In Dreaming painting, use special paint, ochre, blood.
Come back with that feeling.
Ceremony painting is not for everyone to see.
Top business you can't see it.
Go through your body and give you knowledge, Dreaming.
You might dream.
-Bill Neidjie, Bunidj clan, Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Several naturally occurring minerals are used to make the basic colours common in rock paintings:
Haematite | An iron-rich rock used to make red
Limonite and goethite | Used to make yellow/orange
Ochre | An iron-stained clay that is used to make red, orange and yellow and can be made darker by baking it in a fire before grinding
Kaolin (pipeclay) and huntite | Used to make white
Manganese oxide and charcoal | Used to make black, although charcoal is not a mineral and does not last long.
Of all the pigments, haematite lasts longest. Over time it penetrates and bonds with the rock surface. As a result, the majority of old paintings visible today are completely red. The other white and yellow pigments commonly used in X-ray paintings form a layer on the surface of the rock; they are very vulnerable to damage by wind, water, animals and humans.
Pigments are crushed on a stone palette and mixed with water to form a paste. Paint is applied using brushes made from human hair, chewed sticks, reeds and feathers. Wet pigments are also blown from the mouth around objects to create stencils, the hand stencil being the most common; examples of hand stencils can be seen at Ubirr and Nanguluwur.
Dating rock art using minerals
It is difficult to more accurately assess the age of the rock art in Kakadu. The thermoluminescence dating technique has been used in Kakadu to date the sand surrounding pieces of ground ochre to 50 000 years ago. Used pieces of ochre provide good evidence that there was artistic expression of some sort at this early date, although not necessarily rock art.