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22 April 2007
Wollemi find an Aboriginal seat of the gods

A rock platform in the heart of the Wollemi wilderness may be the closest thing Australia has to Mount Olympus, the seat of the gods in Greek mythology. Last spring archaeologists discovered an enormous slab of sandstone, 100 metres long and 50 metres wide, in the 500,000-hectare Wollemi National Park. It was covered in ancient art. The gallery depicted an unprecedented collection of powerful ancestral beings from Aboriginal mythology.
     Last week the archaeologists who found the platform, Dr Matthew Kelleher and Michael Jackson, returned with a rock art expert from Griffith University, Professor Paul Tacon, a Blue Mountains-based archaeologist, Wayne Brennan, and several of their colleagues. For most of the day the engravings are almost invisible. In the low light of dawn and dusk the images are briefly revealed. The team had five days to document 42 figurative motifs, and by the first evening Professor Tacon, Mr Brennan and Dr Kelleher had recognised a gathering of the gods.
     "The site is the Aboriginal equivalent of the palace on Mount Olympus where the Olympians, the 12 immortals of ancient Greece, were believed to have lived," Professor Tacon said. "This is the most amazing rock engraving site in the whole of south-eastern Australia." Even in famous rock art regions in the north it is extremely rare to see big gatherings of ancestral beings depicted together, he said.
     It is almost impossible to imagine how humans could travel through, let alone survive in, the Wollemi. It is dissected by deep canyons and in places almost impassable. And yet the archaeologists have found hundreds of sites in the past five years. It seems almost certain that the engravings are part of a much larger network of songlines and stories, the full meaning of which is all but lost. In many cases the figures seem to point to other important geographical features or major cultural sites, and possibly to patterns in the stars. The team also found evidence of everyday existence, such as rock shelters that still bear signs of their occupants - hand stencils, a partial stone axe head, flakes from stone tools and at the back of a cave timber that could only have been stacked by a person.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald (21 April 2007)

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