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Ochre Pits

Travel Central Australia / Alice Springs in the Northern Territory

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Ochre Pits
West MacDonnell Ranges
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Ochre Pits in the MacDonnell Range ~ Images of Australia
The imagery of the Aboriginal culture, as can be seen in many of the sacred sites, rock and cave paintings, used very few colours, as they were often made from what was available locally. The colours were often mined from 'ochre pits', being used for both painting and ceremonies. The ochre was even traded between clans and at one time could only be collected by specific men within the clan. Some of ochre pits can be viewed today as tourist attractions.

Ochre - Stone of the Dreamtime
Aboriginal people have extracted ochre from these cliffs in Central Australia for thousands of years. The ochre from here in the West MacDonnell Range is still used by Western Arrernte people, mainly for ceremonial purposes.

Ochre is integral to the Dreamtime stories 'stories of Creation and Law' of Aboriginal people throughout Australia. Red ochre deposits often represent the blood of sacred ancestral beings.

The traditional Aboriginal stories and ceremonies for this site belong to Western Arrernte men. Women and children are not permitted to dig the ochre, or know of the stories associated with the site. Therefore it is not possible to relate or show how ochre is used in the telling of these stories.

However, women use ochre, provided by men, from this site in their own ceremonies.

Rock paintings, common in other parts of Australia, are not prolific in Central Australia. This could be because in this region fixatives are not mixed with ochre paint and the rock paintings did not last, or it could be that rock paintings are not central to local Aboriginal culture. Here, the Dreamtime is drawn in sand paintings, which are destroyed as part of the ceremonies.

Source: Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission - park signage

Ochre Pits in the MacDonnell Range - Snapshots from Australia

The Ochre Pits © Greg Sully
Ochre Pits - located on the Namatjira Drive turn-off, about 100 km from Alice Springs, West MacDonnell Range, Central Australia.
Photos © Greg Sully

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