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Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Alice Springs, Australia.

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Throughout the ages many cultures have conceived of geographic space and expressed those conceptions in a variety of ways. One expression of these conceptions has been the establishment of sacred geographies. Perhaps the oldest form of sacred geography, and one that has its genesis in mythology, is that of the aborigines of Australia. According to aboriginal legends, in the mythic period of the beginning of the world known as Alcheringa - the Dreamtime - ancestral beings in the form of totemic animals and humans emerged from the interior of the Earth and began to wander over the land. As these Dreamtime ancestors roamed the Earth they created features of the landscape through such everyday actions as birth, play, singing, fishing, hunting, marriage, and death. At the end of the Dreamtime, these features hardened into stone, and the bodies of the ancestors turned into hills, boulders, caves, lakes, and other distinctive landforms. These places, such as Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas Mountains) became sacred sites. The paths the totemic ancestors had trod across the landscape became known as Dreaming Tracks, or Songlines, and they connected the sacred places of power. The mythological wanderings of the ancestors thus gave to the aborigines a sacred geography, a pilgrimage tradition, and a nomadic way of life. For more than forty thousand years - making it the oldest continuing culture in the world - the aborigines followed the Dreaming tracks of their ancestors.

During the course of the yearly cycle various aboriginal tribes would make journeys, called walkabouts, along the songlines of various totemic spirits, returning year after year to the same traditional routes. As people trod these ancient pilgrimage routes they sang songs that told the myths of the Dreamtime and gave travel directions across the vast deserts to other sacred places along the songlines. At the totemic sacred sites, where dwelt the mythical beings of the Dreamtime, the aborigines performed various rituals to invoke the kurunba, or spirit power of the place. This power could be used for the benefit of the tribe, the totemic spirits of the tribe, and the health of the surrounding lands. For the aborigines, walkabouts along the songlines of their sacred geography were a way to support and regenerate the spirits of the living Earth, and also a way to experience a living memory of their ancestral Dreamtime heritage.

Located in the center of Australia, the massive rock formations of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) are the most prominent and well known sacred sites of the Aboriginal people. Rising 346 meters high, with a circumference of 9.4 kilometers and covering an area of 3.33 square kilometers, Uluru is the single largest rock outcropping all of Australia. The beginning of Aboriginal settlement in the Uluṟu region has not been determined, but archaeological findings to the east and west indicate a date more than 10,000 years ago, though some archaeologists estimate that human settlement in the region actually dates from at least 22,000 years ago. ‘Uluru' is simply a place name meaning which is applied to both the rock and the waterhole on top of the rock. The thirty-six rounded rocks of Kata Tjuta (meaning ‘Many Headed Mountain’), are located in the same National Park as Uluru. By Aboriginal tradition only certain elderly males may climb the rock but despite this tradition the Australian government allows tourists to make the climb using a metal chain installed in 1964. The Aboriginal tribes also request that visitors do not photograph certain sections of Uluru, mostly gender-related, for reasons related to traditional beliefs. Ayers Rock was created a national park in 1950 and in 1958 was combined with the Olgas to form the Ayers Rock National Park. Uluru is listed as a World Heritage Area for its natural and man-made attributes.

More about Uluru and the Dreaming from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

does anyone know when kata Tjuta also know as the olga's was created?


Would I be able to walk to the base and take a tour as I am not very fit and usually use a walking stick.

1 Reply

The walk around the base is flat and there's an even path so you could walk as far as you like and turn back.

Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock is an amazing experience. To be in the middle of No Where and then this huge rock is just incredible. It takes a while to climb and once you are at the top, you are just amazed to find puddles of freezing cold water and trees growing on the top. Even if you decide not to climb it and just walk around it, the colours and scenery are just beautiful. Watching the colours change when the sun goes down is just amazing. Well worth the trip to the "Centre"!

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