Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Devils Marbles

While at Wycliffe Well, we drove out to see The Devil's Marbles, only 10 minutes away from the caravan park.   The Devils Marbles are 393 km north of Alice Springs and 760 km south of Katherine. In other words, in the middle of nowhere. Guide books and brochures about the Australian Outback feature a picture of the Marbles, or rather, of two of the marbles.... most travellers are not aware there are more than two marbles!  The Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve is 1802 hectares in size, and that there are lots of marbles here.

In the Aboriginal mythology the Devils Marbles are the eggs of the rainbow serpent, and many "dreamtime" stories and traditions of the Warumungu, Kaytetye and Alyawarre Aboriginal people are linked with this area. It has a deep spiritual meaning for both men and women (Aboriginal cultural sites are often specifically for either men or women.)  The traditional Aboriginal owners of the area regard the marbles as having extraordinary powers. Damage to them can have life threatening consequences for their custodians.
Imagine their distress when in 1953 an eight tonne rock was taken from the area to be placed on John Flynn's grave in Alice Springs (the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor service).  A similar thing happened in 1980, when a rock from the Devils Pebbles (a similar area north of Tennant Creek), was removed without consulting the traditional owners.
The pebble was returned in 1981, but only after 15 months of painful controversy and the tragic death of an Aboriginal elder. The marble from Flynn's grave was eventually returned, too, and replaced with another rock, identified by and taken with the permission of the Alice Springs Arrernte people. But it took until 1998 for that to happen...Even today very few white Australian people understand the distress that the desecration of sacred sites can cause...
Ref: Outback Australia Travel Guide

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