Mt Chambers Gorge + rock markings

However, this temporal sequence which was applied to Australia as a whole, is disputed on the grounds that the concept of Australia assumed that 200 different language groups with their own regions formed one nation; that the complex figurative motifs often precede the simple ones; and the three styles are very loosely defined.

Some of the rock carvings or Yura malka were circles with enclosed bars or lines through them.


In her thesis, which examined the differences and similarities between Adnyamathanha
understandings of Yura malka (Aboriginal markings) and archaeological theories about
symbolic communication Jacinta Koolmatrie argues that places like this gorge are storied places of a particular region and language group. It had deep spiritual and cultural significance. The stories were place specific and, presumably, the knowledge they embodied were there to help people understand, interact with, and experience this particular space. The underlying theme would then be of the meaning of a place rather than the meaning of the motifs. The implied perspective, is that these sites that were regarded as ancient relics could be part of a living tradition.

There were no ‘cupule’, tracks or ‘variant circles’ or ‘curviform maze motifs on the gorge walls from what I could see. There was graffiti made by white people though.

I was in no position to understand how the Adnyamathanha people see and experience these Yura malka in relation to this place, or even if the Yura malka in Chambers Gorge were associated with the initiation of young boys.

What the Yura malka tell us is that the land is the Adnyamathanha people’s library, that knowledge and wisdom inheres in the landscape, and that it deserves our care and protection in the same way libraries do. The Yura malka at Chambers Gorge would also be the Adnyamathanha people’s museum.

So I was visiting their museum and being puzzled in understanding what I was seeing. The standard art history description of these rock markings as rock art based on iconographic and stylistic analysis is too narrow, as these Yura malka were more than representations given the cosmological elements of the motifs associated with ancestral beings, their living presence, ritualized practices, and trading routes, history, and floods. These Yura malka are not easily decipherable, for given their embodiment in a complex cosmology, they are not the precursor of the art gallery or documents of performance art.

What did surprise me was to find that there was no protection for this Pleistocene era rock markings/carvings and that it had also been neglected. At a national level the destruction of Juukan Gorge in WA by Rio Tinto with state approval is a classic example of how Aboriginal sacred places, cultural places, healing places have been and are being destroyed because Aboriginal cultural heritage legislation permits managed destruction.

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