I have had the opportunity and privilege of treading the stone pavements of Ancient Pompeii, I have sat on the walls of the stone domes of the monks on the sharp hillsides of Ireland. In Wales I stepped along paths through the marshlands where the Druids once lived and in London I wondered over the Roman ruins unearthed beneath the city. I have trodden many places, amongst Viking ruins in Sweden and along ancient paths down through Europe but it was only this week that I felt the life that can be found in still even more ancient places.
This week I stepped along a route taken by an Aussie tribal people, that which led deep into hidden gorges and beautiful valleys embraced by towering stonewalls, walls not made by man and yet they are magnificent. I sat around much more ancient campfires and wondered over art which was fashioned before they had even built the pyramids, let alone paved Roman roads or others that wove their way through soggy peat marshes.
The art I admired was created at least 4,000 years ago. Nearby was a large ancient campsite where families gathered around the fires and children played at age old games. Their fathers hunted, there is still plenty to eat about and they would have known just where they would find a feast. Wombats have burrowed into the banks and wallabies watch warily nearby while the birds reel overhead. There is bush tucker all about and is still in abundance.
This gorge where I have stepped is a place of plenty, a place where some campsites are still fresh from more recent use, you will find ours down further in the bush. It is a place where water seeps through the tall rock ledges feeding small streams. Women would have gathered water from the small rivulets which pour from the cliff face and tended the cooking fires, roasting small game and other bush foods while their men ranged further for meat and other larger prey.
At other times the people would have come together to gouge out the ancient clay beds exposed by the movement and weathering of the great rock walls. These beds of fine clays found layered in the rock face would have been ground fine and mixed with water.
Perhaps in the ceremony that was to follow, the stencil art would have been left on the cliff-face immortalising the hand print of children and adults alike. It is a spirit place where ancient man has left his mark, witness to his deeds and life. The gallery is hidden a short way from the family camp and within step of the fine clay beds where gouge marks can still be seen.
A young warrior, a hunter has bought down a prey with his boomerang and boasted of it as he left the imprint of his weapon on the wall, his hand and arm witness to his rite. He has claimed his place here in this small feat, one that marks him the hunter amongst his family. It is a pride he wears as he shares the game with his camp.
The choicest pieces of meat from his kill are for the Elders, other portions are for his young woman and her kin, the wife promised him once she comes of age and should he prove a good provider. It has been a good hunt and worthy of leaving the mark of it for others to see.
This is a good camp, a seasonal home, one of plenty but they will move on soon, and return again in time when the food is once more plentiful in its season. There are other places such as this to pass through, other seasonal foods to harvest and game to catch and the group will move on.
This campsite is witness to life in a more ancient time. Evidence of a time lost. These art sites are relatively rare in our world, they are older than many others found almost anywhere else on our planet. Older than Rome or Pompeii, older than the Vikings or the Druids and yet here they remain unguarded, open for all. There are no commercial tolls on the tracks, no guards at the art and yet it is within reach of so many, a breath away from Sydney. It belongs to all and yet is understood by few.
Where is it? It is Australia and there are so many other places, precious camps such as these, about which we are never taught. Most people don’t understand these places because we are not taught to appreciate what is in our own country and our own heritage. Most don’t see the antiquity and the precious song of time, instead they look for a crumbling buildings and fashioned walls.
So many times I ask myself why … and I despair of our ignorance. It is to my mind, the greatest omission of our education system and I wish it was other than it is. Perhaps in bringing the story that is Australia to you in our travels, things just might change for some.
It is these things which I have tried to capture in the fictional series ‘The Dreaming’. It is a tale of an ancient world, hidden in plain sight. Learn more of this mystic Lore of an ancient land within the tales of the Shaman. The books are available in e-book and print and you can check out discounts available on my web site.