Spectacular Nyimili Range holds rich cultural heritage secrets

Nyimili Range from the South

Nyimili, Jarrurtu and the surrounding range is of immense cultural importance to the Yinhawangka and surrounding groups. Jarrurtu is an important node in a songline that tells the story of how man got fire; this story stretches all the way from Yinhawangka country out to the Martu of the Western Desert, passing through the country of other groups along the way.

Terra Rosa and the Yinhawangka Traditional Owners have been working co-operatively on the Nyimili Project since 2014. The project was conceived by the Yinhawangka Traditional Owners and focuses on a range of hills near Tom Price and Paraburdoo in the Pilbara. The range is located within the broader Hamersley Range. The range includes two named peaks Jarrurtu at the northern end of the range, and Nyimili at the southern end.

Archaeologist, Tom Kimber, photographing a wall within a rockshelter

The primary aims of the Nyimili Project are to work co-operatively to develop a protection and management plan for the future of the range. Terra Rosa is also working to develop an interactive map of this part of Yinhawangka country. The interactive map is intended to be an educational tool for future generations of Yinhawangka people, where important cultural information can be stored and accessed. The map is made up of a variety of media including panoramic photographs, drone footage and videos. The majority of these videos show Yinhawangka elders and senior Law men sharing stories of country, including stories, songs, dances and ethno-botanical information.

Marlon Cooke making a dancing stick during the trip

The range is dotted with rockshelters along its eastern flank and in the south east spectacular gorges lead into the heart of the range itself. These gorges have previously been explored by the Tom Price Bushwalkers Association in the 1960’s and there are three known sites within the gorge systems and many more yet to be found.

Spectacular rock hole and creek at the southern tip of the range

During the recent round of fieldwork in early September, Terra Rosa’s Tom, Kirsty and Frida spent ten days out on country with the Yinhawangka Traditional Owners exploring the range. The main purpose of this trip was to re-locate known sites of archaeological and ethnographic significance and to identify areas likely to contain additional, unknown sites. The trip was extremely successful with a number of new and existing sites identified including ochre paintings, engravings, grinding material, grinding patches, scar trees, stone arrangements and a number of high quality ochre sources, including one that had been quarried. We also collected some fantastic panoramas and videos for the ever evolving interactive map and identified some potentially endangered native plants which will be examined more closely on a future environmental trip.

Heavily pecked basal grindstone (scale = 10 cm)

The team will be returning to Nyimili in the coming weeks. Last time we drove in and out each day which proved a challenge given the rugged nature of the country and the state of the tracks after a lot of rain! The rain did mean that we were lucky enough to be there during one of the most spectacular wild flower seasons in recent memory! Next time we will camp out and spend the days exploring the beautiful gorges, where we expect to identify many more exciting archaeological and ethnographic sites which will hopefully aid in the future protection and management of the range.

Stay tuned for updates!

The Mulla Mulla was flowering everywhere