Rock art under threat

The Murujuga petroglyphs are a sacred part of our culture and Ngurra (Country). Our rock art is more than 40 000 years old, and contains important cultural and spiritual knowledge. Scientists believe that the rock art is threatened by emissions from industry on the Burrup.


The Murujuga petroglyphs contain some of the earliest known representations of the human face. The engravings record knowledge of past sea level change and extinct megafauna.

Seven renowned scientists recently published a paper showing how industrial emissions at the Burrup,  from Woodside, Yara and the port are degrading Murujuga rock art.

 
Industrial emissions of SOx (sulfur oxides) and NOx (nitrogen oxides) settle as dust on the rock, and then become acidic when rain falls. This degrades the patina, or outer layer, of the rock and wears away the engravings.

 

Benjamin Smith, one of the paper authors, says emissions "are enough... to start eroding the manganese and iron out of the surfaces of the rock. What we are trying to work out is how fast they are degrading. But we are certainly looking at decades, not centuries."