Bid to protect ancient images

INDIGENOUS rock art near Gatton is among sites a new group is aiming to protect from development, mining exploration and vandalism.

Griffith University last night launched a new unit dedicated to protecting important indigenous sites, especially in Queensland.

Professor Paul Tacon, who will head Griffith's Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit, said Chalawong near Gatton, was at risk.

"It was first recorded in 1884 by Henry Tryon of the Queensland Museum. It was the first scientific recording of any such site in Queensland," Prof. Tacon said.

"A very detailed drawing was made by Michael Quinnell in the 1970s and then in the 1980s Mike Morwood excavated it and found that the people had been camping there for 4000 years.

"It looks like the engraving was done at different times and it may have begun when the site was first occupied."

The petroglyph is under threat because it's on the side of a hill near a gravel road used by heavy vehicles travelling to and from a chalk mine.

"There are increasing threats from human activity; especially increasing mining exploration and vandalism and graffiti," he said.

"We just want to make sure that sites are properly protected and recorded for the future."

A fire went through the area in 1997 and surrounding vegetation and a wooden platform built to stop visitors touching the engraved panel is also a threat.

"The Jagara people and other aboriginal people in south-east Queensland would like some assistance to develop a conservation and management plan for that site and we will need to get some financial assistance to implement it," Prof. Tacon said.

Precious art

Petroglyphs (also called rock engravings) are created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving and abrading.

The term should not be confused with a pictograph, which is an image drawn or painted on a rock face.

Both types of image belong to the wider and more general category of rock art.

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