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date: 19 September 2019

Quinkan Gallerieslocked

  • Darrell Lewis


Aboriginal site in the Laura region of Cape York Peninsula, northern Queensland, Australia. The name refers to a group of seven rock shelters located near the head of a small gorge on an elevated sandstone plateau. These contain paintings and engravings that are typical of so-called Laura rock art (see Aboriginal Australia §II 2.). ‘Quinkan’ is an Aboriginal term for the malevolent spirit beings that are said to inhabit the bush in south-east Cape York. These spirit beings are often painted, usually with distorted body, limbs, head or genitals, in the region’s rock shelters. Other painted motifs in the Quinkan Galleries include male and female human figures, echidnas, fish, snakes, emu, emu eggs, ibis, dingo and stingray, as well as a palm tree, flying fox, crocodile, turtle, dilly bag and stencilled images of hands and boomerangs.

Most of the paintings in the Quinkan Galleries are full silhouettes in red, white or yellow, with outlines and infill patterns of grid lines, dashes or dots in a contrasting colour. Individual motifs may be as small as 200 mm, but many figures approximate or even exceed life-size. Human figures and spirit beings are usually depicted frontally, with large animals and birds shown in side view; low animals such as echidnas and crocodiles are shown from above. In the Quinkan sites and in many other galleries of the Laura area paintings are heavily superimposed; large, multicoloured painted surfaces with varied subject-matter create a visually striking effect. Engraved motifs in the Quinkan Galleries include pecked-out bird tracks and mazes of conjoined meandering grooves, circles and radiating lines, as well as outlines of circles and a human figure. Where they are found superimposed, most of the engraved motifs underlie paintings, although two circles appear to cut into pigments, indicating that the practice of engraving continued into fairly recent times. Most of the engravings appear to belong to the early phase of the Laura rock-engraving sequence: similar engravings at another Laura cave site, the ...

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