National Heritage Places - Wurrwurrwuy stone arrangements

Northern Territory

Overview

Wurrwurrwuy is the Yolngu name for an area in north-east Arnhem Land where 47 rare Aboriginal 'stone pictures' lie. They record the history of trepang (sea cucumber) trade between the Yolngu of Arnhem Land and Macassans from Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Wurrwurrwuy was inscribed on the National Heritage List on 7 August 2013 in recognition of the place's outstanding heritage value to the nation. Wurrwurrwuy is the 99th place to be included on the National Heritage List.

Gallery

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A diagram of a Macassan house Macassan prau cross section A depiction of a Macassan prau Wurrwurrwuy stone arrangements

More information

The stone pictures were created by a father and son in the 19th century and extend over an area of about 80 metres by 70 metres. They were created as a way to provide younger men with an idea of both the Macassan way of life and trepang trading and processing.

The stone pictures at Wurrwurrwuy are highly unusual as, unlike most Aboriginal stone arrangements, they depict historical objects rather than ceremonial or sacred images. The stone pictures include representations of Macassan praus (or double-hulled canoes), houses, trepang fireplaces and drying houses, sharpening stones for iron knives and other images relating to the Macassan trepang industry.

The Wurrwurrwuy stone pictures tell us the story of contact between the Yolngu and Macassan peoples in the 1700s to 1800s. They also tell us much about Aboriginal ingenuity, cultural heritage and tradition and are of outstanding national heritage value to the nation.

Factsheet