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Notes on the Geography of Australia: Uluru/Ayers Rock: Photo 11

world pictures Australia: Uluru/Ayers Rock

So here, in that shadow on the right, we have a nice demonstration of sandstone behaving like igneous rock and, on the same spot, a rock that Harney says "symbolises the Dreamtime ana (digging stick) of the Inma ritual." Just to make things more interesting, the shell has also been called a knife that a poisonous snake used to kill a young carpet snake. That interpretation is found in Charles P. Mountford's Ayers Rock: Its People, Their Belief and Their Art (p. 43).

Strehlow would not have us make too much of such stories, even when they correctly convey Aboriginal belief. He writes that "...it is wrong to imagine that only The Centre's more striking natural features had ever been places of sacred eminence for the surrounding tribal territory. It is much nearer the mark to state that, until the coming of the white population the whole of Central Australia, in a very real sense, was a sacred land for its original inhabitants." (See the Inland Review, June/August, 1969, p. 12.)

Elsewhere in the same essay Strehlow writes: "In Central Australia, every landscape feature was associated with some mythological episode or some sacred verse. Hence mythology was validated by the geography of the whole countryside... not merely by a few major waters or prominent mountains. Some of the greatest episodes commemorated by the Central Australian traditions are, in fact, associated with sites in which no modern sight-seeing tourist would be interested....

"It cannot be stressed too much or repeated too often that the religious importance of a major totemic site in Central Australia was not determined by any spectacular aspects of the landscape, but purely by the sacred myths, songs and acts that had been attached to it by age-old tradition. Considered as a major totemic centre, Wapirka, though situated in what might be termed a mean and commonplace landscape that few tourists would bother to notice, outranked by far Ayers Rock, despite the spectacular scenic magnificence of the latter which rightly evokes the admiration of all white visitors, regardless of its old tribal significance." (Ibid., p. 11-13.)

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