Pictures in stone

Rock engravings are pictures or images carved into rocks. Usually rock engravings or carvings are found on open, flat surfaces of rock, but sometimes they are found in rock shelters and on vertical rock faces. Such rock art is common in the soft sandstone area of the Sydney Basin and there are 29 officially recorded rock engraving sites in the Woollahra Municipality.

The outlines of rock engravings were probably made by hitting the rock surface with sharp stones to make small holes. Some rock engravings are lines of holes or 'pecks' made in this way, while in others the rows of pecks appear to have been joined to form a groove by rubbing with a stone. It is difficult to date most of the rock engravings in the Sydney area but it is estimated that most of them are over 200 years old, with many of them more than 2,000 years old.

Rock engravings provide us with important information about Eora culture and social life, and many of them are regarded as being of sacred or ceremonial significance to Aboriginal people. Consequently, they should not be visited or photographed without the permission of the Aboriginal community.

Images of whales, fish, marsupials, men, shields and other weapons are to be found in locations at Rose Bay, Cooper Park, Nielsen Park, Vaucluse Bay, Watsons Bay, Diamond Bay and South Head National Park. Sometimes the images are stylised motifs or patterns and sometimes they represent the tracks of birds, snakes, marsupials and other animals. There is even an engraving at Nielsen Park of one of the ships of the First Fleet with representations of people beside it. There are also many private homes and gardens in the area that have Aboriginal rock engravings on their property.