare engravings that depict the eight phases of the moon, beginning with the creator Biaime’s boomerang .
Distance: 3.5km return. Ease of Access: Moderate. No public access (as at June 2020)
Quality: 5/5
Location: Access via Slippery Dip Trail from Morgan Road (Belrose).
More info: Sydney Rock Art

Ku-ring-gai National Park (Sydney North)

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, located in Sydney’s north, is the largest park in the Sydney metropolitan area and the and the second oldest national park in Australia. Named after its original inhabitants, the Kuringgai or Guringai Aboriginal people, it’s rich in Aboriginal history with about 800 known Aboriginal engraving sites – a number of which are easily accessible. Ku-ring-gai Chase is one of the areas nominated by Australian Geographic in Australia’s top 7 Aboriginal rock art sites.

Bobbin Head

IMG_3113-LR Bobbin Head Track (main site)
A short side-track to some marked Aboriginal engravings; many of them are very indistinct. Continue a bit further to another rock with a clearer engraving. Across the multiple sections there are a goanna, greater glider, two birds, two emus, a wallaby or large tiger quoll and some figures.
Distance: 3.2km return. Ease of Access: Easy/Moderate
Quality: 3/5 (many are very faint)

Location: Just off Bobbin Head Trail (there is a sign)
More info: Bobbin Head loop bushwalk & Sydney Rock Art
IMG_2206-LR Gibberagong Track
Opposite an Aboriginal engraving (of a single human figure) are a number of axe-sharpening grooves. There is also a fish and small shield. The site is signposted.
Distance: 1.6km return from Bobbin Head. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 4/5
Location: Both sides of the Gibberagong Track / Rainforest walk. 

More info: Sydney Rock Art

Duffys Forest & Terrey Hills

IMG_3804-LR Hunting Site, Terrey Hills
This is the easier of two nearby sites to reach via a rough bushwalking track: it shows a man and woman celebrating a successful kangaroo hunt.
Distance: 0.6km return. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 4/5
Location: Rough track from Larool Road
More info: Terrey Hills Aboriginal Engravings & Stanbury & Clegg p.43
IMG_4072-LR Lyrebird Site, Terrey Hills
Further on from the Hunting Site is a second series of rock platforms; one has a lyrebird in the middle as well kangaroos/wallabies and a flying possum. Nearby is a cave with rock art, that seems to be part of a larger carving.
Distance: 1km return. Ease of Access: Hard
Quality: 4/5
Location: Rough track from Larool Road
More info: Terrey Hills Aboriginal Engravings & Stanbury & Clegg p.43
IMG_3818-LR Slade Lookout
At the end of the Slade Lookout Track is a very clear engraving of an emu or waterfowl (which is thought to be non-Aboriginal in origin) and a lizard that is almost directly underneath the emu/waterfowl.
Distance: 1.4km return. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 4/5
Location: End of Slade Lookout Track
More info: Duffys Wharf Track and Slades Trail bushwalk & Sydney Rock Art
IMG_3938-LR Harvey Trig
There’s a great view from an old trig point on top of a rock outcrop – and apparently some very weathered engravings, which I didn’t manage to spot.
Distance: 0.9km return. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 1/5
Location: Rough track from McCarrs Creek Rd – trackhead and rock art site
More info: Rockin On
IMG_1943-LR Cowan Trail (Spirits Rock)
A rock platform near the end of the Cowan Trail, there’s numerous clear engravings including a dozen figures, shields, an assortment of fish and a very large carving of Baiame.
Distance: 8km return. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 5/5
Location: End of Cowan Trail
More info: Cowan & Wilkins Track & Sydney Rock Art
IMG_2124-LR Long Trail (west)
What looks like a hunting scene on a large rock platform, with two shields and a wallaby or kangaroo.
Distance: 6km return. Ease of Access: Hard
Quality: 4/5
Location: Located about 100m west of the Long Trail
More info: Long Trail bushwalk
IMG_4990-LR Long Trail (east)
A complex site across at least two adjacent rock platforms, which includes a very long line of footprints (mundoes) stretching across the top of the rock, a man, a depiction of Baime, a school of fish and other engravings.
Distance: 7.4km return. Ease of Access: Very hard
Quality: 5/5
Location: Located 400m west of the Long Trail
More info: Long Trail bushwalk
IMG_4276-LR Mount Murray Anderson
At least four sites along the track to Mount Murray Anderson. Most carvings are fairly distinct, and include figures, a shield, a circle (which may be a full moon), two wallabies and what seems to be a Daramulum figure.
Distance: 11km return. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 4/5
Location: Rough track off the Perimeter Trail
More info: Mount Murray Anderson bushwalk

Cottage Point

IMG_2016-LR Centre Trail 
Unmarked site on a rock platform just off the Centre Trail: there are three figures, a small decorated shield carving and a large echidna. There are also more mundoes a little further at the lookout.
Distance: 1.3km return. Ease of Access: Easy/Moderate
Quality: 3/5
Location: Centre Track, off General San Martin Drive
More info: Central Trail bushwalk & Sydney Rock Art
IMG_3585-LR Cottage Point (Ellis Trig West)
A huge rock platform to the west of Ellis Trig on General San Martin Drive, with at least one (very faint) engraving of a figure. Accessed by a rough and informal walking track.
Distance: 0.4km return. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 1/5
Location: General San Martin Drive, Cottage Point
More info: Hungary Trail
IMG_4815-LR Cottage Point (Ellis Trig North)
A long rock platform with glimpses of Coal and Candle Creek to the north-east, with a very faint engraving of three boomerangs. There’s also a seal that’s been pierced by a spear and “another figure which may represent a fishing-line with a loop in it” described by W. D. Campbell.
Distance: 0.4km return. Ease of Access: Hard
Quality: 1/5
Location: 400m north of Ellis Trig, on General San Martin Drive
More info: Trig Bagging at Cottage Point
IMG_4905-LR Cottage Point (Xmas Tree Hill)
A very long rock platform that stretches across the side of the hill, below Taber Trig. There are at least two figures here and a shield; I could only find a large engraving (I couldn’t identify what it represents).
Distance: 1.2km return. Ease of Access: Hard
Quality: 1/5
Location: 160m north-east of Taber Trig, on General San Martin Drive
More info: Trig Bagging at Cottage Point
IMG_4703-LR Hungry Trig
A small rock platform below a low cliff and surrounded by dense bush, with multiple engravings: “The surface of rock is nearly all covered by the figures, and in the middle of the group is a whale; within its outline is a circular figure, and adjacent to it are twelve others: (W.D. Campbell)
Distance: 0.4km return. Ease of Access: Hard
Quality: 4/5
Location: 300m west of Hungry Trig
More info: Trig Bagging at Cottage Point

West Head

IMG_5177-LR Elvina Track
One of the largest engraving sites in Australia; the drawings include a giant whale, an emu and the Baime/Daramulan creator spirit and his emu-wife.
Distance: 0.5km return. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Elvina Track carpark near start of West Head Road (on the right)

More info: Sydney Aboriginal Rock Engravings, Sydney Rock Art & Stanbury & Clegg p.28
IMG_3959-LR Waratah Trail – Shield
A fairly distinct shield and boomerang, on a small rock platform not far off the track near the start.
Distance: 1.4km return. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 3/5
Location: About 0.7km along Waratah Track (off West Head Road)

More info: Rediscovering the Waratah Trail bushwalk
IMG_5177-LR Waratah Trail – Whale
An enormous single whale, which was documented by W.D. Campbell in 1899 as being forty one feet in length. Some of the carving is weathered and hard to make out
Distance: 4.6km return. Ease of Access: Very hard.
Quality: 3/5
Location: About 2.3km along Waratah Track (off West Head Road)

More info: Rediscovering the Waratah Trail bushwalk
IMG_4026-LR Waratah Trail – Main Site
Documented by W. D. Campbell, the engravings located on a large rock platform next to thee track include a large whale within which is a man, a man and a purpoise-like figure. Nearby sites include a faint carving of an emu and another large whale.
Distance: 6km return. Ease of Access: Easy/Moderate.
Quality: 4/5
Location: About 3km along Waratah Track (off West Head Road)

More info: Rediscovering the Waratah Trail bushwalk
IMG_3665-LR Lovers & Whales (Salvation Loop)
A few engravings spread over multiple rock plateaus: they include a shield, a pair of whales, a man and woman engaged in sexual intercourse and a bird. Some of the engravings are weathered and quite hard to make out.
Distance: 0.2km return. Ease of Access: Moderate/Hard
Quality: 2/5
Location: West Head Road about 100m after second Salvation Loop track
More info: Sydney Aboriginal Rock Engravings & Stanbury & Clegg p.54
IMG_4109-LR Towlers Bay Track
Near the start of the Towlers Bay Track are a couple of mundoes and another small carving (I can’t make out what it is). There’s also reports of a fish engraving .
Distance: 0.2km return. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 1/5
Location: Southern side of Towlers Bay Track, near the start
More info: Rockin On
IMG_3609-LR Topham Hill (Lower)
An isolated site below Topham Hill, accessed via a bush-bash through thick scrub. There are a number of very distinct figures, including a man holding a boomerang.
Distance: 1km return. Ease of Access: Hard
Quality: 5/5
Location: South of Topham Track
More info: Topham Hill Rock Art
IMG_3644-LR Topham Hill (Upper)
Multiple sites, including a school of 30 fish being attacked by a shark, as well as shields, a bird track and two figures a bit further to the west. A spectacular setting for the engravings, with Pittwater visible in the distance.
Distance: 1km return. Ease of Access: Hard
Quality: 4/5
Location: Near Topham Track
More info: Topham Hill Rock ArtStanbury & Clegg p.57
IMG_4491-LR Bairne Trig
There is a series of faint engravings on a large rock platform about 100m north of the Bairne Trig Station; they are very hard to make out on the uneven rock surface.
Distance: 2.2km return. Ease of Access: Hard
Quality: 1/5
Location: 100m north of Bairne Trig
More info: Bairne Trig bushwalk & Rockin On
IMG_4121-LR America Bay – top site
Some large engravings located in a fairly small site. The carvings includes a 5 metre long orca (the main engraving) as well as a female figure, stingray and goanna.
Distance: 0.3km return. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Trail off America Bay Track
More info: Sydney Rock Art & Stanbury & Clegg p.28
IMG_4132-LR America Bay – bottom site
About 270m west of the main engraving site is a larger site, featuring a large Daramulum figure (an important deity) as well as a double boomerang, a lizard, a fish and seven mundoes.
Distance: 0.8km return. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 4/5
Location: Faint trail off America Bay Track
More info: Sydney Rock Art & Stanbury & Clegg p.28
_MG_9601-LR The Basin
A well-preserved and popular engraving site, with interpretative signage and a divided walkway to keep people off the engravings. Many drawings including people, kangaroos, fish, and symbols.
Distance: 0.8km return. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Short detour from The Basin Trail
More info: Sydney Aboriginal Rock Engravings, Sydney Rock Art & Stanbury & Clegg p.63
IMG_4690-LR Echidna site
While the Echidna Track (a boardwalk) has long been removed, the engraving site can still be accessed only a few metres from West Head Road. The site features a detailed carving of an echidna, as well as various fish and a very long line of mundoes (footprints).
Distance: 0.1km return. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 3/5
Location: Near the middle of West Head Road on the left
More info: Sydney Rock Art & Stanbury & Clegg p.68
IMG_3462-LR Red Hands Cave
One of the best showcases of Aboriginal art in the area, the cave is reached via the Red Hands Cave loop walking track. The hands are thought to have been painted between 500 and 1600 years ago using a mixture of ochre and water.
Distance: 0.6km return. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Trail starts from Resolute Picnic Area
More info: NPWS Red Hands Cave
IMG_5341-LR Garigal site – Resolute Track
A small, sign-posted site with well-preserved Aboriginal engravings depicting a man, shark/whale and two eels. There is a second site 80m further down the track, with a shark and some eels.
Distance: 0.9km return. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Just off Resolute Track
More info: Sydney Aboriginal Rock Engravings, Sydney Rock Art & Stanbury & Clegg p.72
IMG_5350-LR Resolute 2 – Resolute Track
An unmarked site about 80m further down the track from the previous site has a reef shark, eels and fish. Most are still fairly distinct, and one of the fish is actually on the firetrail.
Distance: 1.2km return. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location: Just off Resolute Track
More info: Sydney Aboriginal Rock Engravings, Sydney Rock Art & Stanbury & Clegg p.72

Northern section (Mt Ku-ring-gai to Brooklyn)

IMG_3782-LR Mt Ku-ring-gai
A small site sandwiched between the old Pacific Highway and the railway line and accessed by an unsigned track. The site features three figures and a line of mundoes (I could only spot two footprints).
Distance: 50m from Pacific Highway. Ease of Access: Easy/Moderate
Quality: 4/5
Location: Just off Pacific Highway 400m north of Mt Ku-ring-gai railway station
More info: Sydney Rock Art
IMG_3745-LR Shark Rock Ridge – First Site
The Shark Rock Ridge track access a number of engraving sites; the first major site about 1.2km from the start of the track has a very distinct stingray, and nearby a kangaroo rat that looks a bit like a rabbit.
Distance: 2.7km from Berowra station. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: varied (3-5/5)
Location: On Shark Rock Ridge Track
More info: Rockin On
IMG_3767-LR Shark Rock Ridge – Main Site
Numerous Aboriginal engravings distributed around a huge tesselated rock pavement: there are at least 14 figures engraved in this area including four shields, two koalas, a bullroarer, a man, a fish and a bird.
Distance: 3.7km from Berowra station. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: varied (3-4/5)
Location: On Shark Rock Ridge Track
More info: Rockin On
IMG_4519-LR Peats Ferry Bridge
A rock platform under the Peats Ferrry Bridge (Old Pacific Highway) near Brooklyn has a distinct carving of a stingray just above the water.
Distance: 0.1km from carpark at Kangaroo Point. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 4/5
Location: Kangaroo Point, near Brooklyn
More info: Rockin On

Berowra Valley National Park (Sydney North)

Berowra Valley National Park is within the traditional country of the Guringai people to the east of Berowra Creek and the Dharug people to the west. It contains a number of significant Aboriginal heritage sites, including engraving sites, artefacts, middens and campfire sites.

IMG_5102-LR Currawong Road
A large rock platform features a 6-metre Daramulum figure, who appears to be holding an axe (which is not easily visible).
Distance: 100m walk from road. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 3/5
Location: Bushwalking track off Currawong Road
More info: Sydney Rock Art
IMG_5115-LR Alston Drive
A significant Aboriginal engraving site, which has a group of men engraved on the rock just off the path.
Distance: 200m walk from road. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 4/5
Location: Bushwalking track at end of Alston Drive
More info: Rockin On
IMG_5202-LR Benowie Track (Berowra Waters)
An unusual Aboriginal engraving site on a vertical rock surface, which includes a Baiame figure, and a seated Daramulum figure with an infant or small child on his lap.
Distance: 25m from end of Kirkpatrick Way. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 3/5
Location: 25m from end of Kirkpatrick Way.
More info: Sydney Aboriginal Rock Engravings, Sydney Rock Art & Stanbury & Clegg p.78
IMG_5186-LR Washtub Gully (Berowra Waters)
Along the creek just before it reaches Berowra Water are mutiple engravings, including fishes, a bird and a large possum or a quoll.
Distance: 100m walk from road. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 3/5
Location: Bushwalking track off Currawong Road
More info: Sydney Rock Art

Brisbane Water National Park (Central Coast)

Brisbane Water is part of the traditional lands of the Darkinjung and Kuringgai peoples, with places of significance including Daleys Point area and Staples Lookout. There are hundreds of engraving sites within the park, although only two are promoted by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (Bulgandry and Girrakool).

IMG_4563-LR Girrakool
An engraving of a man located on a rock platform along the Girrakool Loop walking track.
Distance: 150m walk from carpark. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 2/5
Location: Girakool Picnic Area at the end of Girakool Road
More info: Girrakool Loop buhwalk, Sydney Aboriginal Rock Engravings & Sydney Rock Art
IMG_4527-LR Woy Woy Engraving Site
This site is famous for its line “nine dancing rabbits” and features a number of figures and animals; it also has several cupmarks that appear to be man-made. (I couldn’t find most of the engravings, and probably didn’t go far enough north along the multiple rock platforms.)
Distance: 50m walk on rough (unmarked) track. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: ?/5
Location: 200m south of Staples Lookout on Woy Woy Road
More info: Sydney Aboriginal Rock Engravings, Sydney Rock Art & Stanbury & Clegg p.80
IMG_4534-LR Bulgandry (Kariong)
A timber boardwalk with interpretative signage circles a small site, with many engravings. The site is named after “Bulgandry Man” (left), who has an elaborate head dress and holds a round object in his right hand. There’s also a kangaroo, octopus, shark, fish and an eel. Next to the path are some axe-sharpening grooves.
Distance: 0.5km from carpark. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 5/5
Location:  Off Woy Woy Road (look for signs)
More info: Sydney Aboriginal Rock Engravings, Sydney Rock Art & Stanbury & Clegg p.85

 

Yengo National Park (Central Coast)

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. Being a laregly untracked wilderness area, many of these are difficult to access. It is said that Biamie, the ancestral being, stepped off from Burragurra to the flat top of Mount Yengo and back into the sky when he finished his creation.

_MG_9953 Finchley Cultural Walk
A short walk with informative signs leads to the Finchley Aboriginal engravings, considered to be one of the best Aboriginal sites in Australia. Includes multiple figures and an emu.
Distance: 400m. Ease of Access: Easy
Quality: 4/5
Location: Near junction of Yango and Finchley Track, about 17km (30min) from Laguna
More info: NPWS Finchley Cultural Walk & Sydney Rock Art
HPIM1332 Devils Rock (Burragurra)
Accessible by four-wheel drive (or by walking), this deeply spiritual site is located along the Boree track. In the distance is Mt Yengo and Mt Wareng. The rock itself is covered with carvings including the spirit footprints of Biame, who is said to have entered and left the earth from here.
Distance: 9km if walking / 200m return from 4WD track. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 3/5
Location: Boree Track, 23km (45min) from Laguna. 4WD may be needed for last 9km.
More info: Rob & Carol’s Blog has many photos

Sydney South

There are few remaining Aboriginal engraving sites in Sydney’s south (until you reach the Royal National Park). As well as being a heavily developed and populated area, many of the sites which are along the coast have been subject to erosion from weather and foot traffic, and many are now hard or impossible to discern.

IMG_5333-LR La Perouse
Is this the remains of the carving of a large sea creature, possibly a whale, and its calf, that was once clearly visible on the rocks at the southern end of Frenchmans Bay?
Distance: 50m. Ease of Access: Moderate
Quality: 1/5
Location: Below the cliffs about 120 metres south-west of the La Perouse monument
More info: None available

Locations and Size

The average engraving site contains 10.9 motifs, and sites with larger numbers of motifs are rare (only 8.5% of engraving sites have more than 30 motifs present and 0.6% of sites have more than 100 motifs present). The largest site – Burragurra – has 174 engravings.

  • Some sites (19.1%) contain only one engraving
  • The majority of sites (83.4%) have less than 16 engravings
  • About two-thirds (66.1%) have less than eight motifs (Figure 5.1)

The most common location for engraving sites are ridgelines (55.9%) and on the side of hills (41.2%). They are relatively rare on the bottom of valleys (2.8%) – and almost half (45%) of engravings in valley bottom locations were vertical engraving sites, on boulders adjacent to major waterways.

Reference: Dreamtime Superhighway (Chapter 5)

Engraving styles

The rock art of the Sydney Basin is defined as the Simple Figurative style. Figurative in that there is a high level of recognition between the art and a ‘natural’ assemblage (human figures, animals, birds, fish) and Simple in that a minimum amount of detail is provided:

the style is dominated by figurative motifs … the majority of (these) … conform(ing) to a pattern of crude naturalism. Whether the motif is engraved or painted, in outline or solid form, it usually consists of a very simple silhouette of a human or animal model. Most portrayals are strongly standardised. Human beings are depicted frontally, animals and birds in profile, snakes and lizards from above.
An archaeological approach to the study of Australian rock art, L Maynard, 1976).

Two “artistic units” were defined within the broader Sydney region: one of these being located around the Upper Hawkesbury and the other south of Botany Bay. Some general observations that apply to engravings across the Sydney region include:

  • Human figures are sometimes depicted in profile, while some animals (e.g. the echidna) are not always
  • In rock paintings Baiame is often depicted as a human figure with a large head-dress or hairstyle, with lines of footsteps nearby. He is always painted in front view; Daramulum is drawn in profile.
  • Macropods and other zoomorphs (figures relating to a deity or god or representations of an animal form) are depicted in profile with all four legs south of the Georges River, and with only two legs to the north (known exceptions being a macropod located just south of Port Jackson with four legs and another near the Lane Cove River (Max Allen Track in Killara)
  • Whales south of the Georges River are less highly stylised than their northern
    counterparts, with few containing decorative infill or anatomical details (such as gills or eyes)
  • Echidnas north of the Georges River are depicted in profile and to the south they are depicted from beneath as ‘pelts’.

References: Dreamtime Superhighway (Chapter 5) & Wikipedia.

Resources

These Web sites offer more photos and details on many of the engraving sites summarised above, as well as additional information the history of Aboriginal art.

Aboriginal Engraving sites

Research and References

Books

Two of the the most-referenced books are A Field Guide to Aboriginal Rock Engravings by Stanbury & Clegg (which is no longer in print) and Aboriginal carvings of Port Jackson and Broken Bay by W. D. Campbell (written in 1899). More recent books tend to focus on a smaller set of engraving sites.

A Field Guide to Aboriginal Rock Engravings: with Special ...
5/5. A comprehensive guide to Aboriginal engravings. Sadly, it’s out of print. 
Aboriginal Sydney - 2nd Edition : Guide To Important Places Of The Past And Present - Melinda Hinkson
4/5. A good introduction to Aboriginal culture; some rock art sites listed. 
Booktopia
Sydney's Aboriginal Past : Investigating the archaeological and historical records - Val Attenbrow
5/5. Very detailed guide to Aboriginal history, with detailed reports on a small number of engraving sites. Booktopia
  • Aboriginal carvings of Port Jackson and Broken Bay by W. D. Campbell – – available on-line or as a PDF download
  • Dreamtime Superhighway (Sydney Basin Rock Art and Prehistoric Information Exchange) by Jo McDonald – available as a PDF download

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