Balls Head: the excavation of a Port Jackson rock shelter
Balls Head is a small headland reserve jutting into the north side of Port Jackson west of the Harbour Bridge (Sydney sheet, map No. SI 56-5 grid ref. 420818). It has preserved its bushland appearance and been comparatively little interfered with. Vegetation consists of a mixture of indigenous and introduced trees and shrubs; grassy areas are maintained for the benefit of picnickers. Bedrock is Hawkesbury sandstone, with frequent outcroppings, particularly where the headland slopes steeply down to the Harbour. These outcroppings are in the form of both smooth, steep-sided or flat slabs and the characteristically weathered small rock shelters typical of the Sydney area. Many of the slabs are decorated with Aboriginal rock engravings and axe-grinding grooves, and some of the shelters bear rock paintings and hand stencils (Campbell 1899: 14, 17; Miles 1964: 343). There is not a great deal of other Aboriginal occupation evidence apart from the site under consideration, and thin open shell middens which may be detected beneath some of the grassed-over areas.
The rock shelter forming the subject of this paper is approximately 65 feet above mean water-level, of a north-easterly aspect (plate 17). I t is not large: about 35 feet long, 7 feet from the drip-line to the back wall of the shelter, and 6 feet from ground surface to underside of overhang are its maximum dimensions (figs 1 and 2). Occupational deposit stretches from the back of the shelter, out beyond the drip-line for about IO feet, where it then begins sloping downwards in a steep talus. There are faint hand stencils on the rear wall of the shelter and the roof is blackened, perhaps from the fires of the original occupants. The deposit consists of compacted shell midden, looser disturbed material, and less compacted midden. Its maximum depth is 2 feet 9 inches.
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