Quinkan Rock Art August 16 2019
  We rise before dawn so as to leave when there is sufficient light, to be in Laura for a 9am start.

As always, its quicker to drive out on a track once traveled than to drive in with all the uncertainty of trees and washouts.

  We cross the Laura River at Old Laura for the third, and final, time. Each time it looks different.
  And so to the Quinkan Centre.

Quinkan seems to represent the collection of tribal or family groups that inhabit the area. The culture has been somewhat decimated by the effects of the Palmer Gold Rush, a very large find, and stations developed to feed the people.

Whereas we somehow knew of Gwions and Wanjinas and Bradshaw rock art in the Kimberley, and the petroglyphs on the Burrup Peninsula, before we were near the sites, I learned of Quinkan Art from just one web page that described someone's visit then did some further research.

The last information I could find for the Split Rock site on the main road a few km south of Laura was about 18 months old, that it was closed for safety reasons. Attempts to contact the centre before a couple of days ago failed - the invite to leave a number for callback is little use with the satphone.

  Lakefield National Park fills a large part of the Laura Basin. Surrounding the basin are sandstone escarpments.

We've traveled about 13km south south east of Laura, the track led up the escarpment near the east side of the Laura River (which cuts a valley through the sandstone).

Now we'll descend a few steps to a rock art site.

  We are on a guided tour, with interpretation of the site. Which my failing memory fails to retain for very long.

The site has four galleries, associated with initiation of boys into men.

We see it a bit backwards. The initiants crawl through a small passage from where initiation rites are conducted to this "room" then move to "recovery".

There are several layers of painting, the site was possibly active until the 1950's. We can count four pages, each less distinct, though there are probably more.

The six fingers of the male with headdress suggests a person of some importance.


  We can imagine a flow, the paintings are roughly aligned with the exit of the small passage.

There are several styles present, presumably they evolved over time. Stencils, outlines, lines for shading, filled in, filled in with a border.

Different colours. The white is not from this area and probably a form of graffiti added later.

The lines across animal bodies suggest a totem, for a person with that totem.

  As well as animals we see boomerangs.

Some boomerangs are designed to return, others designed to hit things and stop.

  Our first stencil of a foot, a child's foot.
  And people.
  In the recovery room, where the woman have been waiting, we see a rainbow serpent and various animals.
  The emu is drawn over the serpent which is drawn over a person.
  A bag for food storage?
  Its thought that these upside down figures represent the initiants.
  Plus a crocodile.
  With a different style of emu.
  We've seen hands with forearms previously. In other areas of Australia. Despite having written it somewhere in this blog I can't find where. The explanation of significant person is consistent. Lesser people are represented without the forearm.
  These are not Gwions (Bradshaw) in the Kimberley.

They are Quinkans. These are Timaras. They are good spirits. Thin so they can hide in crevices and behind trees.

We are in the gallery where initiation occurs. They are painted above the ceremonial stone where (perhaps) circumcision was carried out.

  Back on the plateau I see a couple of red bush apples.

In and around Lakefield National Park we've seen more plants that we would think are possibly edible than anywhere else. Perhaps because they look sufficiently familiar, or are of sufficient size that gathering would be easy.

The sandstone of the escarpments is fine grained. An ideal canvas for rock painting.

  We independently visited Split Rock Art Site which is about 10km south of Laura on the main road. The opposite side of the river from our guided site, just a km away.

The figure towards the right is an Imjim. A male evil Quinkan. With an enormous appendage, they could bounce at least a half mile, like a kangaroo.

We aren't sure of the world heritage status of the Quinkan Art Sites, whether they are or aren't. That doesn't seem to matter to us. It seems the several thousand galleries in the area are significant and distinctive. Perhaps there's a difference in promotion between different areas in Australia that results in Quinkan Art not having the same profile as Gwions.

  Split Rock doesn't seem to have the ceremonial significance of our first site.

More of a meeting place. It is near where the Laura Dance Festival is now held. - every two years, but sadly this year has been delayed until next year.

Towards the left is perhaps a kangaroo hunt, a kangaroo track and a human footprint. Either side are garfish.

These pics are a bit faded, there's not yellow or white ochre.

I always assumed just ochre and water to make paint. More complicated, it seems there's a recipe involving animal fats. A recipe which seems to have been lost.

  A purple echidna.

We've finally realised that nowhere in rock art or petroglyphs have we seen representations of the small, colourful, tuneful, birds in which we currently take such delight. Or their eggs. Perhaps because they aren't seen as a food source.

  The echidna is next to another Imjim.
  Perhaps a crocodile.
  Beyond Split Rock are another two small galleries. We look back at Split Rock.
  And more bats.

We have a bit of difficulty differentiating these bats from the symbolic figures of initiatees at our first site.

  Another style. The figure has cross-hatching inside an outline rather than just outline, or completely filled.
  Similar style, and a ceremonial head dress.

We realise we do not know sufficient to reliably interpret rock art. It seems though that in Australia its a trifle easier to connect the art to the culture that produced it.

We suspect that while there are many differences in rock art in different parts of Australia there is much that is the same. That tribes didn't (and don't) operate in isolation.

We begin to think that a starting point for looking at any rock art site is to understand its purpose. Whether it be ceremonial, or meeting place, or directions for hunting or water, or just simply a nice place to be.

  We leave Split Rock.
  And look across the road and the Laura River to the escarpment. Our first site was probably just around the corner in the centre of the pic.
  As we drive south it seems there's a flattish area running below the top of the escarpment. Split Rock was about a km back in a similar place.
  The Laura River has cut a gorge through the sandstone, the road goes up and over.

Descending on the south side we are in a different land.

  The coastal mountains to the east, we are on a flat plain.
  With industrial scale horticulture. These are melons.
  And bananas.

The sealed road is very good.

  And wine.
  And ?????

We know they are not mangoes, though they are also grown in this area.

  And harvesting the sun for electricity.
  Another up and over, just north of the Palmer River Roadhouse.

We can look back, to the north, and see the road and the Lakeland plain. Laura, and Lakefield, are beyond that.

The Great Dividing Range, which we are crossing, is to our west (left).

  To the north east are the coastal mountains.
  We descend towards the Atherton Tablelands.
Danbulla National Park - Lake Tinaroo August 17 - 21 2019

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