• Weaponry, including shields, spears, spearthrowers, boomerangs and clubs.
  • Utensils, including wooden coolamons and bark carryalls.
  • Sacred objects, such as long wooden boards, small wooden and stone tjuringa, pearl shell, and ceremonial poles.
  • The walls and ceilings of bark shelters.
  • The walls and ceilings of natural rock shelters.
  • Exposed rocks beside waterholes and streams (only the engravings have survived).
  • Trees, in particular sacred trees associated with ceremonial grounds and burial grounds. (Carved trees are known as dendroglyphs.)
Painted shield

A south-east Australian man
with his elaborately carved and painted shield.

A sacred stone tjuringa carved with designs and painted over with red ochre. Central Australia.
Photograph by David M. Welch, from The Australian Aboriginal 

A pearl shell with an engraved pattern filled with red ochre. Kimberley, Western Australia. Two holes bored at the top allow it to be attached to a waist belt. Collected by Herbert Basedow in 1916 and on display at the Australian Museum, Sydney.
Photograph by David M. Welch, The Australian Aboriginal.

A rock shelter in the Kimberley region, north Western Australia, its walls painted with ancient human figures.
Photo: David M. Welch

A carved tree (dendroglyph) with geometric designs incorporating angulated spirals, near the Macquarie River, New South Wales.
Photograph by Edmund Milne, from The Australian Aboriginal, second edition.

Other forms of art include:

  • Stencils of hands, feet and other body parts. Also, stencils of small animals, boomerangs, clubs, stone axes and other artefacts.
  • Painting and decorating the body with feather and plant down, creating various patterns and designs for ceremonial occasions.
  • Creating elaborate headdresses made from bark, feathers and string, painted over with white clay and coloured ochres.
  • Various body adornments made from plant material, feathers, shells, colourful seeds, animal teeth (possum, kangaroo and the Tasmanian devil), animal tails (bilby, dingo etc), string and resin.
  • The use of native beeswax to shape small objects as toys and ceremonial paraphernalia (using it like plasticine), and to create images of people and animals by applying it to rock shelter walls.
  • Carved wooden toys and carved wooden sacred objects.
  • Effigies of people, plants and animals made from bundles of grass and bark wound round with string, painted with colourful designs.
  • Thread-cross strings (crossed pieces of wood encircled with string) made as sacred objects which were worn and carried. (These are known as waninga in Central Australia and wanigi in the Western Desert.
  • Ceremonial poles made of plant material and string wound around spears and other objects.
  • Simple ground drawings made in the sand to illustrate a story.
  • Elaborate sacred ground designs made from raised earth covered with colourful bird down and painted plant down, and created for important ceremonies.

Hand and boomerang stencils often feature in Aboriginal rock art. Queensland example.
Photo: David M. Welch

Two boys painted and decorated for their circumcision ceremony on Elcho Island, Northern Territory. 1960.
Photograph by Ruth Beazley.

Human and animal figures made by pressing native bees wax onto a rock shelter wall. Kimberley region, north Western Australia.
Photo: David M. Welch

A thread-cross string (waninga or wanigi ) made by winding string around two crossed sticks. Aranda (Arunta) tribe, Central Australia.
Photograph by Charles Mountford.

An elaborate ground design produced for a men’s ceremony. Warramunga tribe, Northern Territory.
Photograph by Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen, The Arunta.