Seven Sisters Dreaming stories identified in Australian rock art

More than 15,000 petroglyphs were documented in the rock shelter.

Study of the 160m-long rock shelter Marra Wonga in Central Queensland, Australia, has identified rock art relating to the Seven Sisters Dreaming narrative running across the entire site.

Among the estimated more than 15,000 petroglyphs were ten clusters that appered to be in a certain order. They include an anthropomorph (interpreted by Iningai Elders as the Ancestral Being Wattanuri), a group of feet, a penis, a cluster of seven star-like designs (representing the Pleiades or Seven Sisters), a long snake, boomerangs, and another star.

These correspond to aspects of the Seven Sisters stories known around the world, which involve the Seven Sisters (Pleiades) being chased by a man or men (here Wattanuri) associated with Orion.

Panel of rock art showing petroglyphs of a penis, boomerangs, and seven star-like designs interpreted as the Seven Sisters. The penis, outlined in red ochre, is interpreted by community Elders as referring to Wattanuri.
Photo: P. Taçon

The study, carried out in 2020 by Paul Tacon and Andrea Jalandoni from Griffith University and their team, working with Iningai Traditional Owners, Yambangku Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and Tourism Development Aboriginal Corporation, and other institutions, has recently been published in Australian Archaeology.