Jump to content
Where our stories come alive
L 120mm x W 164mm
Save a large-format copy of this image (1136kb)
More on the Herbert Basedow photographs
Black and white glass plate negative. Caption: Rock carvings. A very definite picture of a lizard fully 60cm long stands out boldly.
This is a photograph by Herbert Basedow of a rockface engraved with a set of images, one of which looks like a goanna or crocodile.
These designs were most likely created using a sharp-edged rock in a pounding motion. To maintain its edge the engraver stone would need to be much harder than the stone surface being worked. Some grinding or grooving action may also have been used.
Basedow took this photograph at Deception Creek in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. He asked local people about the meanings of these carvings but he was told that no-one knew. The object at the bottom-left of the frame could be a geological instrument, a spirit level, or a ruler to indicate the scale of the engravings.
Herbert Basedow was a doctor, anthropologist and explorer. From 1903 to 1928 he ventured to remote regions of central and northern Australia - places rarely seen by Australians even today. Aboriginal people often feature in his photographs. Basedow wanted to document Aboriginal cultures as they had been before British colonisation, and often went to some lengths to craft his photographs to appear as such.
This photograph was taken during one of Basedow's six field trips to the Flinders Ranges region of South Australia between 1905 and about 1913. His initial visits were primarily geological investigations on behalf of the South Australian Mines Department. Later trips may have been to continue his investigations of Aboriginal rock engravings that he had seen in the region.