History of Australia Aboriginal Art

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Ok today I am going to tell you a little about Aboriginal art, I am sure most people have heard of Aboriginal rock paintings and engravings so here is just a little about them.

Aboriginal paintings are found on the ceilings and walls of rock shelters, which occur wherever suitable rock surfaces and outcrops exist. Figures include humans, kangaroos, emus, echidnas, grid patterns, animal tracks, boomerangs, axes, hand stencils and other motifs. Paintings are drawn with white, red, yellow and black pigments and charcoal drawings are also common

Around Sydney, there are probably more than 2000 engraving sites, only half of which have been accurately recorded. Rock engravings are usually located on highly elevated, smooth, flat surfaces, but in some instances can be found on large vertical rocks. They were made by drilling a series of holes in turn which were then connected to form a line. In the local area, designs include fish, animals, humans, wooden artefacts, and mythological beings.

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The precise meanings behind the engravings are not known. Interpretations of what the engravings meant to their makers are sketchy, but the most accepted understanding is that they are products of sacred ceremonies, which were periodically re-engraved as part of ongoing rituals. Because there are no initiated descendants of the people who made the engravings, no one is able to re-engrave them in a culturally appropriate way. They are therefore eroding away from natural causes, human foot traffic, and the ever-increasing use of remnant bushland.

Engravings occur usually where there is a suitable exposure of fairly flat, soft rock or in rock overhangs. People, animal shapes and tracks are common as well as non-figurative designs such as circles.

There are also scarred trees they are evidence of bark and wood being removed for shields, shelters, coolamons (whatever coolamons are) and canoes. These are rare in the Sydney area. The trees can be divided into three groups:

  • Bark removal for use eg. Coolamons

  • Wood removal for use eg. boomerangs

  • Evidence of climbing footholds eg. hunting possum

The tree was not killed by these methods and therefore scarring is evident.

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Then there are Carved trees, these trees have complex patterns cut into the tree, where a piece of bark is removed and the underlying wood is carved. When a carved tree is found next to a grave, it is usually a sign of family ties or the totem of the deceased person.

The designs are often intricate spirals, diamonds and circles, and were carved using a stone hatchet or, more recently, a steel axe. Carved trees are important because of the ceremonial meaning to Aboriginal people.

They are probably the most naturally threatened site because of bush fires, environmental deterioration, and tree regrowth. They are also at risk from clearing. There are no carved trees surviving in the Sydney area.

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