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'The Stone of Dreamtime' | Visiting Ancient Ochre Pits

Ochre pits in the MacDonnell Ranges

I visited these amazingly beautiful Ochre Pits in the MacDonnell ranges before I left Alice springs. Known as the 'Stone of Dreamtime', Aboriginal people have extracted Ochre from these cliffs for thousands of years. The Ochre from here is still used by Western Aranda people, mainly for ceremonial purposes. The traditional Aboriginal stories and ceremonies for this site belong to Western Aranda men.

Ochre is integral to the Dreamtime stories of creation and law of Aboriginal people throughout Australia. Women and children are not permitted to dig the Ochre or know the stories associated with the site. However women are permitted to use Ochre from this site in their ceremonies if it is provided by men or if permission is granted.

Aboriginal cave painting in the MacDonnell Ranges

Iron Oxide, Ochre, occurs in a range of colours from white through yellow, orange, red and brown. It is has been used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years for ceremonial body decoration, white ochre was often used as a magical charm. Traditionally weapons were painted with ochre to increase the success of hunting, and this also had the benefit of protecting the wooden weapons from termites! Red ochre also had a medicinal use and was mixed into an ointment to relieve decongestion.

Ochre was the first colour paint and it has been used on every inhabited continent since painting began, and has been on the palettes of almost every artist in history. In Australia, the longest tradition of using Ochre is found. Cave painters used Ochre forty thousand years ago and the tradition of it's use has been continued at the Warmun community, which is notable for the use of natural pigments. Madigan Thomas and Rover Thomas were the first Warmun artists to combine natural earth pigments to achieve a range of colours - the true colours of the outback.

'Fall Creek' by Madigan Thomas

'Fall Creek' by Madigan Thomas

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