The following articles on Aboriginal Rock Art & Indigenous history of the Hunter Region, Central Coast were found in TROVE . Articles chronicle how people were writing about Indigenous heritage during the 1800s and early decades of the 1900s. Some of the articles are quite detailed, describing Indigenous knowledge, practices and rituals. When reading articles be mindful they were written by non-Indigenous people, representations and descriptions could be prejudiced, and not always depict stories reliable or from an Indigenous perspective.
1837 November 2 – Literature and Science- The Aborigines”
The dead are buried generally in grave-yards of considerable extent, the earth elevated in an oval shape: sometimes they are burned. In an affray that took place on the Wollombi between two tribes, four men and two women of the Comleroy tribe were slain: Lieut. Breton describes the ceremony of their interment at a very pretty spot, in the following manner. The bodies of the men were placed on their backs in the form of a cross, head to head, each bound to a pole by bandages round the neck, middle, knees and ankles, the pole being behind the body; the two women had their knees bent up and tied to the neck, while their hands were bound to their knees; they were then placed so as to have their faces downwards: in fact, they were literally packed up in two heaps of earth, each of the form of a cone, about three feet high, and rather removed from the cross; for the supposed inferiority of the women forbids their being interred with the men. The neatness and precision observed with respect to the cross and cones are very remarkable, both being raised to the same height, and so smoothly raked down, that it would puzzle the nicest observer to discover the slightest inequality in the form. The trees for some distance around to the height of fifteen or twenty feet, are carved over with grotesque figures, meant to represent kangaroos, emus, opossums, snakes, & with rude representations also of the different weapons they use. Round the cross they made a circle, about thirty feet in diameter, from which all rubbish was carefully removed, and another was made out- side the first, so as to leave a narrow interval between them; within this interval, there were laid pieces of bark, each piece touching the rest, in the same way that tiles do. The devil, they say, will not leap over the bark, and cannot walk under it! They will not pass a grave or grave-yard at night, and the name of the deceased is not again mentioned by his tribe. Their corrobaries, or nightly meetings at the full moon, have some resemblance to the devil-worship prevalent among the mountain tribes in Ceylon. The question will naturally arise, are the New Hollanders likely to continue, in conjunction with the white race? I fear not; in the interior, their numbers seem to be diminishing from famine and war, and at Sydney and other towns, where they exist chiefly by begging, vice and disease are fast destroying them. They have an instinctive aversion to labour, very few instances having been known of their continuing for any length of time as agricultural servants. As constables in aid of the police they are sometimes employed, and from their being excellent shots, and possessing a keen scent and sight for tracing runaway prisoners in the forest, their services, when they can be induced to remain, are found very useful. An instance of their keen sight and scent occurred.
1839 August 13 – Capture of the Bushrangers at the Wollombi (Yellow Billy) “. . . five of the blacks of that district–viz, Paddy, Governor, Gregory, Jackass, and Jamie, proceeded in pursuit of the bushrangers.”
1846 September 12 – EXCURSION TO WORAWOLLANG MOUNTAIN In the district of Wollombi
1854 April 8 – To the Editor of the Maitland Mercury
Sir—Although not being a scientific stargazer, yet some days ago my attention was called by a half-caste aboriginal boy, named John Murry, who pointed out to me the unusual sight in daytime of a bright orb in the heavens, apparently a comet, or star of the first magnitude, about due N.W., at an altitude, I should suppose, of about 70° to 75°. It can be seen with the greatest ease by the naked eye, between ten and eleven o’clock a.m., on any clear day, and the more readily should the observer stand in the shade (from the sun) of a high building. This object has been seen every day since, travelling to westward, by my whole household, which consists of eight persons.
Near Singleton, April 3, 1854. L.
1870 June 18 – Corroboree at Stroud
1871 July 18 – Aboriginal Tradition
On the 22nd June, the Rev. W. Ridley, of Sydney, delivered a lecture on “Astronomy” at Murrurundi. Mr.Ridley indicated the position of the stars in the hemisphere, &c., pointing out two bright stars near the Southern Cross—Bungila and Agnia. The first name he said was very like an aboriginal word, and the mention of this induced him to tell a tradition of the natives regarding these stars, stating that many of the natives are in their way good astronomers. Once on a time, as the legend goes, a flock of turkeys lived on a very pleasant plain, where they enjoyed themselves according to their ideas ; but in that flock there was an old cock of cannibal propensities, and when the birds would be disporting themselves, running and whirling about, he would lie in wait till one grew tired, and then pounce on it and devour the helpless victim. Night after night this took place, till at last the flock grew alarmed, and held a council as to what they should do ; they feared to attack this cannibal, as he was stronger than they, and they resolved to leave their pleasant home. While debating the matter, two strange turkey cocks made their appearance, and asked what was the cause of the solemn conclave. A full account was given, when the strangers advised them to remain where they were, and promised to get rid of their enemy. So when evening came one hid himself close to the old bird, while the other mingled with the flock in their gambols, coming nearer and nearer to where he knew his mate was concealed, at the proper time exhibiting signs of weakness, when out pounced the cannibal, and tried to peck him to death ; but immediately the second stranger rushed to his rescue, when the first recovered from his pretended weariness and united in the attack, and soon they made an end of the enemy. Delighted with their deliverance, the flock offered to make the strangers kings over them ; this they declined, and rising on their wings began to soar into the heavens, till at last they appeared to the flock as the two bright stars of which he had been speaking. Surely this exhibited that the natives were not exactly what so many declared they are ; he claimed for them as much credit in their legend as for that regarding Castor and Pollux.
1871 October 19 – ABORIGINAL ASTRONOMY-\ writer in the Melbourne Argus says -Those who may be interested to observe the spectacle of two fiery stars in the heavens within a few degrees of each other, can be gratified any clear night for some time to come. After sunset there may be seen in the western sky the bright red star Antares in the Scorpion, and not far from him “the red light of the planet Mars”. Those who have celestial maps to refer to will find Antares in long 245 deg, a few degrees south of the ecliptic The red star at present (October 11 ) about four or five degrees from him m the heavens is Mars who has been creeping slowly along, about a degree south of the ecliptic, at the rate of less than a degree per night, for some time back. The close proximity of these stars is suggestive of the circumstances in which they were named in relation to each other by the Greeks-Ares and Antares, or Mars and the rival Mars. This receives a somewhat humourous illustration in the story of the rival Highland chieftains, “The Mac Nab,” and “the other Mac Nab” It is said that Antares occupies a prominent place in the astronomy and mythology of the aborigines of this country. Amongst them he rejoices in the name of “Djuit”, the stars of each side of himbeing his two wives. He is the son of Marpeankurrk, the Arcturus of the celestial maps. In the distant time of Job we have reference to Arcturus with his sons, but now it is Marpeankurrk and her son and daughter. This group is now declining, but during August and September, while they are prominent in the heavens, the blacks, we are told live almost wholly upon the larvae of the white ant (at least in some localities), and regard Marpeankurrk with reverence and affection as the patroness that supplies the dainty food.
1877 July 16 – HUNTING FOR HIEROGLYPHICS.
THE following interesting article is extracted from the Colonies of April 21, and bears the signature of “G. F. A.,” probably the initials of Mr. George French Angas, who was at one time curator of the Sydney Museum.
1894 August 2 – Aboriginal Rock Paintings
Mr R H Matthews L S , read his prize paper out “Aboriginal Rock Paintings and Carvings in New South Wales,” these paintings and carvings representing men, women, children, and most of the animals birds, and fishes with which the aborigines were acquainted, also, implements of the chase, and other objects connected with the daily life of the aborigines. The meeting then adjourned.
1896 April 10 – ROCK PAINTINGS.
We have received a.copy of the paper on rock paintings and carvings of the aborigines of New South Wales, compiled by Msears. R.H. Matthew,, L S , and W. J Enright, of Maitland. The paper was read at the convention of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Brisbane last year. It is a cleverly prepared and very interesting work, and is a district acquisition to the published researches in the direction of anthropology as affecting the aborigines. Two large plates give the facsimile of a number of rock drawings discovered by the compilers in the Wollombi and other districts of the colony.
1896 May 5 – MAITLAND SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY.
1896 September 2 – ABORIGINAL ART
Mr Mathews, L. S., has republished from the “Journal of the Anthropological Institute” his paper on the “Rock Paintings and Carvings of the Australian Aborigines” (Harrison and Sons). Mr Mathews has given much time to the study of the curious traces of aborigines in rock shelters, caves and the like places. His profession has given him the advantages of travelling and so collecting a number of those examples. ” When we know that drawings such as these by uncivilised nations of all times, in various parts of the world, have ultimately been found to be full of meaning, it is not unreasonable for us to expect that the strange figures painted and carved upon rocks all over Australia will some day be interpreted. Perhaps some of these pictures are ideographic expressions of events in the history of the tribe ; certain groupings of figures may portray some well-known legend ; many of the animals probably represent totems, and it is likely the ta number of them were executed for pastime and amusement.”
1898 May 7 – PRIZE PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPETITION
1898 December 3 – THE ABORIGINES OF NEW SOUTH WALES SCENES AT A RECENT CORROBOREE
1898 December 29 – MAITLAND SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY. MOREE, Wednesday.
The impressions in the rock in the bed of Berrigal Creek, Moree, reported some time ago by Mr. J. E. Cory, have been photographed.
1898 December 30 – CHRISTMAS WITH PRE-HISTORIC MAN (Moree rock art)
1899 August 26 – OUR NATIVE TONGUE
“The Aborigines’ Protection Board, in conjunction with the Anthropological Society of Australasia, has undertaken a task which will probably entail bloodshed before it is finished. The board has received a letter from the Anthropological Society, asking it to collaborate in collecting the aboriginal names of places and their meanings, eventually to form a standard work of reference.”
1899 September 23 – OUR NATIVE RACES
“Eaglehawk and Crow, a Study of the Australian Aborigines, including all Inquiry into their origin, and a survey of Australian languages.” Mathews.
1900 April 25 – KURING-GAI CHASE
Perhaps at the present time those things which should occupy our attention most are the rock carvings rock paintings “kitchen middens,” &o of the aborigines which are to be found in this country. It will be readily understood that these will be of even more importance to those who come after us, for the simple reason that our native races will then have become extinct. There were some small examples of rock carving at Bondi, but while the sewer was under construction some years ago they were-quite needlessly-quarried away.
1900 November 14 – The Aborigines of Port Stephens
1910 February 24 – ABORIGINAL ART
“The D. T. Gosford correspondent writes: Mr. Wm. Moore, librarian of the School of Arts, who some 12 months ago made the discovery of the stone upon which the late Henry Kendall had chiselled his name, with others, and which inspired the poem “Names upon the Stone,” has made a further discovery in the same vicinity. His find is a spacious cave, containing numerous pictures of native animals done with black, red and white clay. It is evidently the work of aborigines. The drawings are crude, except, that an enormous iguana, which is lifelike. It is thought that some official action should be taken to preserve these relics, the property on which they are being Crown lands. The Somersby Falls are situated close by, and the scenery is some of the best in the State.”
1911 January 13 – ANTHROPOLOGY AND PHILOLOGY. AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES. THEIR ARTISTIC SENSE.
1914 June 13 – BURRAGORANG VALLEY(BY J.J.)
Burragorang was a favourite camping ground before the advent of the white man. Game and fish were plentiful, and the secluded nature of the valley rendered its native inhabitants comparatively immune from attack by wandering tribes. Interesting evidences of its occupation bythe blacks are found in various parts of the valley. The visitor is shown rock carvings, native tomahawks, and sharpening stones. On a reserve on the Cox a few half-castes-the “survivors of a fallen race”-still exist.
1914 August 22 – ARCHAEOLOGY
January 11th 1854.—Skirmish between outposts of the Wollombi and Ellalong subtribes of aboriginals. The trouble was over hunting and fishing rights (Catch-a-boy Lagoon). The home team (Keling-go) repulsed the aggressors. The name Ellalong, by the way, is aboriginal for low, swampy ground.
1919 April 4 – Visit to Wollombi
“Mr. Hill, in his usual impressive and imaginative style, pointed out the historic value of the caves, and soon had his conferees living in the past when the blacks roamed the Wollombi district and inhabited the caves, and later, when Yellow Billy and other ‘men of the road’ made these caves their home.”
1920 September 13 – WOLLOMBI
“A large number of returned soldiers are passing through the town, moving In all directions to visit their friends In other parts. Wollombi has its share, and the village Is made quite gay by their appearance About a dozen, mountaineers journeyed to the Round Mount on Saturday last, and enjoyed a pleasant excursion. Wild flowers of every description were to be found growing profusely, and after passing through glens and ravines, finally reached the summit., where a glorious view met the eye. The Nudgee hills could be seen distinctly, and ‘Big Yango,’ the landmark of the North, stood out very prominently.
1922 March 2 – ROCK CARVINGS.NEED FOR PRESERVATION.
The Royal Australian Historical Society is keenly interested in the movement having for its object the preservation of the aboriginal rock carvings and cave carvings that exist around the shores of Port Jackson, Port Hacking, and Broken Bay and along the whole stretch of the coast.
1922 April 1 – WOLLOMBI
“The Wollombi Church of England people have been officially notified that Rev. A. P. Elkin has been appointed rector in their district in succession to Rev. D. R. Rees. Mr. Elkin has lately been following his ditties in Armidale, and is now on temporary service at West Wallsend”
1922 December 15 – UNIQUE PERFORMANCE
“What is termed a great natural programme will be staged at the Strand next Monday and Tuesday nights by Davis and Company. The programme is termed natural because the musicians and singers all are natural— never having learned music, and most of the company are aboriginals. The natives appear as in the early days in war attire. The performance is entirely original and, we are informed, very enjoyable and interesting from a historical point of view.”
1922 December 22 – HISTORICAL NOTES
This would mean that Michael Byrne arrived in Wollombi in 1827. His estate is conspicuous to this day as the scene of the “Hanging Rock”-Where a great mass of towering sandstone overhangs the road— and “Yellow Billy’s” . Cave with its aboriginal relics and convict-chiselled initials, already alluded to in these columns.
1923 March 2 – AN OLD RELIC MOONOOVAN, THE ABORIGINAL
“An interesting relic of the early days of the Hastings was accidently picked up on the beach at Port Macquarie a few days ago. A resident whilst walking on the beach located a brass plate fashioned in the shape of a crown. The plate was well preserved and when polished revealed the fact that it was nearly a century old, and had served as a reward’ for bravery in the early settlement days. The plate bore the inscription: “To commemorate the services and humanity of Moonoovan, being one of the seven aboriginal natives who assisted in saving the crew of the pilot boat, consisting of seven Europeans, when the boat was upset in the surf at Port Macquarie on December 9th, 1827.”
1924 May 24 – “OUR ABORIGINALS.”
(BY BRIN-GA.) . . . Mr. N. A. Paull-my friend – was for many years located at the mission station on Mornington Island, lu tho Gulf of Carpentaria, He Is now at Fort George, the fourth mission station about 150 miles from Broome, in Western Australia. He was in Sydney on furlough last year, and together who helped to uncover the rock carvings found In the valley of Biamee. . . .
1924 August 19 – NATIVE GAMES
Mentions Aboriginal culture- custom- sport-games
1924 August 26 – ABORIGINAL MARRIAGES
1926 May 11 – AN OLD TREE – Aboriginal Relic
A remarkable discovery was made at the Wollumla Sawmill when an old tree was being sawn. Steps were found cut into the tree to a height of 50 feet from the ground, no doubt by an aboriginal very many years ago. The-steps were overgrown to a depth of six inches. They were the means of destroying a 2ft. plank, the flaws extending the full length. The steps were cut with a tomahawk, well formed, and in a good /state of preservation.
1926 May 11 – General News
Mr, W. W. Sharpe, anthropologist to the Australian Museum, recently, under the guidance of Mr. T. K. Pearse, of Hinton, visited the Anna Bay district, where winds have uncovered the skeletons of a number of aborigines, also flint and stone implements, and the remains of camp fires. So interested is Mr. Sharpe that he intends to return. The cemetery is on Mr. D. Wilson’s property two miles south of Morna Park.
1929 February 19 – A NATIVE STATE?
1930 March 4 – Wake up Australia
“Sir,-The letter of Miss Violet Roche in today’s “Herald” impresses on us that Australians as a whole have still to be educated to the value of the tourist business This will have to be done by persistent propaganda, and also by the c o-operation of the intelligentia of the community, who should be induced to divert some of their energy from foreign culture, and turn it towards things Australian. To-day, I was out with a party of friends exploring that part of Kuring-gai Chase just south of the Euro Trig station, and while there thought, what would not oversee people give to possess such a scenic resort? In spite of it being near the end of the season, there were literally acres of Christmas bells and flannel flowers, while, on the flat surfaces of rocks, we found dozens of engraved pictures, and several sacred wells, carved by the vanished aborigines. The aborigines are of great interest, because they are probably the most ancient race in the world, and traces left by them-carved trees, cave paintings, and rock carvings-make a good advertising point Novelty is one of the secrets of successful and using, and here, in the blacks, we have something different to that possessed by other countries
I am. etc.
1930 November 29 – QUAINT ROCK CARVINGS BY ABORIGINES IN THE GOSFORD DISTRICT.
1931 January 31 – ABORIGINAL CARVINGS – Masterpieces Near Gosford.
Hidden by dense scrub from the view of the many tourists who travel along the Woy Woy road near its junction with the Main Northern road, about four miles from Gosford, are many aboriginal rock carvings, which, an old resident of that locality declares, have only recently been discovered by him, and he believes that he is the first one to find these particular carvings. Urged on by curiosity I accepted his offer to view them, and after an arduous scramble through the dense scrub we finally came to the flat rocks which the aboriginals had chosen for their work. On the first of these rocks was drawn an animal resembling a kangaroo or wallaby, though the tail did not seem quite long enough and the body too large for such an animal. A short distance to the left of this and a little below it is a man’s arm and hand holding a boomerang pointing towards the head of the animal. This rock carving seems to suggest more than the mere depicting of the objects familiar to the aboriginal. Rather, I think, it points to a more advanced stage when some attempt is made at picture writing very primitive, certainly, but still akin to that of the North American Indian for by the position of the carvings a record seems to be made of the hunting of such an animal by a person with a boomerang. On the next rock, a few feet away, are other carvings-one an exceedingly good ,life-size drawing of a kangaroo. To the left of it is either an unfinished drawing or one which has been partly obliterated by the running water and soakage which flows over the rock whenever rain has fallen in that district. This drawing represents the body, arms, and legs of a human being, but two parallel lines take the place of the head. Other drawings are also on this rock, but their shape gives no indication as to what the artist intended to represent. They are egg-shaped with hooked markings at their upper end. The drawings on this and on the other rocks nearby-with the exception of the first one mentioned-merely depict various objects of interest to the aboriginal. For instance, Just a few feet away, on a third rock, are some other carvings representing fish, sharks with the dorsal fin plainly showing, the head of a fish, and, almost obliterated by the action of running water from the soakage, is the faint outline of a bird. Here and there are also carved the footprints of birds, and, showing very distinctly, is the outline of an aboriginal shield. These drawings are scattered about in an haphazard manner, showing no attempt at grouping them so as to tell of some incident, but they just seem to be drawn here and there as the artist thought of them.WELL-PRESERVED MARKINGS. By far the most interesting rock in this group is the fourth and largest of them all. Lying slightly lower than the others, it was quite wet with the soakage from the higher ground; however, in spite of this, the carvings are in a perfect state of preservation. In the top left hand corner is carved a snake, and just below it is a perfectly rounded hollow in the rock, about a foot deep, and full of clear water. Just beneath it are six hollows arranged in two lines of three. These are about a foot long, and two or three inches wide, and evidently were used by the blacks for sharpening their implements. The presence of the water and the perpendicular sides of each hollow
suggest this explanation, as they give the impression of being worn away by some chisel shaped implement. By the side of this is acarving of the right foot of an aboriginal, and nearby are more drawings of fish. But by far the most interesting carving in this wonderful collection is that of a large dugong or sea-cow. The large body, flippers, and tail are carefully drawn, and great attention has also been given to the head. The snout is well defined, likewise the tiny ears, while two eyes are shown on the side of the head, as was the case with many of the other drawings. This carving is about eight or nine feet in length, and so seems to be a drawing from life, especially as such great accuracy is evident in the features of an animal which differs so greatly from those with which the aboriginal would be more familiar. The most remarkable thing about the carvings is the great accuracy shown in them all. The aboriginal seems to have endeavoured to give a faithful, life-like, and often life-size reproduction of the various objects which interested him, and his keen powers of perception and attention to detail which would be necessary to him as a successful hunter are well illustrated by these carvings. Then, too, there is his sense of proportion. Whether the drawings are life-size or not, the proportion is always there, and this is especially seen in the case of the dugong and kangaroo. Even with the minor carvings the same sense of proportion can be observed. Though a search was made among many other rocks in that locality, none of them yielded anything of value as far as rock carvings were concerned. One, a small rock at the base of an old bottle brush tree, has some markings on it, but they are so worn and indistinct that one could hardly see them. On tracing them with the finger they appeared to be three circles connected by various shaped lines. Still nearer to the road is a long ledge of rock, partly covered with coarse grass, moss, and a few lichens. Here again some markings were seen, but they disappear under the hard, though thin, covering of earth. Then, too, weathering has caused pieces of the rock to break off, so that only a few lines are visible of what evidently has been a very large rock carving. Not far from the scene of these age-old masterpieces, a land sale is to be held shortly, and it seems likely that unless something is done to preserve such wonderful specimens of native art, they will disappear from our ken, for an ordinary workman, searching for building material, is not likely to look for these carvings, and, even if he did see them, he probably would not be willing to sacrifice the good piece of stone just because of a few markings on it. Some of the rock in the neighbourhood is already being broken up for use on the roads, so that, unless something is done soon it seems inevitable that these works of the early, inhabitants of Australia will be lost to posterity.
1931 May 5 – ABORIGINAL PAINTINGS AND CARVINGS
Among the aborigines of the southern parts of the continent the custom was generally to bury their dead in a. sitting posture hi the earth, weapons and immediate ‘ personal; possessions being placed in the grave beside the body. These tribes have left practically no records of burial beyond the graves themselves of the remainder the tribes located in hilly country buried their dead, either immediately or after some lapse of time, in caves. The inhabitants of the plain country where caves ; were absent generally used hollow tree trunks for the same purpose. On the roof or wall of the cave or on the tree trunk were carved or painted certain pictures which were intended to serve exactly the same purpose as the inscriptions on our tombstones. The central figure in each ease was either the whole, or portion of a stereotyped outline intended to represent a human being for an old man a complete large figure for a warrior a smaller figure, for a young man a figure minus the legs
1931 July 3 – PERSONAL
Mr. E. J. Mclntosh, J.P., Head master of the Kitchener Public School, and Principal of the Cessnock Continuation School, who, under medical advice, recently undertook a voyage to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, has returned to Cessnock and resumed duty. The trip was made by the new motor vessel, ‘Macdhui’— its maiden voyage. Di. Cecil R. Blomfield, Government Medical Officer at Cessnock, went as Surgeon aboard the ‘Macdhui,’ which occupied four weeks and two days in making the round trip. Mr. Mclntosh brought south a weird and wonderful collection of native spears, clubs, bows and arrows, daggers, battle-axes, etc., and many items of domestic use, sample^ of aboriginal ingenuity. Portion of the collection has. been presented to Mr. James R. Scott, J.P., and makes a welcome addition to the anthropological section of his private museum. Another recent addition to Mr. Scott’s collection Consists of a varied assortment of ”magos’. (aboriginal stone axes), flint knives and scrapers, as used by the aborigines in this district from time immemorial. These were secured in the Congewai district from time to time by Mr. R. Burgess Mr Scott is a keen student of anthropological and historical matters, and very much appreciates these gifts.
1931 September 11 – LITTLE-KNOWN PLACES
Long ago no aborigines would come Bear Millstream. It was a haunted spot, they said. Where the biggest pool lies, so the legend goes, was once a green valley. One night a tribe gathered there for a corroborree. The men, in their festive head dress, were dancing and chanting in all the .wild abandon of the .tribal dance when suddenly a great stream of .water rose out of the ground, and swallowed every man, woman sad child of the tribe. And this ancient tradition is the nearest one can get to an explanation of the five pools of Millstream.
1931 September 25 – THE OLD DAYS Blacks and Bushrangers – MR. DAVID CRAWFORD LOOKS BACK.
1931 October 2 – “JACKY” VISITS CESSNOCK – First Appearance on Coalfields.
‘Jacky’, the aboriginal comedian, visits ‘Cessnock for the first time on Thursday nlght. He will be the guest of Ald. Pryor, and at night will make his one and only, appearance before a Cessnock audience, at the community night.
1931 December 7 – LETTERS – ROCK CARVINGS.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD.
Sir,-Until a scientist examines the 1000 broad arrows carved on the cave wall in Blue Gum Forrest, it is not possible to state whether they were made by white men or aborigines. In the majority of cases the experienced eye can determine if a rock carving has been done with steel or with stone tools, Just as it is possible to tell if a native wooden implement is stone made or knife-made. The aborigines have a symbol somewhat resembling a broad arrow. It is the sign of the emu-three converging short lines representing the bird’s footprints-but it is doubtful if aborigines would make the unnecessary number reported to be in the cave.
1932 November 2 – ROCK CARVINGS.TO THE EDITOR OP THE HERALD.
Sir,-In reply to Mr. O’Brien’s inquiry in your columns to-day, I am pleased to state that the Anthropologlcal Society of New South Wales has, since its Inception, made every effort to have the aboriginal rock carvings preserved, and with the co-operation of the Lands Department and the Australian Museum has succeeded in many instances. Representations have been made to councils to have strong picket fences erected around various groups, but their apathy In this respect is greatly to be regretted, and the thoughtless public which, as a body, seems to want only to destroy rather than to preserve, is defacing many of them. The particular group at Maroota, of which
Mr. O’Brien speaks, is on private land, and was referred to in the “Herald” on September 24. It is not unique, but is, however, one of the finest groups known. These rock carvings, I might add. are plentiful in the vicinity of Sydney, occurring all over the Hawkesbury
sandstone formation, the exposed flat surfaces of which are especially suitable for the purpose. One must appeal to the public to refrain from interfering with these carvings in any way, and to councils and landowners on whose land they happen to be. to make every effort to preserve them, as they are of great scientific Interest and value.
I am. etc..
F D MCCARTHY
Anthropological Society of NSW
Australian Museum Nov 1
1932 November 24 – Aboriginal Carvings
1933 August 29 – ROCK CARVINGS. Ancient Examples Found IN WOY WOY DISTRICT. Monday.
An exploration of the Woy Woy district was made on Saturday by a number of scientists interested In rock carvings. Some of the carvings discovered were pronounced by Mr. A. J. Vogan, F.R.G.S., who accompanied the party, to be of very ancient origin. Another section of the party engaged in a search for orchids. Several varieties were discovered. The native flora was stated by the botanists to be particularly fine this year. The shire engineer (Mr. L. H. Webber) surveyed the sites of the more important carvings with a view to protective reservations being applied for. Further explorations in this area are contemplated In the near future.
1934 January 6 – THE ART OF THE ABORIGINAL-ROCK CARVINGS PRESERVED IN NATIONAL PARK.
1934 October 28 – SAVE Our Native RELICS
The aboriginal rock-carvings at Kuring-Gai Chase have been pronounced by men who have devoted their lives to the study of the ethnology of the Australian aboriginal to be some of the best examples of the art of the natives.
1936 September 15 – NATIVE ART – Preserving Carvings – MUSEUM WORK
Having taken 20 caste of aboriginal carvings In the Hawkesbury sand stone district, officers of the an anthropology section of the Australian Museum are making good progress in their efforts to secure a representative series of 200 pictures of native Mr. D. J. McCarthy, of the Museum staff, said to-day that casts of carvings of seals, humans, mammals and fish had been taken In various localities within 70 miles of Sydney. The figures were being limited to 10 feet, although some of the drawings by the aborigines were 60 feet in length. The pictures would be on exhibition in the Museum.
1936 May 9 – NATIVE BEAR ROCK CARVING
A rock carving, depleting a native bear, has been discovered on a large outcrop of sandstone, near Sydney, by Mr. B, L. Horneshaw, who has tile most complete record of aboriginal art galleries in New South Wales, It is a notable discovery, adding to the list of subjects chosen by primitive artists, some of whose work was done a century ago. This rock carving, although only an outline, is deeply interesting, as the earliest known koala portrait,
1937 January 15 – SCIENTISTS
“The picture writing at Burragurra revealed a ritual in which an ethical system was embodied. The initiation ceremony was, in reality, a school for the education of youth. It was a compulsory system of education for all males at the age of 14, not merely a word of mouth ceremony to be learned from the lectures of instructors and the words of the songs sung during the ceremony; but really by such written words in picture signs, giving ideas which, when once seen, were remembered and known wherever they appeared.On the rock was the picture-written instruction in obedience, fortitude, fidelity, fruitfulness (or the propagation of life) and faith.The central idea of the great picturegram at Burragurru was the genesis or creation of man in it was shown how God (Bhaiame, meaning, “Cut Off to Build,” or Muun, meaning. “Bringer of Life”) created the first man by cutting off his leg and fashioning it into aman. Dhurramullan (meaning, “One Leg Living,” or “One Leg Alive”). Bhaiame was represented by six impressions of a foot called”Mundowa,” the common meaning of which was given as “Footprints”; but in reality the word meant, “He who came from on high brought living things into the world.” He was never shown in any drawing or sculpture, for it was a blasphemy even to mention His name outside the circle. He dwelt on high, above the shining light of the Southern Cross.”
1937 January 23 – Aboriginal Rock Carvings Sir -As translator of the aboriginal writing on the rocks as revealed by the colossal picturegrams at the Wollombi, I am pleased with the publicity that has been given to the paper read before the Science Congress. I think however that credit is due to the explorers who did the field work and who discovered them and sent the drawings to me to elucdate. It Is more than a year ago that the first of the picturegrams was discovered by a party led by Mr W J Enright, solicitor, of Maitland, former president of the Anthropological Society of Sydney, and well known for his work in collaboration with other scientists. . . .
1937 January 30 – Aboriginal Carvings
1937 February 2 – ROCK CARVINGS.TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD.
Sir,-In reply to the letter of Mr. Frederic Slater in to-day’s “Herald,” boiled down, Mr. Slater does not know anything about these cuts representing certain Australians in rocks about Port Jackson. I do not refer to the “paintings” of ceremonial figures – they are in a different class entirely. Even the members of the Anthropological Society who heard Mr. Slater’s interpretations of rock cuttings evidenced their disbelief in his far-fetched renderings of the occult meanings; and the society accepts a lot of unsupported theory. There Is no proof whatsoever that the carvings were made by the aborigines we know. There is no reason to believe that they are representative of any “culture.” The work of Spencer and Gillan surely may be taken to be a criterion in this regard, and they state on page 216 of the churingas, which I maintain is in the same category as the carvings: “Where these churinga came from originally, whom they were made by, and when and by whom they were gathered together are questions which cannot be answered.” I may hold a pin in my hand, but that is not proofthat I made it. Of the rocks hands (which are of aboriginal origin, for I have seen some being made and have it from the late Mary Golding that she and other women made many, and they are not “carvings,” but paintings), page 118 has “The rock hand – it has no hidden mysterious or occult significance of any kind whatsoever.” Yet Mr. Slater reads into these fun-producing hand-pictures a lot of Grecian-like legendary lore that caused smiles to appear on the faces of the anthropologists at a recent meeting of the society.
I am, etc, C W. PECK.
23 Elizabeth-street, Paddington, Jan. 25.
1937 February 18 – PICTURED STORY OF BLACKS – Wollombi Carvings
Picture history of the Australian blacks, contrary to the rock symbols left by other peoples all over the world, can be reconstructed and revocalised. Mr. Frederic Slater made this point last night in speaking of the great picturegraphs at Burragurra, near Wollombi.
1937 February 19 – ABORIGINAL ART – Remarkable Carvings at Wollombi.
In the course of a lecture delivered to the members of the Anthropological Society in Sydney, recently, Mr Frederick Slater said that the theory that the blacks of Australia came from Egypt was confirmed by the aboriginal carvings at Devil’s Rock, Wollombi. The totems, symbols, and ideographs carved he said, showed that the ancestors of the Australian aborigines migrated, probably from Egypt, in the late paleolithic and the neolithic ages. One striking ideograph, the Muron, found at Wollombi, had been preserved by the blacks for more than 100,000 years.
1937 March 2 – Aboriginal Carvings in the Wollombi District
(To the Editor).
Sir, — About a year ago some very important aboriginal rock carvings were discovered and recorded at the Devil’s Rock and other spots out from Wollombi. The recent published references to this, and to a possible interpretation of the carvings, have aroused much interest. Unfortunately, this interest has already lead at least one person to cut out and bring away specimens of these rock carvings. This is a very serious matter, for it seriously interferes with the scientific value of the carvings; these must be studied in situ in their relation to the whole series of carvings of which each one forms a part; e.g., what may look like the imprint of a bird has another symbolic meaning in certain contexts. I therefore appeal, sir, through your columns to all persons in the district, and especially to any who are are smitten with the collecting ‘instinct,’ to be satisfied with photos and carefully made drawings of aboriginal carvings and paintings, and on no account deface or remove any of them. The attention of the Department of Lands has been drawn to these sites so that official attention may be given to their protection. I would also ask that if any of your readers possess any information concerning any aboriginal carvings or any other relics, they would kindly communicate with me so that a thorough recording and study could be made. — Yours, etc.,
A. P. ELKIN,
Professor of Anthropology.
The University, Sydney.
1937 March 19 – REMARKABLE CARVINGS AT WOLLOMBI
1937 October 23 – Came From Africa To Australia
The book represents years of patient research. It contains 350 pictures and 80 plates, and is dedicated to the “Stone Age Men Who Still Exist.” Mr. Slater has been a student of the Australian aboriginal all his life, and is an authority on his language. By request, he has supplied native names for hundreds of Australian homes. A few years ago he acquired a valuable aboriginal vocabulary. which opened up to him a hitherto unsuspected field of research. The vocabulary is known as a “Murrigiwalda”‘ (sacred language), and gave him the key to many avenues of investigation. The vocabulary had been the property of Mrs. David Dunlop. wife of the first magistrate at Wollombi, near Cessnock. and contained clues to aboriginal rock-carvings, particularly some on the summits of mountains at Burragurra and Yango (Wollombi), which, Mr. Slater avers, were done by the blacks between 200 and 300 years ago.
1937 November 16 – LITERATURE IN STONE – stolen symbol is centuries old
“The emu pad stolen from Burragurra,” said Mr. Slater to-day, “is a symbol of the Divine Light, and the series of them means, ‘Gladly I follow in the footsteps of the strong.’
“Words on the Rock”
“As the rock weighs about 3cwt., the desecrators must have had great difficulty in getting it down to the main road, whence it could have been shipped to some museum or wealthy collector of archaeological treasures. “The mountain from which it was taken rises steeply to 1500ft., a nd has a flat summit. “The locality is known as ‘The Devil’s Rock,’ but Burragurra means ‘Words on the Rock,’ and, though the Devil is depicted there, he is well and truly held in a ‘gooll’ (bag), which no aborigine brought up in the faith of his fathers would venture to open. The writing on these rocks relates to an amazing system of ethics, theology, and religion, in which the abounding theme is of goodness and high morality.” He was amazed, Mr. Slater added, that Government action had not been taken to protect the archaeological library at Burragurra and Yango.”
1937 November 19 – ROUGH ROAD TO HISTORIC GROUND
1937 November 23 – SUCCESSFUL BAZAAR –
An interesting exhibit was shown by Mr. J. R. Scott. It included aboriginal tools and implements, relics of the convict days, and military arms, showing the development of the service rifle from 1704.
1938 January 17 – SYMBOLIC SECRETS OF THE ABORIGINES
1938 January 21 – SYMBOLIC SECRETS
1938 January 21 – SYMBOLIC SECRETS OF THE ABORIGINES
1938 February 10 – NATIVE ART RUINED BY HIKERS
Vandalism by hikers is causing grave concern for the safety of beautiful aboriginal rock carvings in sandstone caves throughout the Hawkesbury district. ‘Two caves at Berowra Waters, containing splendid specimens ‘ of native art, are to be enclosed with iron grilles by the Hornsby Shire Council, to prevent further despoliation. Two drawings, which are of hands and feet, fish, animals, and birds, are probably the specimens in the Hawkesbury. Action for preservation has been taken at the request of anthropologists of the Australian Museum, who recently undertook a comprehensive tour of the district.; Drawings Removed It was discovered that one slab of sandstone bearing a number of small carvings, had been removed,
1938 March 11 – ABORIGINAL CULTURE
1938 May 24 – PERSONAL
Mr. Walter Enright, B.A., paid a visit of inspection of the historical caves in the Wollombi district on Saturday. Mr Enright finds great pleasure in geological research and some time back went as far as Mexico to view some world renowned scenery. The caves at Wollombi are rich in aborigine carvings.
1938 June 29 – Prehistoric and Aboriginal Relics
1939 June 23 – MR. SCOTTS MUSEUM Visit by O.B.B. Boys Brigade.
About a dozen members of the O.B B. Boys’ Brigade, attached to the local; Presbyterian Church, and in charge of Rev. J. Faulkner and Mr Robert C. White, J.P., last night paid a visit to the private museum of Mr. James R. Scott, J.P., Deputy Coroner, at ‘Fairview’, Allandale Road, Cessnock – Upwards of two hours were spent in making a close inspection of the numerous exhibits grouped under such headings as ‘Aboriginal Relics,’ ‘Bushranging Relics,’ ‘Convict Relics,’ etc. etc., also ancient books manuscripts, pictures, and., genera1 items of interest. Mr. Scott explains the various items fully in an informal chat rather than in the more formal style of a lecture, and held the interest of his audience, who took no account of the passage of time. When the clock struck ‘ten’. Mr Scott remarked: ‘To be continued’; and invited all present to come again any old time, when, further items would be available for inspection.
1939 September 13 – MEN AND WOMEN
Kearsley Shire Council last night nominated Councillor A. Burns as trustee for the Burragurra and Yango Reserves defined by the Department of Lands for the preservation of aboriginal carvings and drawings. Included in the trustees appointed by the Department is Mr. W. J. Enright of Maitland. The reserves are in the Wollombi district. Impressions of the Australia-wide Rotary Conference at Syaney last week will be given at the weekly dinner of Cessnock Rotary Club by members who represented the club.
1939 September 13 – TRUSTEES CHOSEN
1940 July 9 – Aborigine Relic
1942 April 29 – ANGUS PLACE
Pupils of, the local school recently ‘visited what, is known locally as the “Black Fellow’s Hands,” near Wolgan Gap., There they inspected some very fine examples of aborigine rock drawings. This site is well worth a visit from anyone interested in research work of this type. The rock drawings inspected included quite a number of hands, a boomerang, a piccaninny, an axe, feet, a rat, and a kangaroo which appeared to have wings. Another spot which also contains many examples of native art is to be visited in the near future.
1946 September 14 – THE GREAT ABORIGINAL QUEST
1948 March 8 – ROCK CARVINGS
Sir,-While welcoming the interest evinced by your correspondent “Interested,” the trustees of Ku-ring-gai Chase are surprised that he did not first make his approach to the trust, when he would have been fully informed of the measures already taken to
preserve the rock carvings in their primitive state. The trustees are aware of the location of many of these aboriginal rock carvings and, as others are discovered, steps are taken to protect them from vandalism. The group referred to by your correspondent is already known and recorded. It is fortunate that most of these examples of primitive art are located in places which are not easily accessible, otherwise theywould be subjected to defacement and vandalism. Many that were easily accessible have already been disfigured. The Royal Australian Historical Society and the Australian Museum authorities have co-operated with the trustees in searching for and recording these valuable relics; and a constant search is being made for others. Even should the trustees consider the time opportune to open them up for public inspection, it would require an army of rangers to protect them from vandalism; but, to those who are genuinely interested, information as to the locations of those already known can be readily obtained.
E. G. BLANSHARD, Secretary
to the Trustees.
1948 March 12 – ROCK CARVINGS
Sir,-In 1935 I found a group of aboriginal carvings consisting of approximately 30 drawings, including seven “emus, several men with shields, a large stingray, a figure of a male god, 26 feet long, a large female figure, several excellent kangaroos, a dingo, a goanna, besides wallabies, boomerangs, shields, and clubs. In 1946 I again visited this very inaccessible spot (within 50 miles of Sydney), and was delighted to find that the carvings were still in their original well preserved condition, and I could not find a trace of any individuals having visited the area in the intervening years.
I hope that the importance of these carvings to posterity is such that the whole area covering many square miles of rough and broken
country will be proclaimed a national trust
1949 September 24 – Native Relics
Sir,—At Leeton, a scientific party is preserving the relics of aboriginal carvings. Why is this not done here? In the National Park, hikers picnic on one lot of carvings, while at another spot a tourist track goes across a carving. Also a very special ceremonial ground is being defaced by alterations by hikers. This spot contains the initiation bowl and the figure with the lightning springing out of its head. In not many years these sacred relics will be entirely lost. These carvings in the National Park should be fenced around and made to take their place in the ancient history of Australia, instead of being destroyed.
1949 September 27 – Native Relics
Sir,-I desire to remind Bushwalker (“Herald,” Sept. 24) that whilst his wish to preserve aboriginal art is commendable, his conclusion that rock carvings in the Sydney sandstone area should be fenced in is a wrong one. It has- been found time and time again, much to the sorrow of preservationists, that the erection of fences around a work of art, particularly aboriginal carvings, leads to widespread vandalism and to their rapid destruction. Experienced anthropologists believe native art’s only chance of survival lies in its obscurity until the day that people develop more social consciousness.
ROSS HORNSHAW. Drummoyne.
1949 October 28 – SAW THE WATTAGAN BLACKS IN FULL WAR GEAR – Yellow Billy
1949 November 30 – NATIVE ART “IN REMOTE SPOTS’
He said’ this X-ray art was more highly developed than anywhere else in the world. It was beautifully executed, and colorful. There were thousands of fine lines in the picture of one fish.
1950 March 12 – New Native Art Found
An artist who arrived in Sydney recently from Perth said yesterday that he hoped to exhibit a picture which he copied from an aboriginal rock painting and Is something entirely new in art.”
1952 July 8 – The Aborigine -Aborigine Relic
While digging the foundations of a home at Toronto recently one of the workmen came upon a human skull. Farther digging located the remaining part of an aborigine, who had been buried. The position pointed to the corpse had been buried sitting.
1953 June 18 – Neglected Carvings
Sir,-Aboriginal rock carvings on the heights above Bobbin Head are in a disgraceful state of neglect. This spot is littered with broken glass and tins, and made additionally hideous by the rusting remains of a barbed-wire fence which once did something to protect the carved rocks, but now lies in rank grass and undergrowth that has encroached on the area. Sand and pebbles blow about on the carvings, helping to wear them away, and lately someone has had a substantial bonfire on the largest of the carved outcrops. All this seems to be a consequence of leaving the carvings untended, and unmarked by sign or notice board, in the hope that vandals will not be attracted. A few people do find the carvings, and there is nothing there to induce respect. Would it not be better to tidy such places, publicise them, and encourage study of
them? The other policy not only appears to have failed, but also so it seems to me is a policy of despair.
E. A. ANSTRUTHER.
1954 April 16 – ABORIGINAL CARVINGS.
FOUND AT BROKEN BAY. WAGSTAFFE POINT, Tuesday.
Rock carvings, the work of aborigines years ago, have recently been located on the northern shores of Broken Bay. Only one series has been found, consisting of portrayals of fish, eels, kangaroos and one evidently intended for a snake. The execution is crude and the carvings are very similar to rock carvings which are frequently found on the southern side of the bay. What seems strange is that the rock selected is of the hardest class of the Hawkesbury series of sandstone occurring in the locality indicating that a substance very much harder had been used to make the drawings. It is probable that ironstone bands which occur in many places in the crevices of rocks provided these. The evidence of age and the subjects selected leave little doubt that the carvings are the work of aborigines who were once very numerous
1954 April 24 – DAMAGE TO ROCK CARVINGS
Sir,—During recent visits to inspect and record aboriginal rock carvings in the Sydney district, members of the Anthropological Society of N.S.W. have been alarmed and dismayed by the damage being done to these irreplaceable relics. At one group in Allambie Road, Brookvale, which was intact a few weeks ago, some stupid person has recently carved his initials all over some of the figures as well as cutting a line of huge arrows right across the group. Far more serious damage, amounting in several cases to the complete destruction of whole groups of carvings, is being caused by quarrymen. Groups at Waitara, Brookvale, and Deewhy have all suffered this fate. Such wholesale destruction of national relics can and should be stopped by councils refusing to grant quarrying licences for rocks bearing aboriginal engravings.
F. L. S. BELL, president, Anthropological Society of N.S.W.