The first wave of Stone
Age humans reached Australia by 40,000 or more years ago. The thylacine
is an animal that the ancient people of Australia were obviously quite
familiar with, as the species was often portrayed in their rock art, examples
of which are known from various areas of the country.
Accurate Aboriginal pictographs of thylacines
were found by Wright (1972) in caves in the
Pilbara near Mt. Edgar Station, Juna Downs and Tom Price Station.
The animal represented in the pictograph Wright discovered at Abydos Station
could be of either a thylacine or numbat (Myrmecobius
fasciatus). This drawing was older than the others,
and had been created using an engraving technique instead of by pecking.
It is unlikely that the stripes shown in this example of rock art were
simply a stylized portrayal of body contour, since they were absent from
the other species depicted.
A variety of thylacine
pictographs are known from
Aboriginal pictograph of what appears to be an adult thylacine with young,
from Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory. The image is estimated
to be some 6000 years old.
|Arnhem Land (Northern Territory) and its
surroundings. An exposed vertical wall was discovered by E. J. Brandl
on the Upper East Alligator River which bears
what appears to be a very
slender thylacine (Brandl 1972).
At Deaf Adder Creek, sheltered beneath a nine-metre sandstone rock, was
a 35 cm (approx. 13.78 in.) figure of a thylacine, painted in red (ibid).
Further along the creek was found a portrait of a 35 cm striped animal
with an elongated tail and forelegs much longer than its
pictograph of a thylacine from Arnhem Land, Northern Territory.
An additional red ochre painting, measuring 110 cm (approx. 43.30 in.)
was found in an extremely inaccessible location at the Caldwell River Crossing.
Local Aboriginals were interviewed, but none were able to identify the
subjects even from legends (ibid). According to later press reports,
(Anon. 1974 a, b), ten comparable paintings,
including one of a female feeding her young, have been found in a valley
in the Mt Brockman massif of Kakadu National Park by Messrs. Chaloupka
and Woerle, who possibly were the first non-Aboriginals to enter the valley.
To view additional examples
of the thylacine as illustrated in ancient Australian pictographs, please
see the subsection The
Thylacine in Aboriginal Rock Art.