Quinkan Split Rock Art Site
The Aboriginal Art of Quinkan Split Rock Art Site
The Quinkan Split Rock Art Site is a fascinating collection of ancient Aboriginal paintings and carvings.
Situated a short steep climb just off the highway deep into Far North Queensland, the Quinkan Split Rock Art Site is a fascinating insight into the culture and history of the local Aboriginal people.
If you’re taking a road trip along the Cape York Peninsula, Quinkan Split Rock Art Site is well worth a detour.
What is the Quinkan Split Rock Art Site?
The Quinkan Split Art Rock Art Site is a collection of ancient Aboriginal artworks spread across three giant rocks. Most of this land belongs to the local Aboriginal people, but the Indigenous art at Quinkan Split Rock Art Site is open to the public to view on self guided tours.
The galleries of indigenous art at Quinkan depict a number of subjects and topics that were historically part of Aboriginal daily life, ranging from human figures, hand prints, plants, and animals. Also portrayed in the artworks are Aboriginal spirits called quinkan, which the site is named after.
How to Get to the Quinkan Split Rock Art Site
The Quinkan Split Rock Art Site is located on the Cape York Peninsula, around 15 kilometres south of the township of Laura on state route 81, also called Peninsula Development Road.
The History and Importance of the Quinkan Split Rock Art Site
The Quinkan Split Rock Art Site is just one small part of Quinkan Country, a huge area spread across 230,000 hectares of rugged terrain. It’s known that Aboriginal people lived in this part of Queensland for around 37,000 years.
Traditionally Aboriginal people would gather here during the wet season to take advantage of the supply of water as well as the cooler climate. They would also use the caves to take shelter from the rain.
In the dry season the Aboriginal tribes would relocate to lower areas closer to rivers where they could hunt and fish.
The traditional artworks at Quinkan Split Rock are just a tiny example of the huge collection of Aboriginal art that exists all across Quinkan Country. There are believed to be around 10,000 rock art sites spread across Quinkan Country in total, making it the largest collection of prehistoric artwork anywhere in the world.
There is evidence to suggest that Aboriginal people began creating artworks in this region around 32,000 years ago. The local Indigenous tribes continued to paint and engrave rock art throughout the region for tens of thousands of years, even as recently as the 20th century.
The Aboriginal Art at Quinkan Split Rock Art Site
The indigenous art at Quinkan Split Rock Art Site is painted and etched onto three huge rocks. The three galleries are just a few minutes walk from each other. These artworks are all estimated to be somewhere between 2,000 and 14,00 years old.
The Split Rock Art Site
The first and largest of the three rock art sites is Split Rock. A raised boardwalk runs parallel to the artworks with a barrier to prevent them from being touched and damaged.
The artworks painted on Split Rock has the widest variety of subjects, including human figures, a range of animals and fish and stencils of handprints. As well as paintings, there are also a number of geometric engravings on Split Rock that are over 14,000 years old.
The rock art has been drawn using a range of rich, vibrant colours, including orange, red and purple as well as white. The various pieces of rock art are believed to have been painted over different periods of time, which explains why some of the newer artworks are painted over older pieces.
Painted on one section of rock are two quinkan, one male and one female. In Aboriginal folklore, quinkan are spirits who have many different appearances and can either be vengeful or kind.
The two quinkan depicted at Split Rock are believed to be malevolent spirits called imjim. The imjim are feared by Aboriginal people because they are believed to kidnap children at night.
The pair of quinkan painted at Split Rock are husband and wife who have been painted standing alongside a red dingo.
The Flying Fox Art Site
About a minute’s walk further along the trail is the Flying Fox Art Site. This site is named after the many flying foxes that have been painted onto the rocks.
As well as flying foxes, there are also paintings of other animals, including catfish and scrub turkeys. Traditionally all of these animals were a vital part of the local Aboriginal diet.
The Tall Spirits Art Site
Around 40 metres further along the trail is the final artwork, the Tall Spirits Art Site.
On this rock is a painting of another type of quinkan called Timara, painted in red and white and standing at around six feet tall.
According to Aboriginal legend, Timara are a kind spirit with long arms and legs. Timara are believed to protect children from the evil imjim. They also said to provide all of the food in the bush for Aboriginal people to eat. Timara is a nocturnal spirit who hides in the gaps and cracks in the rocks during the day.
How to Visit the Quinkan Split Rock Art Site
The Quinkan Split Rock Art Site is open to the public on self guided tours. The three sites are 300 metres from the information kiosk at the entrance to Quinkan Split Rock Art Site.
The tours cost AU$30 per person and AU$15 for children. Payment can be made in cash at the honesty box next to the entrance, or you can pay online here.
How to See Other Indigenous Rock Art Sites in Quinkan Country
Some additional rock art sites in other parts of the Quinkan County can also be visited on guided tours led by members of the local Aboriginal community.
Tours of these sites can be arranged by contacting the Ang-Gnarra Aboriginal Corporation via phone or email. Details of how to organise tours of these rock art sites can be found on the Ang Gnarra Aboriginal Corporation’s website.
Things to Know When Visiting Quinkan
Here are a few travel tips if you’re heading to see the rock art at Quinkan.
Wear Decent Footwear
The rock art sites are reached via a short, steep and occasionally very rocky path. Though it’s only 300 metres, you’ll need to wear a decent pair of walking shoes to get up to the top of the trail.
Bring Along a Bottle of Water
Though the trail is steep it is not too difficult a climb. However, there is very little shade along the trail until you reach the rock art sites. As the weather is often very warm and sunny you might want to bring a bottle of water to keep hydrated along the way.
Lookout for Animals on the Roads
There can be quite a bit of wildlife on the road that leads to the Quinkan Split Rock Art Site. As well as kangaroos keep your eyes peeled for herds of cows.
There are a number of cattle ranches in the area which are not fenced off and cows often stray across the road. These cows are huge and could cause a lot of damage if you run into one on the road.