|26 August 2003
More details about Aboriginal ancient rock art
As already reported in July 2003 issue of Archaeo News, more details are emerging about the discovery of an unusually rare and pristine cache of ancient Aboriginal rock art in a cave not far from Sydney (Australia). In all, 11 layers of images of animals - kangaroos, wombats and monitor lizards, which Australians call goannas - as well as drawings of boomerangs and half-human, half-animal creatures are scattered across the back wall of the cave in a giant mural.
The more than 200 images - in faint reds and yellows, stark white and black - stretch from 4,000 years ago to the late 18th century when white people first ventured onto Australian soil, said Paul Tacon, the chief research scientist in anthropology at the Australian Museum, who visited the site in May and has refused to reveal its exact location.
"This was a special place that people made special trips to, either for ceremonies or to stop at on their travels," he said. "It shows there was a rich artistic tradition, ranging from naturalistic depictions to stylized form of expressions relating to spiritual beliefs." The pigments on the drawings have been unusually well preserved because the cave opening faces north and receives little direct sunlight.
A group of hikers stumbled on the rock art eight years ago, but Tacon is the only expert to have seen it so far. It took a while for Tacon to get there, he said, because he wanted to consult first with Aborigines and include them in the process, and because drought and bush fires impeded access. The cave's exact location has been kept secret. Tacon will say only that it is in the Wollemi National Park and an extraordinarily tough walk from a drop-off point at a place called Colo Heights in the Blue Mountains. He said that his stay at the cave, with five Aboriginal colleagues, was limited to two days because of a shortage of fresh water.
The discovery is not the oldest Aboriginal art known in Australia, since some drawings in the hard sandstone of the northern desert country are older, Tacon said. But the proximity of these works to the country's largest city and their impeccable condition and number make the find one of the most important, he said.
Sources: International Herald Tribune, The New York Times (23 August 2003)
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