Archaeology at Hanging Rock

This week Dr Vincent Clark & Associates have had an exciting opportunity to conduct a small scale excavation at Hanging Rock reserve on behalf of Macedon Ranges Shire Council. Somewhat surprisingly there has never been any archaeological investigation conducted at the infamous Hanging Rock, and very little is known about the indigenous history of the place. We do not know the indigenous name (or names) for the place.

Major Mitchell was the first European to name the Rock, naming it Mount Diogenes, which, along with neighbouring Mount Macedon, demonstrates the explorer’s love of classical Greece. For a while during the late 19th century “Mount Diogenes” was replaced by the much more staid “Dryden’s Rock”( after the owner of the pastoral run that encompassed the rock), until eventually the more descriptive name “Hanging Rock” took hold.

Recording at Hanging Rock

While most people associate the Rock with the haunting Joan Lindsey novel “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and the 1975 Peter Weir film of the same name, it is clear that the significance and mystery of the rock was felt long before any European eyes gazed upon it.

In fact three different groups have their tribal boundaries quite close to the Rock, and it is possible that the striking landscape feature was an inter-tribal ceremonial meeting place. Geologically speaking Hanging Rock is an unusual soda-trachyte volcanic feature. The prominent vertical jointing patterns in the trachyte, the weathered pinnacles and craggy overhangs help give the rock its awe-inspiring mystery. Undoubtedly the Rock was significant to the indigenous people who lived in its shadow, as it remains a special place to all those who visit it today.

So, after a sunny morning of digging what else could we do but unfurl a blanket and enjoy a picnic at Hanging Rock over lunch, as we watched (and were watched by) a large mob of kangaroos. We do not yet know the full results of our on-going investigation, but we have already located many interesting lithic artefacts. In completing the project we are looking forward to shedding a little bit more light on the indigenous use and occupation of the place and, hopefully, discovering something more about the history of Hanging Rock.

With many thanks to the representatives of the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council and the Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Council for their assistance with this project and for Macedon Ranges Shire Council for funding it.


Picnic at Hanging Rock

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