Saturday, April 21, 2007

The 'Mount Olympus' Of The Aboriginal Gods

Deep inside the Wollemi National Park, protected by natural barriers like steep cliffs and virtually impenetrable terrain and bush, lies one of the greatest collections of ancient Aboriginal rock carvings found to date.

Rock art expert, Professor Paul Tacon, likened the find to an Aboriginal Mount Olympus.

From the Melbourne Age :

Last spring archaeologists discovered an enormous slab of sandstone 100 metres long and 50 metres wide in the 500,000-hectare Wollemi National Park, which is north of Lithgow, in western NSW. The sandstone was covered in ancient art.

The discovery was an unprecedented collection of powerful ancestral beings from Aboriginal mythology.

For most of the day the engravings are almost invisible. At dawn and dusk, the images are briefly revealed.

Supreme being Baiame and his son Daramulan were both there. Near this father and son pairing is an evil and powerful club-footed being, infamous for eating children. Several ancestral emu women and perhaps the most visually powerful of the images, an eagle man in various incarnations, are also present.

"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," says Professor Tacon. "This is the most amazing rock engraving site in the whole of south-eastern Australia."

And yet the archaeologists have found hundreds of sites in the past five years. It seems almost certain that engravings are part of a much larger network of songlines and stories.
An aboriginal representative of the local tribe who joined the expedition to study and catalogue the rock art said :

"They reckon we didn't have written language...We didn't have A, B, C, D but we had a written language in these engravings. They would have been able to read from site to site to site."

Aboriginal rock engravings are widely regarded as the oldest art works in the world, some dating back more than 40,000 years.

Australian Aborigines have long been recognised as having the most ancient culture in the history of all mankind. Before Dutch and English explorers reached the continent, more than 500 distinct Aboriginal tribes existed, each with their own oral and dance storytelling traditions and unique languages.

A number of tribes are believed to have used the stars for navigation across the vast stretches of the outback for thousands of generations.