Image Rock painting, Carnarvon Gorge, 1938 - item 2 of 2

TLF ID R9210

This 1938 sepia photograph of a large Indigenous rock painting displays many stencilled hands, boomerangs, coolamons and a net-like shape, possibly representing a cycad, on a cliff wall in Carnarvon Gorge in central Queensland. A large rock near the wall shows some engraved art. The photograph was taken during the second European Carnarvon Range expedition and is part of an album.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The rock art of Carnarvon Gorge is believed to be at least 10,000 years old. While meanings are not always clear in cases such as Carnarvon Gorge such works often record ceremonies and stories about ancestor beings. Hand images are common in rock art throughout the world.
  • This photograph shows the three main art techniques used by Indigenous peoples of the central highlands - engraving, freehand painting and stencilling. Stencils are made by holding an object, for example a tool or hand, against a surface while a mixture of water and ochre or ironstone is blown from the artist's mouth. A clear outline remains when the object is removed.
  • This sepia photograph is unable to show the colours, which were made from natural pigments. The artists used ironstone and ochre to make red, red-brown, yellow, black and mauve. White pigment came into general use much later - in the 1870s - and is often superimposed over other colours.
  • The Carnarvon Gorge rock art site was unoccupied at the time this photograph was taken. The spread of non-Indigenous settlement into the surrounding area had led to its abandonment by the Indigenous peoples who had lived there for thousands of years. The traditional owners today are the Karingbal and Bidjara peoples.
  • While the rock art of Carnarvon Gorge is described by today's traditional owners as a place of learning and great spirituality, Indigenous peoples have had a long relationship with the entire surrounding landscape. It is believed that the Rainbow Serpent travelled through the creek system, carving the sandstone as he came in and out of the water. The gorge provides a cool oasis within the dry environment of the region.
  • The Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (Queensland) organised three expeditions to the Carnarvon Ranges in 1937, 1938 and 1940. The 1938 expedition, the source of this photograph, comprised nine European men, including a naturalist, geologist, ethnologist, ranger and photographer. Car travel was possible for most of the journey and horses were used when the road became impassable to vehicles.
Year level

3; 4; 5; 6; 7

Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements