Friday, April 16, 2010

The Present and the Past

Behind the Bridgewater Lakes (where we had an enjoyable lunch) is a limestone ridge riddled with caves.

These caves are collectively called the Tarragal Caves.
When we were there I didn’t know anything about them, but they were close to the road so I just had to climb up and have a look.

As I climbed the slope to the cave mouths I watched the ground closely. As I went I began to notice fragments of shell scattered through the grass.
Back in my university days I spent a few field seasons on some Archaeology digs and surveys. I have vivid memories of spending a full month helping a friend sort ancient fish bone and shells from a coastal Aboriginal midden (rubbish heap) as she gathered data for her thesis. It was simultaneously fascinating and ridiculously tedious, but I learnt a lot about coastal archaeology in the process.

The shell material I saw scattered down the slope was very reminiscent of that midden, and others I have seen. So as I climbed the slope to those caves I was fairly sure they had been used by Aboriginal people as rock shelters.

The largest cave had a sandy floor in one corner. This sand was also littered with tiny shell fragments.My impression of long term use was further concreted by what appears to be heavy smoke staining, possibly from hundreds of years of camp fires.One corner of the large cave held this large pillar formed when a stalactite and stalagmite joined.
At the far end of the complex is a lower, but deeper cave.It also has a sandy floor this time with very recognisable shells and pieces of charcoal.
This piccie is taken looking out of the smaller cave. The car parked near the junction is ours, Deb was no doubt knitting as she waited for me.

The view from the cave mouth, it is easy to see why the local people chose to use this spot. Quite apart from the nearby marine resources and the shelter, it is simply beautiful.
As we drove away I commented to Deb that I would have to find out if there was any information on prehistoric use of the caves.

Well I found a little, records I could access indicated that the caves were in use.

Also there was an Aboriginal myth associated with the cave. They apparently believed their creator spirit Bundjil sometimes lived in one of the caves and also descended from there to “walk the shore”.

Then I found this an engraving made by Thomas Ham, a surveyor in 1851
Thomas took some licence with the background but the basic shape is right when looking out of the cave, in particular the pillar on the right is very recognisable. Also if you compare it with my piccie of the view the basic propertions of the cape in the distance are more or less right.

I wonder if there were Aboriginal people there when Thomas Ham visited? Or were they added to the sketch for “colour”?
The British visitors with their early Victorian period formal attire crack me up. How different was my attire, jeans and t-shirt!


Aubrie said...

Wow those pictures are gorgeous! Have you thought of publishing a picture book of all your travels? :)

Jaydee Morgan said...

Love the pictures of the caves - but that's the only way I like them. You couldn't pay me to go inside!

Kathleen Jones said...

This is a really interesting post Al. I'm always fascinated by pre-history - my imagination runs away on legs!

Indigo said...

I loved the pictures of the caves. I would have been right in the middle of them, exploring. Perfect for my adventurous soul. (Hugs)Indigo

KarenG said...

Australia and Utah look a lot alike in certain areas. Must be the desert clime? We have areas in southern Utah that look just like this, caves and all.

Jemi Fraser said...

Beautiful!! :)

heidenkind said...

That cave looks like a mouth that's about to eat somebody!

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Ditto on the scary cave entrace. I would be curious but frightened to go in. They are beautiful though.

Jen said...

First - Happy 100 followers!!!

Beautiful pictures, amazing cave photos even though they're a little scary looking!!

Jenners said...

They do look very similar!

And my Little One would have been fascinated by these ... but scared to pieces as well.

Lisa said...

Wow!! Well worth the hike up but I'm guessing you spent a fair amount of time there and I'm definitely figuring out why Deb took up knitting.

Tahereh said...


more gorgeous pictures!!

i love it!! :D

Myrna Foster said...

What a fascinating post! I would love to be part of an archeological dig, but I didn't end up going that route with my education. And your picture of the view from inside that cave = gorgeous

Thank you for sharing this.

DJ Kirkby said...

I wonder if the Brits really wore top hat and tails? Love the view from the small cave, just so sublime. I've tagged you in a meme on my Chez Aspie blog.

Talli Roland said...

Great post - love the photos! It's so much fun exploring, isn't it? Your part of the world looks so beautiful.

Avril said...

A fascinating post - how beautiful it all looks - love the photos!

Anonymous said...

Awesome pictures. Makes me want to do a little hinking and some spununking.

Stephen Tremp

Anonymous said...

Um .... that's hiking. Need to finish my first cup of coffee.

Anonymous said...

What a great post. I would love to explore something like that. The early settlers must have been very hot in the clothing they wore haha

Al said...

Hi Aubrie,
Thanks! I haven’t really thought about a picture book, except you are the second person to suggest it recently.

Hi Jaydee,
Pleased you like the cave piccies. They aren’t scary caves, they don’t go far underground, plus no bears in Oz.

Hi Kathleen,
I am pleased you liked the post.
Prehistory is fascinating, it really gets me thinking too. In Oz of course pre-history extends into the recent past. For example 1835 in Victoria.

Hi Indigo,
I am pleased you like the cave piccies. They are a fascinating place to look around. It is a special place I am sure you would like the area. (Hugs right back)

Hi Karen,
Pretty much all the piccies I have posted on my blog are from my (current) home state Victoria. Vic is a bit like Utah in that it has a huge range of environments, and all in a relatively small area. We go from temperate rainforest to desert and from alpine peaks to the flattest plains imaginable.
Vic is about 10% bigger than Utah but it has about twice as many people.
So we are pretty empty compared to the rest of the world, but crowded compared to the rest of Oz (and Utah)

Hi Jemi,

Hi Tasha,
I can see what you mean, but it felt like a good place.

Hi Christy,
It wasn’t scary up close. They do look pretty.

Hi Jen,
Thank you! The 100 kind of crept up on me.
Thanks about the piccies! Pleased you like them.

Hi Jenners,
Certainly the same place (allowing for artistic licence).
I don’t know I can imagine your little one being totally happy and trying to reassure mum that she would be OK.

Hi Lisa,
I agree wow!
Well worth the climb. Deb was a knitter before I met her, but she will use any excuse!

Hi Tahereh,
Pleased you like them!

Hi Myrna,
Hey some of the people who were involved on those digs were retired and had taken studying archaeology up as an interest. So never say never.
I am so pleased you enjoyed the post.

Hi DJ,
I think people who considered themselves to be “upper crust” did in those very early times. The engraving was made in 1851 about 16 years after Victoria was settled, too early for good sense and the climate to compel a change in attire.
Thanks for the tag! I’ll have to get thinking about it.

Hi Talli,
I am pleased you like them! It is fun exploring, we found this spot just by following roads at random (based on signs like “lake” and “lighthouse”).
We are spoiled in Oz there is an awful lot to choose from.

Hi Avril,
I am pleased you like the post and the piccies. It is a pleasure to share.

Hi Stephen,
Pleased you like the pics! Hope you do get time to get “out and about” soon.
I never get firing until after my second cup of coffee.

Hi Niki,
Yes, I think they must have sweated just about all year round in that formal European clothing. Poor, silly, deluded fools