The rock art of Ubirr

Whilst we were in Kakadu we knew we had to explore some of the rock art, and the rock art of Ubirr has to be the best I’ve ever seen, and is apparently why Kakadu has dual World Heritage Status. I have to share!

I do love a good rock formation and those on the way in sort of reminded me of Stonehenge, but built by nature.

The rock art is concentrated under a vast rock overhang and it doesn’t take much to imagine a group of families living under its protection and shade. This is the best photograph I could get of it.

A single step under this overhang illustrates the way in which the Aboriginal culture has been passed down for thousands of years. It is like a repository and the knowledge, laws, behaviours and values are passed down through stories, songs, dance, music, ceremonies and expeditions to gather food. The perfect way to learn I always think!

A close examination of each of these photos shows all sorts of creatures. There are x-ray paintings that are from the freshwater period, within the last 1,500 years. They highlight the abundant foods available in the area round Ubirr, including fish, waterfowl, mussels, wallabies, goanna, echidnas and yams. What can you see?

there is supposed to be art depicting interactions with Europeans, which I couldn’t find, but there’s also art painted by the first people of the creation era, such as the Rainbow Serpent.

the Rainbow Serpent is one of the most powerful beliefs from the earliest era. Wet season rainbows act as a reminder to Aboriginal people. The Rainbow Serpent lives peacefully in waterways but is easily upset and they know when this happens by the sudden gusts of wind that occur. It is believed that this image was painted by the Rainbow Serpent herself to remind people of her visit. There is a long path through Arnhem Land that includes stops by the Rainbow Serpent.

This section of wall shows a visual record of the food caught, but also represented the spirit of the animal and helped in future hunts.

It’s a bit hard to see but this is the menu in the rock art.

Many of the walls have several levels of art, and you can see that menu of food a bit better here.

Some of the paintings were very high and we were speculating on how they got up there, and then we read this sign… So fascinating.

I think this is the image referred to, but I can’t swear to it. They are pretty fabulous images, irrespective!

I think the most fascinating part for me was the depiction of a Thylacine. These are now known as the Tasmanian tiger and are extinct. The town near our holiday place has the Nannup Tiger, also a Thylacine and also extinct (and I always presumed a figment of someone’s imagination), so imagine my surprise when they turn up as rock art at the very top end of Australia.

I referred to the fact that some of these paintings tell stories which dictate behaviour and these images highlight this. I don’t think I can add anything to this!

The fabulous handrails are a modern addition to this area, but I really needed to show them. Look at the down post on these handrails, so cleverly constructed!

A short walk on and a climb to the top of another rock formation and this was our 360ยฐ view:

Sorry it’s a bit fast! Sadly we couldn’t wait for sunset as our accommodation was too far away, but definitely next time!

Close by was a beautiful rainforest walk, which I’m so glad we did. First up was the Women Only section. This is a place of great significance to women. It’s where they went to hear stories, particularly about the Rainbow Serpent. I did go in alone, but I did feel a little uneasy about snakes as I went further into the bush. I consoled myself with the thought that Mark was but a scream away!

It was lovely to walk under the bats hanging from the trees, and the butterflies were absolutely everywhere!

I’m not sure that I did justice to this magical, mystical place, but I did my best. It’s quite fascinating to think about the people who lived here and how in tune they were with their environment. I am considering another post which highlights some of the Dreamtime stories that shows this.


17 thoughts on “The rock art of Ubirr

  1. i really enjoy all the journeys you take us to .. wooooow it’s absolutely gorgeous thank you for sharing๐Ÿ˜Š

  2. This is such good timing – our daughter wrote an essay for college on aboriginal folklore, based on nightmares I had from a book that was read to us (probably the quinkins by Dick Roughsey and Percy Trezise) right before I went on a hiking trip with my family in the Flinders Rangers. I was deathly scared the quinkins would get me if I didnโ€™t keep up with the rest of the family! It was so interesting going back and reading about Australian aboriginal folk lore.

    1. All of these stories have a reason, and Iโ€™m sure the children who were told this story didnโ€™t dawdle along either! Thank you so much for this comment.

      1. Your right Sue, respecting culture is so important. I loved the rock art, such an amazing energy around that area. A good rock formation is amazing I am often drawn to the tree. xx

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