Nourlangie Rock

Kakadu National Park Travel Blog

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Nourlangie Rock is a spectacular area featuring magnificent Aboriginal Artsites along with walking tracks, billabongs and lookout areas. It is in Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory.

The name 'Nourlangie' is an anglicised version of Nawurlandja.

The area was formed when two Creation Ancestors in the form of short-eared rock wallabies travelled through from east to west. They moved past Nourlangie Rock, across Anbangbang billabong, and up into the rocks at Nawurlandja, where they cut two crevices in the rock as they passed. These crevices are visible today and rock wallabies are often seen there in the early morning and at dusk.

The upper part of Nourlangie Rock is known as Burrunggui; the lower areas are known as Anbangbang.

at Nourlangie Rock

There are three main sites at Burrunggui: a rock shelter (Anbangbang shelter); several rock art sites, including the Lightning Man rock art site (Anbangbang gallery); and Gun-warddehwardde lookout.

An archaeological dig at Anbangbang rock shelter in the early 1980s revealed that Aboriginal people have been using the shelter for at least 20 000 years. Excavated layers of soil contained a variety of stone artefacts and implements that had been discarded over time. By examining the number of artefacts in each layer, researchers concluded that the shelter was used occasionally from about 20 000 to 6000 years ago. It appears to have been used more frequently after this, probably as the area became estuarine and more food was available.

According to Aboriginal people, Anbangbang rock shelter was used primarily by the Warramal clan, who were traditional owners of the area, and by the neighbouring Badmardi clan, who moved down from the stone country to take advantage of lowland foods from the surrounding woodlands, creeks and billabongs.

at Nourlangie Rock "Namondjok"
The Warramal clan has since died out and responsibility for the area has passed to Aboriginal traditional owners from surrounding areas.

Aboriginal people from different clan groups have different stories associated with Namondjok (pronounced nar-mon-jock).

For some, he is a Creation Ancestor who now lives in the sky and can be seen only at night, when he appears as a dark spot in the Milky Way.

For others, he is a Creation Ancestor who broke the kinship laws. The story goes that Namondjok travelled through the Burrunggui (Nourlangie Rock) area and broke the kinship laws with his 'sister'. (Some Aboriginal people attribute this story to Nabilil rather than Namondjok.)

Some of the rock art stories:

Namondjok [Kinship laws dictate who Aboriginal people may and may not marry-Aboriginal people have a much broader and more complex kinship system than do people of European descent.

at Nourlangie Rock "Namondjok"
An Aboriginal person's 'sister' also includes their mother's sisters' children and their father's brothers' children (cousins). Just as marriage between brother and sister is unacceptable in non-Aboriginal society, so it is in Aboriginal society].

A solitary boulder on Burrunggui is a feather taken from Namondjok's head-dress by his 'sister', after they had broken the kinship laws. The boulder is visible from Gun-warddehwardde lookout.

Namarrgon To the right of Namondjok is Namarrgon, the Lightning Man. Namarrgon (pronounced narm-arr-gon) is an important Creation Ancestor who is still active today. He is responsible for the violent lightning storms that occur every wet season. The band around him from his left ankle, joining his hands and head, and down to his right ankle represents the lightning he creates.

at Nourlangie Rock
He uses the axes on his head, elbows and feet to split the dark clouds and make lightning and thunder.

Namarrgon's story in this area is part of a longer story, covering a journey beginning on the coastline of the Coburg Peninsula and ending in a rock shelter in the sandstone country of the Arnhem Land plateau, where he remains today. During his travels he left his power behind at many places. On his last journey, when he approached the escarpment from the east, he looked over the sheer wall, then took out an eye and placed it high on the cliff at Namarrgondjahdjam (Lightning Dreaming), where it sits, waiting for the storm season. Lightning Dreaming can be seen from Gun-warddehwardde lookout.

Barrginj, Namarrgon's wife

The female figure is Barrginj (pronounced barr-jeen), Namarrgon's wife.

Nourlangie Rock art

Their children are the Alyurr (Leichhardt's grasshoppers), who are very important to local Aboriginal people because they gave them their language, beliefs, values and the structure of their society during the Creation Time.

Alyurr, striking blue and orange grasshoppers that live on a particular plant, Pityrodia jamesii, that grows in the stoney country, are quite rare. The first specimens were collected by J.E. Dring, purser on HMS Beagle during surveys of the northern Australian coast, probably around 1839. The next specimens were collected by Ludwig Leichhardt on his journey through the region in 1845. Alyurr were not rediscovered by non-Aboriginal people until the 1970s. They are generally seen just before the wet season, when they come out and call to their father to bring on the wet-season storms.




 

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Nourlangie Rock art
Yellow Water Billabong is located at the end of Jim Jim Creek, a tributary of the South Alligator River. The South Alligator river system, which is the largest in the Park, contains extensive wetlands that include river channels, floodplains and backwater swamps.

About one third of Australia's bird species are represented in Kakadu National Park, with at least 60 species found in the wetlands. Whistling ducks and Magpie Geese are the most abundant.

Yellow Water Cruises provides a very unique opportunity to experience this diverse and sublimely beautiful area and it's associated wildlife. The skipper was very good and not rushing down the river - he really did show us a lot of wildlife like crocs and birds of course but also snakes and flora. I really enjoyed that cruise, but I would never walk down that foot path from the resort to the boat ramp again. I think it was far too close to the river and that snake in the middle of the path I must say did scare me, even it was "just" a Golden tree snake - enough for me! ;-) But finally we made it and then we found out that we did not take sun lotion and/or insect repellent with us - so we walked all the way back to the car park at the resort - but this time we took the path beside the road!

X_Drive says:
So many great pictures! Thanks for sharing them. And if that croc came one inch closer I would know for sure why they called it the Yellow Water Cruise. lol.
Posted on: Jan 03, 2007
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Nourlangie Rock art
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one of the many road trains we saw…
one of the many road trains we sa…
Kakadu National Park
photo by: Biedjee