Rock shelters provided important environments for habitation and other activities for Aboriginal people. Evidence of a rock shelter used by Aboriginal people can be found in the presence of art on the shelter walls, and occupation debris such as stone artefacts, grinding material, charcoal, bone and other refuse on the shelter's floor. In the ACT, rock shelters are found mainly in the granite outcrops in Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
Hanging Rock shelter
A large impressive undercut boulder known as Hanging Rock lies on the forested slopes of Tidbinbilla Valley. Over 400 years ago, small family groups and male hunting parties of Aboriginal people regularly camped beneath Hanging Rock, perhaps on their way to the mountain tops to gather Bogong Moths which flocked to the area in summer. Hanging Rock provided shelter from three directions, providing protection from wind, rain and heat all year round. The surrounding forest also yielded food such as yam daisy roots, wallabies and possums. Hanging Rock also had the advantage of being close to fresh running water. With ample food and water nearby, people were able to congregate in large numbers over the warmer months, allowing celebrations, trade and intermarriage to occur.
Birrigai Rock shelter
Birrigai Rock shelter provides strong evidence of continuous human occupation of the Southern Highlands areas of Australia from the Late Pleistocene age. This evidence was provided through radiocarbon dating of charcoal recovered from archaeological excavations at Birrigai Rock shelter. It also demonstrates that the Aboriginal people successfully adapted their cultural practices in accordance with the changing climate and environment. Occupied over 21,000 years ago, Birrigai Rock shelter is the oldest known Aboriginal site in the ACT and extremely important to the Ngunnawal people.
It is also extremely important to the study of archaeology in Australia. These and other shelters in the ACT region provide evidence of an Aboriginal lifestyle no longer practised in south-eastern Australia. They are an irreplaceable part of our cultural heritage.
Please respect Aboriginal heritage sites and objects. It is an offence to damage, disturb or destroy Aboriginal heritage places and objects.