Aborigine Rock Paintings-Kanangra Walls.

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  • May, 1965.1 MANKIND. [Vol. 6, No. 5,

    Australia : Archaeology.

    Aborigine Rock Paintings-Kanangra Walls. BY P. J. Gresser. Gresser.

    The Jenolan Caves-Kowmung River area, in the County of Westmoreland, New South Wales, east of the Main Dividing Range, comprises some of the most rugged and mountainous country to be found in all Australia. About twenty miles south from Jenolan Caves, and in the upper watershed of the Kowmung River is a high, irregular shaped plateau approximately a mile and a quarter across from north-west to south-east and about the same distance across from south to north-east. This island-like plateau is surrounded on all sides by immense cliffs, those facing westward and northward being known as Kanangra Walls. The greater part of the plateau is destitute of timber but is covered with a dense growth of small shrubs of many species. From the top of the cliffs extensive panoramic views are to be had over a great area of country.

    The steep descent down into the valleys from the plateau, portion of what is known as Kanangra Tops, is about 2,000 feet. Owing to the irregular shape of the plateau, the distance, following the cliffs around, is at least seven miles, and there are but few places where the ascent or descent can be made.

    On the north-eastem side of the cliffs there is a narrow break known as Smiths Pass. The top of Smiths Pass is merely a crevice in the sandstone rock which widens out into a steep narrow defile along which it is possible to ascend or descend. A few yards to the north-west of the bottom of the narrow pass are Aborigine paintings on the sandstone cliff face. These paintings, done in red ochre, are not extensive, and there are no stencilled hands. One group of the paintings, the most extensive, is along a ledge or rock seven feet ten inches in length and about five feet above ground level. Here there are six human figures with up-lifted arms. On each end are two small human figures one above the other, and the largest of the other figures is two feet in length. These figures extend along the rock face for a distance of four feet eight inches, and from these, on the north-westem side, there is a zig-zag pattern three feet in length and eight inches in greatest width.

    Elsewhere close by on the cliff face are four other small human figures with up-lifted arms, and also other small curious designs. These paintings are in a tolerably fair state of preservation, but in places are to be seen red ochre markings that are evidently fragments of small paintings that have weathered away, brought about principally by the flaking or scaling of the rock surface. The overhang of the cliff here is only slight, and along the base of it there is a narrow ledge no more than six feet in greatest width from which the mountain side falls away steeply.

    From Smiths Pass and these paintings the narrow ledge extends along under the cliffs to the westward. About four hundred yards distant from Smiths Pass there is a considerable overhang of the cliff face with a level floor about ten paces in greatest length and ten or twelve feet in greatest width. Here, along a slightly rounded portion of the rock surface are another

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  • Vol. 6, No. 5.1 MANKIND. [May, 1965.

    series of rock paintings more extensive than those at Smith's Pass. The paintings here, also of red ochre, were apparently, for the greater part, of different designs. There are no stencilled hands. They are now much mutilated owing to the scaling or flaking of the rock surface which is peeling off in fragments a quarter of an inch or more in thickness.

  • May, 1965.1 MANKIND. [YoL 6, NO. 54

    One intact design here, the only one of its kind now to be distinguished, is a small human i figure with uplifted arms. Another intact design, eighteen inches in length, is thus :

    Along the cliff face between the two groups of paintings are to be seen isolated markings of red ochre, probably fragments of small designs that are now weathering away. There are also to be seen two small intact designs two feet apart and nine inches in length, thus :

    The situation of the first group of paintings is such that the site may not have been a rock shelter. John Bland, who has had some experience in the excavating of rock shelters, and who was with me during my second visit to these sites, put down a couple of small tria holes in a narrow level floor. These two small holes were about eight inches in width and about ten inches in depth. A few inches below the upper layer, which had obviously weathered from off the cliff face, there are unmistakeable traces of ashes.

    The shelter under the second series of paintings is much larger and wider, and the indica- tions are that there has been a considerable build-up of the floor. Some of this would come about by the weathering of the sandstone rock face. Also the appearances are, that if excavated, it would open out into a much deeper shelter. An examination of the terrain in the vicinity revealed that this site is easy of access. It is not unduly difficult immediately below the shelter. The track under the cliffs is the track used by bushwalkers when going from Kanangra Walls to Katoomba, Yerranderie and elsewhere, and distant no more than about fifty yards from this shelter it leads on to a ridge from which a large area of this mountainous country is easily accessible. Also water is available but a short distance away. John Bland also sank two small trial holes in the floor of this shelter and came upon accumula- tions of ashes, but no flakes or chips of chert.

    However, these holes were very small, being at the most, no more than a foot in depth and eight inches in width.

    P. J. GRESSER. a