Pre-European Settlement in the Blue Mountains

Archaeological discoveries suggest the area was occupied by the Daruk people 100,000 years ago. It is believed that the Daruk and the Gandangara peoples came to the Mountains seasonally for hunting or religious purposes.

By the time the first white explorers had found a route over the Mountains in 1813 there were very few Daruks left. European diseases and weapons against which the Aborigines had no resistance took their toll in epidemics and massacres. The Frenchman, Barrallier, provides the best early report of the Aborigines. He made several unsuccessful attempts to cross the mountains in 1802 and took with him an aboriginal guide named Gogy. He reports that Gogy used the call "cooee" to contact distant Aborigines.

Barrallier did not find any permanent camps or settlements but met several bands of men travelling in hunting parties. Women and children were brought to his camp by their male relations but there is no mention of where they camped. He describes their food as being "different species of kangaroos, opossums (sic), squirrels, wild dogs, river and swamp fish and shells, lizard eggs, large ant eggs, colo, or monkey. wombat, serpents, lizards with red bellies and other species etc." [Barrallier's Journal Appendix A in Historical Records of New South Wales Vol. 5., Lansdowne Slattery & Co. 1978]. He further describes their paint and wearing ornaments much the same as those found in Sydney except for mantles made of skins of various animals.

Art sites have been found in all areas of the Blue Mountains. Engravings are mainly in the mid-Mountains perhaps because of their greater inaccessibility. Stencils of hands are common but also stencils of feet, axes and boomerangs. These are in red, yellow, white and black. There are also charcoal line drawings, red ochre drawings and carved trees. Some Aboriginal sites may be visited. All sites are protected by the National Parks and Wildlife Service Act. Any person who damages them may be prosecuted and fined.

  • RED HANDS CAVE at Glenbrook shows hand stencils made with naturally occurring ochres from Campfire Creek. Grinding grooves may be found along the track leading to the cave.
  • KINGS TABLE CAVE south of Wentworth Falls has a rock shelter with Grinding Grooves.
  • LYREBIRD DELL near Leura was an Aboriginal campsite.

The Aborigines told a story from the Dreamtime to explain the formation of the Three Sisters who are named Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunedoo. They and their father, Tyawan, lived in the Blue Mountains afraid only of the Bunyip (a monster) who lived in a deep hole nearby. To keep his daughters safe, Tyawan left them on a ledge. The daughters were frightened by a centipede and threw a rock which crashed down into the valley awakening the bunyip. The enraged creature lumbered towards the three sisters and Tyawan, hearing their cries, pointed his magic bone and turned them into stone to protect them. The bunyip turned on the father who turned himself into a lyrebird but unfortunately in the excitement he dropped his magic bone. He scratched around everywhere looking for it as he could not transform himself or his daughters back into human form until it was found. The cry of the lyrebird may still be heard today as Tyawan continues to search for the bone on the valley floor.