The Last of the Engravings

Over the past few months I have assembled a list of local aboriginal sites that the public is allowed to visit and I’m eager to check them out. I have discovered that most of the publically known ones are essentially “sacrificial” sites in that it is understood that they will get destroyed over time, allowing the more sacred places to escape attention. This is a good thing really, as bloggers and Instagramers like me have only to post a good picture and the sites could receive an unsustainable number of visitors, potentially ruining the sites in the process.

I set out to see the Engravings in the bush near Currawong Rd, Berowra. A short walk from the road led me to a huge rock platform that looked ripe for a carving! I found the main engraving without any trouble and was surprised at how large it was! It was a representation of Biaime, an Aboriginal creation being, and was clearly visible in the rock, the low angle of the afternoon sun helping to create shadows that deepened the lines.

Biaime
Biaime’s body
The rock platform leading up to the fire pit
The blank canvas
Rock platform
Biaime

History books told of other engravings at the site but I looked extensively and could not find anything. I was hoping they were being preserved under some leaf litter that was covering some of the site (which I would never disturb), but it had more likely eroded away. Pity, as the main one was meant to have had two heads! There was what looked like a stone fire pit but that could have easily have been natural or put there by, well anyone really. It may have been nothing but a pile of rocks.

I then recalled that a geocache was in the area so I went exploring. There was a trodden footpad leading to some lovely rocks that ran alongside the nearby road. There was something unsettling about the bush however so I kept my eye out for snakes and spiders. I didn’t see anything but there must have been something snakey or ratty or foxy living there to create that feeling in me. I’d love to report that I felt the presence of aboriginal spirits around me – but that would be just made up nonsense! I saw lots of lizards so maybe their scurrying noises in the leaf litter set my imagination running! I also saw the biggest brush turkey mound ever!

Massive Brush Turkey mound

I was getting eaten alive by mosquito’s so I abandoned my search for the geocache. I checked out the rock platform one last time before heading back to the car.

Tree thing
Exploring the rocks
Rocks and ferns
Fort
Fire pit?

On reflection, I wonder if the eroding state of the engravings could not provide the opportunity for some living cultural art. Could a team of local aboriginal people, trained in traditional techniques, perform reengraving ceremonies? Most of the ceremonies of the past are lost and the lifestyle is no longer there to revive them sensibly, but could something new replace them? I imagine annual “reengraving days” at at-risk sites, where the group re-carves the picture, or recreates lost pictures, whilst learning or using their own language in song or poem, with both old and new stories, followed by a barbie! The idea is to create a living artwork, celebrating or even reviving history and culture of the descendants of the people that lived in the area. Throughout the year there can be training days which includes the same songs and stories and barbecues but uses clay or some other material instead of the real thing.

I’m still learning about aboriginal history so have no real concept of the modern day issues nor what the solutions could be, but I felt compelled to share this thought to at least stimulate thinking on the subject.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures!


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7 thoughts on “The Last of the Engravings

  1. Nathan, thank you for sharing such a beautiful post. This is exactly why it’s so important to look after our Earth, not just for us… but for the future. Your ideas on preserving these sights / art works could actually be something to look into further. I teach this topic to my students every year and they love it. I may have to organize a field trip with the Year 5s to this place! Thanks again for a beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. The real question is always “how?”. How do we fix or protect without destroying or, perhaps worse, trivialising? I think that aboriginal sites should not all be treated as history, rather they would be better celebrated as living culture. There is a lot of opportunity there.
      There is an awesome site north of Berowra that might be better suited to taking a class as there is more to see- the bulgandry engravings are more extensive but also show signs of damage, enabling that particular discussion. There is interpretive signage on site. Well worth a visit! I wrote about it of course ….😀
      https://solohikerblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/bulgandry-engravings-brisbane-waters-national-park/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Some really good questions / ideas you have raised here. You’re right, there is so much to learn from these sites, but they do need to be protected.

        Speaking of destroying…. today’s hike led to led my partner and I picking up lots of rubbish on our path. Sad to see cans and packets of chips thrown around. Aside from that it was a beautiful sunset hike (lacking sunset due to weather conditions), but it led to an interesting conversation about expectations. Which I’ll elaborate more on in my next blog about this months hike.

        Oh great! I’ll look into that place and see if we can cover an interstate trip for our seniors. I could possibly collaborate with the PE department and organize something.

        Once again, thank you for your post / comments / support. Much love!

        Like

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