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Yourambulla Caves Aboriginal Painting Site

Hawker, Flinders Ranges National Park , South Australia (SA), Australia


Yourambulla Caves Aboriginal Painting Site is one of seven accessible Aboriginal Painting sites in the Flinders Ranges region.

Yourambulla is the name that is derived from the words "yura bila" which means two men in the language of the Adnymathanha people of the Flinders Ranges. Yourambulla refers to the two peaks to the East of the caves which represents two ancestral companions who camped at this place while traveling in the Dreamtime, or time of creation in Aboriginal mythology. This story describes how the Adnymathanha moiety or kinship system came into being. This follows two matrilineal lines of descent, Arraru and Mathari. The northern peak represents the Arraru man and the southern peak the Mathari.

Aboriginal paintings occur in caves, shelters and overhangs in the southern part of the Yappala hills. The age and purpose is not known but they are thought to relate to the dreaming or ceremonies associated with the site. Most paintings were made with manganese, charcoal, red or white ochre. A range of colours such as red, yellow, white, black and purple can be produced by mixing of pigments such as ochre, pipe clay, bird lime, charcoal and manganese. The painting was applied with lumps of manganese or painted with finders dipped in ochre mixed with animal fat.

While the caves were probably visited regularly, there is no evidence that they were inhabited. However, these caves and the area surrounding them remain an important part of the Adnymathanha peoples' culture and heritage.

The caves and Aboriginal Paintings are located 11 km south of Hawker off the main Quorn road. Yourambulla Caves Historic Reserve has a walking trail, which leads to the stairs at the base of the cave. Once inside, there are Aboriginal paintings on rocks inside the cave to see. There is also an interpretive sign showing the meaning of the painted symbols used. Two other smaller caves are located in a few hundreds meters from the main cave. Allow 1 - 2 hours to visit all three sites.