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Sacred Place In Australian

An exploration of how and why places become invested with SACREDNESS and how the SACRED is embodied or made manifest through ART and ARCHITECTURE


Kata Tjuta, meaning many heads to the Australian Aborigines, is a group of more than 30 rounded red conglomerate masses of rock rising out of the desert plain in the Northern Territory of Australia. Some of the rocks are bunched close together with only narrow precipitous crevices between. Others, rounded and polished by the wind, are more spaced apart. The highest is called Mount Olga (1500 feet).

The rocks, also known as the Olgas (named after the Queen of Spain in 1872, when the rocks were first explored by a white man), like their nearby neighbour, Uluru (Ayers Rock), have been sacred to the Aborigines since time immemorial and figure prominently in their legends about the Dreaming, the time of creation.

The Aborigines identify Mount Olga as the home of the snake Wanambi who, during the rainy season, stays curled up in a waterhole on the summit. During the dry season he moves down to the gorge below. He also uses the various caves on Mount Olga. The hairs of his beard are the dark lines on the eastern side of the rock. His breath is the wind which blows through the gorge; when he gets angry it can become a hurricane.

The domed rocks on the eastern side are identified with ancestors known as the mice women; food prepared for them are two large rocks near the end of Mount Olga.

Rocks in the south-western portion are where the poisonous snake men, the Liru, make their camp before setting out to attack the harmless carpet snakes at Uluru.

The pointed rocks on the east is Malu, a kangaroo man, who is dying of wounds inflicted by dingoes. Malu leans on a rock which is his sister, Mulumura, a lizard woman, who cradles him in her arms.

Also present are the stone bodies of the Pungalunga, giant cannibals.


  • Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime : The Story of Prehistoric Australia and its People, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
SACRED PLACES is written and produced by Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe, Professor, Department of Art History, Sweet Briar College, Virginia, 24595 USA

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