Cultural Site Types


A summary of cultural places for the Gaangalu People

Story Places and Cultural Sites:

These include modified sites and/or natural features of the landscape that possess special significance because of their role in Gaangalu  beliefs; they may be part of a creation story or associated with mythological beings and legends, and important life events and ceremonies. Some sites are known only by people who have been told the relevant stories by local elders. Birthplaces hold special significance to Gaangalu  people and are important means of demonstrating our association to our traditional country.


Burials are places of great significance to the Gaangalu  people and are located in many different contexts, from the coast, inland or desert sand dunes to middens, rockshelters, and clay lunettes on lake margins, Bark coffins (typically bark) were used and decorated with ochre and string binding.

The recent repatriation of human remains has seen their return to both old burial places and new locations. Traditional and contemporary practices are often used at these burials, accompanied by ceremonial activity involving people gathering from across the region to return ‘the old people’ to their homes.

Massacre Sites:  

These are places where Gaangalu  people were killed by settlers and/or the Native Mounted Police, including where there were open battles.

Police and Contact Camps

Some Gaangalu  camps were found on the outskirts of towns; on stations, where Gaangalu  people had a stormy relationship with Europeans; and in remote areas, where Gaangalu  people maintained a traditional lifestyle or used natural resources such as waterholes or billabongs.

Droving camps were usually established at points where water was available along a given route and were often gazetted as camping and water reserves.

Stockmen’s camps, where Aboriginal stockmen camped on stations, are small sites, usually some distance from the homestead and white stockmen’s quarters.

Police camps were the headquarters of the Native Mounted Police often situated near a homestead on early frontier properties.

Settlements and Missions:

Governments, private citizens and Christian oreganisaitons established these Aboriginal settlements and communities (Look at the Queensland Act).

Pathways and Travel Routes

Travel routes constitute well-defined pathways for travelling Gaangalu  traditional country, where particular points mark neighbouring traditional country.

Contact Sites 

Contact sites are places where Gaangalu  people came into contact Europeans, Chinese and South Sea Islander people. The journals and records of explorers and settlers provide sources of information for these sites.


Shelters or gunyahs of various types were common across Gaangalu  country.


Hearths are the ash and charcoal remains of ancient campfires and earth ovens, and are often found near fresh water, on the plains of Gaangalu  country.

Resource or good food places                                                                         Back to the top

These places were used for hunting, fishing or collecting resources such as food, medicines, and building materials.


Caches or hiding places for items such as pendants, ochre, string, pouches, hair, blankets and bone points, have been found throughout Queensland along with collections of seed pods from zamias and kurrajongs. Stone axes were also sometimes cached for later use.

Shell Middens

Middens are places located near where Gaangalu  people camped. They are usually on a level, sheltered surface, close to fresh water. Freshwater shells are a major component of middens as Gaangalu  people ate shellfish at the sites. Bone, stone and other items are also found on middens. Shell middens are found along coastlines, estuaries, coastal and inland river floodplains and lakes; and range considerably in size.


These are small natural depressions or cavities in rock outcrops that collect water after rain.


Quarries are places from which Gaangalu  people extracted raw materials such as stone or ochre.

Stone Artefact Scatters – Isolated finds

Gaangalu  people made tool and utensils from wood, bark, skins and fibres, but very few remain. Stone tools, however, have survived for centuries, and numbers of stone artefacts are commonly found in areas called artefact scatters. Stone cores from which flakes and blades have been struck are also found in these locations.

The Gaangalu  people used stone for everyday tasks such as butchering and skinning animals, grinding seeds and nuts, and carving wooden artefacts.

Flakes of stone such as quartz, chert, silcrete and chalcedony were used as knives, tula adzes (broad flakes attached to handles with resin and used as woodworking tools), points and blades.

 Engravings and Paintings

Gaangalu  rock art often tells stories and involves rituals that were central to the lives of the people. Art includes paintings, stencils and drawings on a rock surface. Another form of rock art involved engraving surfaces by pecking grinding and abrading.

Gaangalu  art motifs are often geometric, non-figurative symbols, such as circles and lines. Gaangalu  art also includes figurative symbols such as human and animal shapes, boomerangs and other tools, and animal tracks.

Grinding Grooves

Grinding grooves are formed when ground stone axes or adzes are made. People ground stones against a rock surface (usually sandstone) and the grooves that resulted have their own patina, are narrow, relatively short (about 15cm) and are deeper in the middle (about 2cm). They were used to sharpen wooden spear points and to grind seed and other organic matter.

Earthen and Stone Arrangements

Gaangalu  people created arrangements of stones, ranging from simple cairns or piles of stones, to elaborate circles and pathways covering large areas. These arrangements and earthen circles are usually associated with initiations and religious ceremonies. Earthen circles usually consist of bare areas of ground surrounded by roughly circular, low mounds.

Scarred and Carved Trees

Gaangalu  people removed bark from trees to make medicines as well as coolamons (wooden dishes), shields, canoes, shelters and twine. Toe-holds were cut into trees for ease of climbing, to catch possums and collect honey or grubs. Scars on trees vary in size (from 0.5m for shield or coolamons, to more than 2m for canoes and sheets for shelters).

The outer bark was usually removed so that designs could be carved into the inner wood, often marking burial or initiation sites. The designs are sometimes similar to rock art and body scarring.

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