A Travellerspoint blog

Kakadu Aboriginal rock art

A picture into the pre-historic and recent past

sunny 31 °C

Kakadu National Park contains the highest concentration of Aboriginal rock art in Australia and the galleries at Ubirr, Nourlangie and Nanguluwur are spectacular and interesting. The fact that some of these paintings are as old as 20,000 years, but still part of a living culture, makes it even more interesting to view.

At Ubirr we saw many examples of the more recent x-ray style paintings, about 2,000 years old, showing the internal organs and bone structures of creatures like Barramundi fish and Long-neck turtles. There is also an excellently preserved example of the Mabuyu hunting figure which is estimated around 2,000 years old. According to local lore, Mabuyu was a fisherman. One day, he caught a lot of fish, but some other Aborigines cut his line and stole the fish from Mabuyu. Mabuyu found out who the thieves were and went to their cave. He rolled a rock in front of the opening, trapping them in the cave. The men who stole the fish and their wives died because they could not escape from the cave. This story is used in Aboriginal lore to demonstrate morality and the consequences of stealing. There was also an interesting, more recent painting of a man with a gun, documenting the contact with westerners.

At Nourlangie the rock art galleries are very impressive with different styles of paintings and amazing stories. The story of Namarrgon, the Lightening Man. Violent electrical storms occur on the Arnhem plateau and according to Aboriginal Dreamtime explanation of this work, Namarrgon and his family came from the sea and traveled Australia for many years. He uses the stone axes that are mounted on his head, elbows and knees to split the dark clouds and strike the ground, creating lightning and thunder. In addition to his axes, he also has a band wrapped around his body. This band belongs to thunder and works side by side with the axes to shake the earth and the heaven. Barrinj is Namarrgon’s wife and she is the mother of all grasshoppers.

There is also an excellent painting of Nabulwinjbulwinj, a dangerous spirit that eats females after striking them dead with a yam, a type of vegetable….weird!

The story of Namanjolg is a story of incest. It is said that Namanjolg and his sister had sex and later eloped. Ashamed of what they did, Namanjolg's sister told their family. Upon hearing of their sin, Namanjolg's family sought him out to punish him. When they found him, he was on top of what is now known as Feather Rock, dancing around a fire. A member of his family then pushed him into the fire. Namanjolg, covered in ash, dove into a nearby billabong and became a crocodile. Namanjolg's sister took a feather from his headdress and placed it at the site to remind others of the Aboriginal laws regarding incest which she had broken with her brother. Namanjolg's sister later becomes the Rainbow Serpent, Ngalyod, the subject of many Aboriginal stories from the Dreaming lore.

Also at Nourlangie, are paintings of kangaroos who are not present in Kakadu for thousands of years (only Wallabies and Wallaroos), dated at least 20,000 years old.

At Nanguluwur there is an interesting painting of a tall ship, evidence of the interaction with early settlers. The amazing part is that the site is 200km from the sea and shows the importance of these paintings to convey messages. There are also interesting hand paintings and x-ray style paintings as well as paintings of Namarnde, powerful ancestors that created the earth, live in caves and eat human flesh. Also at Nanguluwur is a painting of Algaigho, the Fire Woman, who planted the yellow banksias in the woodlands and used their smouldering flowers to carry fire.

These rock paintings are world heritage jewels and should be preserved for generations to come.

Rock art at Ubirr

Rock art at Ubirr


X-ray fish

X-ray fish


X-ray paintings at Ubirr

X-ray paintings at Ubirr


Man with a gun

Man with a gun


Long-neck turtle

Long-neck turtle


Mabuyu hunting figure

Mabuyu hunting figure


Barramundi x-ray style painting at Ubirr

Barramundi x-ray style painting at Ubirr


Namarrgon (right), his wife Barrinj (left bottom) and Namanjolg (top)

Namarrgon (right), his wife Barrinj (left bottom) and Namanjolg (top)


Nabulwinjbulwinj the dangerous spirit that eats females

Nabulwinjbulwinj the dangerous spirit that eats females


Nourlangie Rock Art

Nourlangie Rock Art


Tall ship painting next to a Barramundi x-ray painting at Nanguluwur

Tall ship painting next to a Barramundi x-ray painting at Nanguluwur


Namarnde

Namarnde


X-ray style paintings

X-ray style paintings


Algaihgo, the Fire Woman, in the center of the painting

Algaihgo, the Fire Woman, in the center of the painting


Hand paintings at Nanguluwur

Hand paintings at Nanguluwur

Posted by KobusM 04:11 Archived in Australia

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Comments

I have been part of Travellers Point for years traveling around the globe and had great stories traveling with friends and new people I have found on here traveling to same place.

I'm starting a website that is all about stories and our newest section is about travelers like us with great stories to tell. Please send us a story of a great trip you had with a photo please so we can post on our site.

www.myspokenlife.com

by dunning

Hi Kobus,

Last time I met Graeme in China about 3 months ago I asked him if he had of late heard anything from you and he said Kobus is busy touring Australia. That was it .. not much ... but now by chance as I happen to see your last mail sent prior to your leaving Sweden and look up your travel blog, tell you what ?? I'm mesmerized with your amazing travel diaries, the pictures, the comments ... oh !!! you are a champion Kobus !! Tell you I was always yr admirer but now become your fan !!!!! Absolutely amazing !!! Promptly I've subscribed and I am going to hereafter follow your magnificent articles on a regular basis .. !!! Oh yes, you look good in that hotel pic with the hat and the nice light stubble .. !!! And the whole thing is all the more fascinating 'coz it is about Australia and I can identify and connect so much having been to some of the places myself .. Mt Isa for example !! I'm so glad that I looked up the travel blog ..

That's all for the moment ... Enjoy yr exploration and all the best !!!

Regards,
Ujjwal

by Ujjwal Mazumder

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint