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Australia's Best Aboriginal Rock Art Sites

29th April 2016

Some of the oldest and most important rock art in the world is right here in Australia. The history of this spectacular country is quite literally at your fingertips when you visit some of these Indigenous sites.

Arnhem Land, NT

One of the biggest Aboriginal art galleries in Australia was discovered at Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory by University of Southern Queensland researchers back in 2011.

Exciting evidence, including carbon dating, suggests the cave in which the art was discovered was first occupied by humans 45,000 years ago. Drawings of fish and animals include bones, bladders and other internal organs, proving they were into their biology back then, as much as their brunch items.

Aboriginal rock art in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. Aboriginal rock art in Arnhem Land, NT.

Quinkan Country, QLD

Impressive depictions of horses, humans and other strange-looking figures date back 15,000 to 30,000 years in Queensland's Quinkan Country. These sandstone galleries are included on the Australian Heritage Estate and also remain one of UNESCO's top 10 sites for rock art in the world.

Split Rock is a self-guided site, but many of the guided tours around Quinkan Country involve interesting 2-3 hour walks and run from late March to December.

Kakadu National Park, NT

Kakadu's 20,000 year-old paintings depict everything from contact with early Europeans, to their relationship with the land and their spiritual heritage. There are three major sites for Aboriginal rock art in Australia's most popular park, situated close to Ubirr and East Alligator River. Mimi spirits were the first of the Creation Ancestors to paint on rock, but imprints of hands and bundles of grass can also be seen.

The Nourlangie Rock Art Site in Kakadu National Park, NT. The Nourlangie Rock Art Site in Kakadu, NT.

The Kimberley, WA

The growth of Australian Aboriginal culture over thousands of years is demonstrated almost perfectly in The Kimberley region. It might be hard to reach, but a pilgrimage is worth it, if only to set eyes on its distinctive Wandjina-style rock art.

Clamber over the odd crashed plane and into a cave and you'll also find the Gwion style of rock art, recognisable thanks to intricate and elaborately-dressed figures carrying weapons and valuable objects.


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The Gariwerd-Grampians National Park, VIC

The Grampians National Park is perhaps the most notorious of Indigenous rock art sites in south-eastern Australia.

On the canvas of the sandstone mountains, the Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung peoples painted emus, kangaroos and human stick figures, and at the Gulgurn Manja Shelter by Hollow Mountain there are also painted hand prints. A visit to the Brambuk Living Cultural Centre in Budja Budja shares more of the Aboriginal culture that still fascinates visitors today.

Hand stencil art in World-Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory. Hand stencil art in World-Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park, NT.

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, NSW

Less than an hour from central Sydney, time stands still in the Ku-ring-gai Chase national park, which quietly hides roughly 1,500 pieces of Aboriginal rock art. Rock engravings by the Garrigal of the Guringai Nation, created up to 5000 years ago and visible at the Basin Aboriginal art site, show wallabies, fish and emus, as well as human figures.

Burrup Peninsula, Pilbara, WA

As well as the abundant wildlife population in Murujuga, or ‘hip bone sticking out’ as is its translation, the Burrup Penninsula is home to one of the planet's biggest collections of petroglyphs. Amongst the Rothschild's rock-wallabies, common rock rats and echidnas, this 10,000-piece ancient gallery showcases timeless rock art by the Yaburarra people, an indigenous community who lived on the Peninsula and surrounding Pilbara coast for over 30,000 years.


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