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8 July 2003
Ancient Aboriginal art discovered

Thought to be one of the most significant finds of Aboriginal art in Australia’s history, a series of 203 images in a cave near Sydney (Australia) are being investigated by an expedition led by museum anthropologist Paul Tacon. The paintings, stencils and prints are in pristine condition and depict human figures, god-like human/animal composites and animals. Eleven superimposed layers have been identified so far, dated from around 2000 to the early 1800s BCE. Included are delicate life-sized representations of eagles, kangaroos and a very rare depiction of a wombat, in various colours including red, yellow, white and charcoal black. The combination of rare depictions and multiple layers is virtually unique, according to Tacon.
     The cave, some twelve metres long by six metres deep and 2-3 metres high, was the chance discovery of a hiker in the Wollemi National Park in 1995. The find was not announced until researchers were able to begin full-scale investigations of the inaccessible site, in May 2003. Its location will remain secret to deter sightseers and vandals.
     New South Wales Premier Bob Carr said: “The discovery confirms the richness of Aboriginal culture and spiritual life on the outskirts of the Sidney basin at a time when civilisation was flowering in Mesopotamia, Egypt and China and when Stonehenge was being built”. Local Aboriginal representative Dave Pross said the art gave a picture of local tribes' rituals and needed to be studied.

Sources: BBCi News (1 July 2003); iol.co.za (1 July 2003)

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