Top Ten Australia Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventures

See Arnhem Land's Aboriginal Art
By Ron Moon & Viv Moon

The flickering flame of the paperbark torch cast an eerie glow across the low roof of the cavern we were standing in. Shadows danced across the white rock walls and smoke rose to caress the ceiling, adding to the black film already there, etched across the roof and the eons by countless generations of Aboriginal people who once called these shelters home.

We followed Max, our guide, deeper into the labyrinth that became more like a maze before we broke out into the open under a clear sky, but still hemmed in by great slabs of rock. Seconds later, we clambered up onto a large rock shelf under a great wide arch of rock, to be met by one of the greatest collection of prehistoric Aboriginal art we've ever seen.

Every spare inch of space is covered in art and initially the flood of designs and colors crowd the senses, overpowering you. It takes deliberate effort to see what is actually there—gather your wits, lay back on the shelving floor below the arch, and concentrate on only one sector of the artists' canvas.

Hand stencils are common, dotted over much of the wall and roof, and many of these are filed with intricate designs. A crocodile looms large, close to the floor, while dingoes and fish—drawn in the 'x-ray' style so indicative of Arnhem Land—crowd one another in a corner of the great natural parchment. We were spellbound!

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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