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As I follow my hobby of looking for and recording Stone Age petroglyphs, I am becoming more aware that the ancient peoples of this land lived a lifestyle which had given them time to develop their leisure time skills. Leisure time was there as a result of the ‘wetter’ period of the climatic condition of the world at that time, and with it, plentiful food.
The style of petroglyphs or rock engravings is known as Panaramitee Style Art. This style was coined by Lesley Maynard, Archaeologist, in 1976, when she took this evolutionary step of describing three types of petroglyphs on the Australian Mainland and Tasmania. The rock art is thought to be from the late Pleistoscene Era, from about 20,000 years ago. It includes the classic track and circle figures, the simple figurative and then the more complex figurative styles. Panaramitee is a sheep station near the small town of Yunta in the north east of South Australia and it lends its name to these styles of petroglyphs. The art style is mooted to cover areas from Panaramitee in a north westerly direction right in to Central Australia and to the eastern fringes of the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts.
When visiting the regions of South Australia and New South Wales one is struck by how the climate has changed over the past 20,000 years. In order to maintain a good lifestyle for the stone-age peoples, there needed to be enough food, water and shelter available.
Whaleback rocks and other rocks protrude from the ground. The area must have been rich with emus and kangaroos as it is mostly their footprints, which are depicted on the rock surfaces. The cultural significance must have been deeply imbedded in the ancient peoples psyche over time. The engravings would have been done at various stages as some of the rocks are covered with a shiny smooth-like ‘desert varnish’ while others have been created after the desert varnish had settled upon the rock surfaces. Radio carbon dating puts the ‘desert varnish’ as no later than 7000 years before the present as stated by scientists. Desert varnish consists of clays and other particles cemented to rock surfaces by manganese emplaced and oxidized by bacteria living there. It is produced by the physiological activities of micro-organisms which are able to take manganese out of the environment, then oxidize and place it on to rock surfaces. Other carvings have been settled with Lichen which forms in the excavated cavities of the rock.
Panaramitee Station art site in the North of South Australia
A dolomite sandstone protrusion just above the surface layer of the ground follows along the lower hill line about 10km south of Yunta. Where it crosses Winnininnie Creek on Panaramitee Station, there are a number of ‘Tombstone Rocks' scattered around with some whaleback rocks it between. The carvings, which were done with stone implements, are all on reasonably horizontal surfaces
Desert varnish covering the rocks
This is a drawing of a Crocodile Head petroglyph found at Panaramitee and which is now on display in the South Australian Museum
Sturts Meadows Station in Western New South Wales.
Whaleback dolomite sandstone
Either side of the emphemeral Eight Mile Creek, and a short distance from the present day homestead, the petroglyphs
have been created on Whaleback rocks with ‘Tombstone’ rocks scattered in between. The same dolomite sandstone is present here.
There are reputed to be 18000 motifs chipped out laboriously with stone tools and for however long it took. I may have seen 1000 but then I did not walk the entire 20 acre fenced site or the adjacent rock formations on a hill nearby, and in places there are motifs over motifs.
There are still other sites in the Olary region to explore.
To be continued……..