The Hidden Symbols Behind Famous Indigenous Rock Art

You may have seen Indigenous rock art before and thought it was just a bunch of random shapes and symbols. But there’s actually a lot of hidden meaning behind these works of art. Each symbol represents something important to the artist and their culture. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most famous Indigenous rock art and reveal the hidden symbols behind them.

The history and meaning of Indigenous rock art

Many ancient rock art sites can be found across Australia, often in remote areas. These sites are important to the Indigenous communities who have custodial responsibility for them, as they contain stories and knowledge passed down through the generations.

Some of these rock art sites are world-renowned for their beauty and intrique, and have become iconic symbols of Australia. However, few people know the hidden meanings and histories behind these works of art.

In this article, we will explore the history and meaning of some of Australia’s most famous Indigenous rock art sites. We hope that by doing so, more people will come to appreciate the rich culture and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Paintings at Ubirr, Kakadu National Park

One of the most well-known Aboriginal rock art sites is located in Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory. The paintings at Ubirr depict a wide range of subjects, including animals, humans, and spiritual beings.

The Aboriginal people who created these paintings did so using natural pigments sourced from the surrounding environment. Red ochre was sourced from nearby ironstone deposits, while white pigment came from clay deposits. Black pigment was usually created by burning particular kinds of wood.

The subject matter of the paintings often reflects the local environment and wildlife. For example, one painting depicts a goanna – an animal that is commonly found in Kakadu National Park. Another painting depicts a barramundi – a popular fish amongst Indigenous Australians.

The Gwion Gwion (Bradshaw) paintings in Kimberley, WA

Another famous rock art site is located in Kimberley Region of Western Australia. The Gwion Gwion (also known as Bradshaw) paintings are thought to be among the oldest surviving examples of Aboriginal art in Australia.

These paintings were created using ochre pigments on soft sandstone walls. They depict a range of human and animal figures engaged in various activities.
It is believed that the Gwion Gwion were a mythical race of small beings who were said to be expert hunters and fishermen.
They were also said to be able to transform themselves into any other creature – giving them great power over both humans and animals alike.

The Rainbow Serpent at Gleniffer Brae near Coffs Harbour NSW

Gleniffer Brae is a popular tourist attraction near Coffs Harbour in New South Wales which features a number of Aboriginal rock art sites. One such site is known as The Rainbow Serpent dreaming track which features numerous images of this important mythological creature.. According to Aboriginal belief, the Rainbow Serpent is a powerful being who lives beneath the earth and creates rivers, mountains and other features of the landscape.. The Rainbow Serpent is also said to be responsible for bringing rain during times of drought.. GLENIFFEr Brae is home to one of many dreaming tracks which tell stories through songs lines across different partsiationst here including The little red kangaroo man another dreamtime story

The symbolism behind famous Indigenous rock artworks

There is a hidden meaning and symbolism behind many of the famous Indigenous rock artworks that exist around the world. These artworks often depict animals, spiritual beings, and other elements of nature, and they can tell us a lot about the cultures of the people who created them.

One of the most famous examples of Indigenous rock art is the Bradshaw rock paintings, which are believed to date back over 17,000 years. These paintings depict human-like figures with exaggerated features, and they are thought to represent the spiritual beliefs of the people who created them.

Another example is the petroglyphs found in North America, which are thought to date back over 10,000 years. These petroglyphs often depict animals, and they are believed to have been used as a way for Native Americans to communicate with their ancestors.

Finally, the Aboriginal rock art of Australia is some of the oldest in the world, dating back over 30,000 years. This art often depicts animals and spiritual beings, and it is thought to be connected to the Dreamtime – a concept central to Aboriginal culture that represents a time when all beings were connected and living in harmony.

How Indigenous rock art is used in contemporary times

Indigenous people in Australia have been creating rock art for tens of thousands of years. For Indigenous people, rock art is not just about art or history – it is a living, ongoing tradition.

In contemporary times, Indigenous people are using rock art to teach young people about their culture and to keep their traditions alive. Rock art is also used as a tool for Eco-tourism, helping to promote understanding and respect for Indigenous culture and the environment.

There are many different meanings hidden within Indigenous rock art. Symbols can represent things like animals, plants, Dreamtime stories, or even practical things like waterholes or hunting grounds. By learning about the meanings behind the symbols, we can gain a greater understanding of Indigenous culture and the world around us.

The different styles of Indigenous rock art

There are a number of different styles of Indigenous rock art, each with their own unique symbolism. Here are some of the most common:

  • X-ray style: This style of art depicts animals and humans with their bones showing. It is thought to symbolize the relationship between the physical and spiritual worlds.
  • Concentric circles: Often found in petroglyphs (rock carvings), these circles are thought to represent the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
  • Handprints: Handprints are thought to represent the artist’s connection to their land and ancestors. They can also be used as a form of signature.
  • Animals: Animals are often depicted in Indigenous rock art, and each animal has its own special meaning. For example, kangaroos represent strength and courage, while snakes represent wisdom and knowledge.

The significance of colour in Indigenous rock art

Colour is central to the visual impact of Indigenous rock art. It is often used to delineate different figures and can help to tell a story. For example, in Western Australia, red ochre is often used to represent the spirit world, while white ochre may depict clouds or water.

There are many different interpretations of the meanings of colours in Indigenous rock art. Some believe that they are significant in themselves, while others think that they may be representative of different clans or groups. Whatever the case, it is clear that colour plays an important role in these works of art.

The role of storytelling in Indigenous rock art

Storytelling is an important part of Indigenous culture, and rock art is one of the most important ways in which stories are told and shared. For many centuries, Indigenous people have used rock art to record their history, traditions, and beliefs. Rock art can be found all over the world, and each piece tells a unique story.

Some of the most famous examples of Indigenous rock art can be found in Australia. The Bradshaw paintings, for example, are a series of intricate rock art paintings that date back more than 10,000 years. These paintings tell the story of the Bradshaw people, who were one of the first Indigenous groups to settle in Australia.

Rock art is not just a historical record; it is also a living tradition. Today, there are many Indigenous artists who continue to create rock art that tells the stories of their people. Rock art is a powerful way to connect with one’s culture and heritage, and it is an important part of the storytelling traditions of Indigenous peoples all over the world.