Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Mt Gambier Caves

A number of ancient graphic markings were found in more than 25 caves in the Mt Gambier region of southeastern South Australia. Finger markings and petroglyphs in 3 succeeding styles have be found in these caves.

Finger lines, or fluting, on surfaces that were soft at the time are the most common and the earliest. There were also linear markings engraved with hard objects on hard cave wall surfaces. The size of the finger lines indicates that many were probably made by juveniles. This 'finger-lines' style has been found along the entire south coast of South Australia. (Flood, 2004). They are believed to be more than 20,000 years old, based on evidence from Koonalda Cave, where the finger grooves are covered by more recently reprecipitated carbonate at several places, and by the major tectonic changes that have occurred in many caves since they were made.

In several of the Mt Gambier caves the finger lines have been superimposed by motifs that are deeply cut, especially circles. These were made in a number of different ways, pounded, incised or abraded, and the circles can be of a number of different styles, concentric, dissected, etc. This is the Karake style that is believed to be more than 10,000 years old. It is non-figurative, like the finger line tradition.

The youngest style found in the Mt Gambier caves is a tradition that involved shallow incisions made by single strokes. It is believed petroglyphs of this style are less than 10,000 years old. Evidence of prehistoric chert mining has been found in 5 of the Mt Gambier caves. This is the largest known concentration of non-figurative cave art in the world,

Sources & Further reading

  1. Josephine Flood, 2004, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J. B. Publishing




Author: M. H. Monroe
Last Updated 30/09/2011
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