Elvina Track Engraving Site
Just inside the Kuringai National Park lies one of the largest engraving sites in Australia.

Facts & Figures

Latitude 33.64365° S

Longitude 151.26398° E

UBD ref 117J5


The photograph on the left shows the emu at the top of the Elvina engraving site, with the aboriginal "emu-in-the-sky" constellation in the sky above it. To see the "constellation", look at the dark dust-clouds, not the stars!

More information can be found here or here or at the "Aboriginal Astronomy" link on the left of this page.



This is an enormous site with many different types of engraving. As you come in from the main Elvina Track, the path forks into two, both of which lead to the engraving site. If you take the left-hand fork you will encounter a pair of wallabies engraved in a rock across the path, which, it is said, is a warning that you are approaching a male initiation site. If you take the right fork, then when you reach the main site, you will see a giant whale to your right, and an emu and the Baime/Daramulan creator spirit, together with his emu-wife, to your left. Walking down the sheet of rock, look for shields, wallabies, fish, eels, and other shapes that are not easily classified.

On your left, you will also see a line of rock a few centimetres wide, which is presumably natural, crossed by several lines, which appear to be man made. It has been suggested that this is a lunar calendar.

Notice too how the surface of the rock is pitted with thousands of tiny holes, or cup-marks. Are these man-made or natural? The answer is unclear. Consider the following factors:

  • Such holes can be made by natural geological process (e.g. by a small pebble being moved by wind and rain). But go to the West of the site and you will see these cup-marks on steeply sloping surfaces, where no pebble could sit, and no pool of water could accumulate.
  • In places (see photo below) there are arrangements of these holes in straight lines which are obviously man made.
  • On the other hand, there are holes in places which merge imperceptibly into the obvious erosion patterns, and so are presumably natural.
  • How could so many holes be man made? Consider this: Suppose, as part of the initiation ritual, each boy made one hole. If this site was in use for 5000 years, and each year a few dozen boys were initiated, then there would be about 200000 holes.

The answer may be a combination of natural and man-made. In some places they are obviously man-made, and in some places obviously naturally eroded, so perhaps humans enlarged and deepend existing hollows, and erosion took over where humans left off. It has been suggested by Hugh Cairns and others that some of these patterns of holes represent constellations in the sky. The jury is still out on this hypothesis.

Further down the rock-shelf look for circular indentations which have been christened "Snames" by John Clegg and his collaborators. Again, are these natural or man-made? See the link below for one answer.

To get there

Take West Head Road into Kuringai National Park, and stop at the first car park on the right after the toll-booth, which marks the start of the Elvina Track. Note that the Elvina Track signpost is only visible to Southbound traffic!

Walk about 200m along the track, and you will see a path to your right with the remains of what once used to be a sign to the aboriginal engravings. Take this path for about 80m, and you will arrive at the top of the enagraving site.

For more information

For full information on books (publisher, ISBN, etc) see the "Further Reading" page.


Image Gallery

Click on thumbnail on left to see full-sized image

Diagram of the site, reproduced from Clegg & Barry (2002), with kind permission of John Clegg.

© Clegg & Barry (2002).

One of the linear carvings. The line itself appears to be natural, but the lines carved across it appear to be man-made. It has been claimed that these represent a lunar calendar.


A shield and a fish


Are these cup-marks artifical or natural? Do they portray constellations? Notice too the modern fish-shaped graffiti which spoils the site in places.


One of several circular grooves cut into the sandstone. Are these natural or man-made?


A shield.


If you think that all the cup-marks are natural, what about these two lines of cup-marks that decorate the sides of this natural groove?


A fish, perhaps with a spear in its back.


The emu in the evening. Notice the egg just above and behind its legs. This egg has not previously been recorded, showing that it is still possible to find new engravings at the Elvina site.


emu from above The emu as seen from vertically above. This is a composite image made using the technique described in "Visiting and photographing the sites"

A shield



All material on this page © Ray Norris 2007 except where otherwise indicated.
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