Indigenous sites around Lane Cove
By ALEC SMART
Although the campsites and social & spiritual gathering places of the Indigenous clans that inhabited Sydney basin for millennia have gone, there is plenty of evidence of their history all around us. Most of it is accessible – if you know where to look.
From rock engravings to hand stencils to shell middens, here are some examples of Aboriginal Australia in close proximity to Lane Cove. These are all legally protected sites.
Longueville Park, Longueville
Engravings of a fish and an emu (the latter is thought to be a totemic animal of the Cammeraygal from this region, because emu carvings appear several times in the harbourside environs in which they resided, but are rare elsewhere across Sydney).
[See photo below]
Several engravings on flat rocks on the west side of the point plus a number of shelters and middens nearby.
Lane Cove National Park
Over 40 Indigenous sites were recorded within the park, however, when the weir was built in 1938, separating the tidal river downstream from fresh water upstream, many of these were submerged and are now washed away. The following sites remain within the park.
Alongside modern carvings of a bow & arrow, cannon and sword (probably by local farmer Thomas Tunbridge, who carved the Fifth Commandment from the Bible in 1875 by which the rock is known), is a sunburst motif – the only known example in greater Sydney – and a crescent moon.
Kangaroo/wallaby footprints, etched into a rock face above the waterhole - the only examples of animal track carvings remaining in greater Sydney.
Axe grinding grooves in the rocks, plus engravings of a sea creature and a wombat near the headwaters.
Fairylands Track, between River Rd and Lane Cove River, North Ryde
Shell midden near the river close to former Fairyland Pleasure Grounds (in ruins).
Glades Bay Park, Gladesville
Accessed by Wulaba Track, 11 engravings of animals (all fading, but two kangaroos are identifiable). Axe sharpening grooves can be found on rocks along the cascades adjacent to the stairs leading down from Ross St.
Balls Head (Yerroulbine), Waverton
At the top of the peninsula is a large (6 metres) engraving of a whale shark, with fading remains of a man within its tail, plus two ‘spirit men’ with rays emanating from their heads, a (fading) school of fish and perhaps a horse (the latter suggests a 200-year-old engraving, more recent than the estimated 1000-year-old whale shark). Located near Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability.
Near the eastern and western tips of the headland, smaller engravings exist, plus six shell middens. One of two rock shelters on the waterfront features very faint stencils of a hand and several small fish. By the lookout at the eastern end of the car park is a rockpool used to collect drinking water, and axe grinding grooves beside it.
In April 1964, remains of an Indigenous woman's skull, teeth, leg, arm, foot and hand bones were found in a cave on the foreshore. A forensic examination determined the find "was of considerable antiquity" (between 1,000-2,000 years old), after initial suspicion it was a modern murder victim. Some 450 artefacts, including stone tools, were also recovered in the cave.
Berry Island, Wollstonecraft
On Gadyan Track (named after the Dharug word for ‘cockle’) there is a large sea creature, likely a whale, etched into the flat rock surface above the cove, with the creature's head continuing over the end of the rock. Alongside is a crescent shape, once thought to be a boomerang or a shell, more likely a symbol associated with ceremonial or social gatherings.
In addition, near the shoreline toward the less accessible eastern and western tips, there are two rock shelters (one with faint stencils of a hand and small fish) and six shell middens. Beside the south eastern lookout there is a waterhole and axe grinding grooves, plus more rock carvings at the northern end of the reserve. Joseph Bugler Playing Field, Waverton
Traces of hand stencils appear in the overhangs and faint engravings are etched into the rocks above and around the path leading up from the reserve to Larkin Street.
Above: Lane Cove River (Turranburra), where Indigenous clans of Cammeraigal, Wallumedegal and (further up-river) Durramurragal people fished, collected shellfish and gathered in sandstone caves. Photo: Alec Smart
Below: An emu engraving at Longueville Park. Photo: Alec Smart