On this page...
This rock engraving is from the site known as 'Echidna and Fish' at West Head in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, less than 25 km from Sydney, New South Wales. Engraved on a horizontal Hawkesbury sandstone platform, it has 12 infill lines from head to tail representing the echidna's quills. The photograph was taken in the late afternoon when the sun's slanting rays throw the grooves into relief. The pale greenish-coloured spots are lichen growing on the sandstone. The echidna is 90 cm in length.
At this site there are six fish up to 1.9 m long, a shark 1.2 m long, two shields with internal designs, two stingrays and at least 75 'mundoes' (footprints). The footprints seem to link the fish to stingrays at one end of a line with another line leading out to the echidna.
To create the engraving, an original outline would have been sketched; a series of holes would have been drilled along the lines with a pointed stone or shell or piece of hard wood and then the holes would have been joined by rubbing a sharp object along the line. This produces a u-shaped groove up to 2 cm deep and 2 cm wide. Such grooves are distinct from natural grooves, which are v-shaped, and from modern grooves made with steel tools, which are narrower and deeper.
It is difficult to date the echidna engraving using current scientific techniques, particularly as there is no soil covering it. Dating is also difficult because re-grooving sometimes occurs during later ceremonies. However the style of the drawing, known as 'simple figurative', and its state of preservation suggests it was made in the last few thousand years. The simple figurative style is confined to the region.