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The Aboriginal rock art of Uluru that has been damaged, with stains of a dark fluid that can clearly be seen.    Source: Emma Haskin / ABC

Greasy Scumbags Vandalize Sacred Uluru’s Ancient Aboriginal Rock Art

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Uluru, or Ayers Rock , is the massive natural sandstone monolith standing at the sacred heart of Australia’s Northern Territory’s ‘Red Centre’ and after years of abuse, now, ancient Aboriginal rock art at the base of Uluru has been vandalized with vegetable oil.

According to an ABC News report, the park's tourism manager said that about a third of the cave art was covered in vegetable oil, partially obscuring the paintings, and police are consulting the national park body with contractors to plan how to best repair the damage.

Tens of Thousands of Years Old Aboriginal Rock Art

In October last year, I wrote an Ancient Origins news piece after Uluru was finally closed to the public on October 26 after thousands of ignorant walkers had been throwing rubbish and pouring harmful chemicals in organic fields. As if that wasn’t bad enough some of the folk were defecating on the top of the sacred indigenous site. Now, rock art located on the opposite side of the rock to the former entrance to the climb, depicting traditional Aboriginal creation stories, has been attacked.

Steven Baldwin is Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Visitor and Tourism Manager, and he told ABC he was “absolutely aghast” when he was first informed about the damage to the artworks and he said the vegetable oil had obscured the ancient paintings, which he estimates as being “tens of thousands of years old.”

The Aboriginal rock art at Uluru that tells creation stories (pictured before the damage). (Emma Haskin / ABC)

The Aboriginal rock art at Uluru that tells creation stories (pictured before the damage). (Emma Haskin / ABC)

Old and Important Creation Stories

The cave containing the art fills with water during periods of rain and a viewing platform had been installed above this basin for tourists, which limits how close people can get to the ancient art. But Baldwin says the oil had been “thrown” from the platform. The cave was temporarily closed on Tuesday and reopened on Wednesday afternoon and senior men from the Uluru family were present and obviously “quite upset,” according to Baldwin.

Traditional owner Leroy Lester said the community was discussing its response to the damaged rock art , which he said was “old and important” to them and that it is “pretty disappointing when the odd one or two people do their protests.” He suggested more education is needed regarding Uluru’s importance and explained that the art tells “creation stories” all around the base of Uluru and they “link to the landscape around Uluru.” This makes them very important to the ancestral people who protect the ancient site.

Another photo of the Aboriginal rock art from Uluru that has been damaged (pictured before the damage). (Emma Haskin / ABC)

Another photo of the Aboriginal rock art from Uluru that has been damaged (pictured before the damage). (Emma Haskin / ABC)

Doing Nothing is the First and Most Important Step

While a criminal charge looms over the perpetrator(s), Australian police said they don't yet know who carried out the crime and they couldn't even begin to guess at this stage why someone used vegetable oil to deface the ancient art. Meanwhile, the sites traditional owners and Parks Australia are consulting with a Melbourne-based consultant who is very experienced in rock art restoration about how to best restore the paintings without causing them any further damage. So far, the advice they have been given was “to do nothing reactively or quickly” so that the restoration project unfolds in a careful and a considered way.

To prevent further attacks Mr. Baldwin said park rangers were completing extra patrols of the area, but the chances are low of tracking down the oil vandal, as Australia produces many natural oilseeds including sunflower, soybean, canola seed, cottonseed and small quantities of safflower and linseed, but don’t for a second think that a vegetable oil attack is any less destructive than if it had been acid or more paint.

Shot of Uluru just after sunset, where the Aboriginal rock art can be found. (bennymarty / Adobe stock)

Shot of Uluru just after sunset, where the Aboriginal rock art can be found. ( bennymarty / Adobe stock)

I used to run a restaurant in Scotland and one evening a chef was leaning on my car with cooking oil on his hand, which left an imprint on my driver door. The next day I sprayed the patch with wax and polished incessantly for ten minutes and that still didn't take it off completely, and you could see the mark for several weeks when the light hit it directly. Knowing how difficult oil is to remove from paint, even with soaps and constant hard rubbing, I can understand just how troublesome this situation must be for the recreation contractor and the local keepers of the ancient art.

Top image: The Aboriginal rock art of Uluru that has been damaged, with stains of a dark fluid that can clearly be seen.    Source: Emma Haskin / ABC

By Ashley Cowie

Comments

Gary Moran's picture

I would call them a lot worse than greasy scumbags. Some idiots have absolutely no respect, There are way too many cases of deliberate vandalism, I say string them up by the soft parts. Even stiff fines are no way to compensate for the damage.  

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