I’d caught wind of a story, that somewhere out the back of Gosford, in Kariong, NSW, there are over 200 Egyptian hieroglyphs carved into sandstone which have caused quite a stir. Some believe them to be ancient Egyptian symbols, while many believe them to be fake. As I was in Gosford country just last week for a wedding, I decided to investigate the site, which many refer to as the ‘Gosford hieroglyphs’.
I was given a rough run-down of the scenario by my friend and companion Rudi, who was guiding Olin, my four-year-old and I to the site via GPS coordinates. After driving to Brisbane Water National Park, in Kariong, our intrepid trio wandered down Bambara Road for about 10 minutes before a track veering off to the left led us to the site. Just prior to the site is a rock with the initials RG (for Rex Gilroy, see below) and TG carved into it.
The site itself comprises two sandstone walls, near the top of a hill, which are about 15 metres long and lie parallel to each other. The hieroglyphs depict animals, people, boats and Anubis – an Egyptian god known as the inventor of funeral rites and god of the dead. I enjoyed looking at the symbols, and the setting between two walls, beneath a splendidly twisted tree and a small shaft, proved atmospheric.
Olin felt a little scared. I reassured him while Rudi and I continued to examine the glyphs – some which looked more worn than others – and the nearby shaft. Just around the corner from the two sandstone walls lies a small opening that descends into a type of chamber about 3 feet high by 10 feet long. Both Rudi and I explored this, looking for more glyphs, but found none.
Of course the site has become controversial as some people believe the shaft is part of an Egyptian tomb. Theories for and against the site’s authenticity are as follows:
Egyptians among the eucalypts
There are those who believe the symbols are authentic Egyptian hieroglyphs carved by ancient Egyptians living in the Kariong area over 5,000 years ago. Although why would Egyptians have visited Australia during this time? The small shaft located at the site is thought to be a part of a tomb. Now deceased Queensland Egyptologist Ray Johnson believed the hieroglyphs describe the burial site of Lord Nefer-ti-ru, a member of the Egyptian royal family.
Lord Nefer-ti-ru is believed to have died in the area while exploring the east coast of Australia with his brother, Nefer-Djeseb, long ago. Others who claim the site is authentic include Byron Bay-based indigenous historian Steven Strong and researcher of Australia’s ‘unexplained history’, Rex Gilroy. Gilroy is also one of the few who believe in the existence of the Yowie – a towering, hairy creature resembling the mythical yeti that allegedly dwells in the Australian wilderness.
Egyptians not at all among the eucalypts
Associate Professor Boyo Ockinga, from Macquarie University’s Ancient History department is one of many who believe the hieroglyphs are not authentic. He says that while he’d love as much as anyone for the glyphs to be the real deal, there’s no doubt they’re fake. “First of all the way they’re cut is not the way ancient Egyptian rock inscriptions are produced, they’re very disorganised,” he said.
Furthermore, Ockinga says many of these glyphs weren’t invented until 2,500 years after they were alleged to have been written. He adds that the most likely scenario is that the glyphs were carved in the 1920s, when Egypt became popularised due to the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. Many Australian soldiers stationed in Egypt during WWI returned home at this time, making them likely candidates.
Professional archaeologist Denis Gojack and Professor of Egyptology Naguib Kanawati also believe the hieroglyphs are not authentic.
A few thoughts
I am certainly no expert on Egyptian hieroglyphs, although I did study Egyptology at Macquarie University as part of my undergrad degree. I also sat in on a few lessons lectured by Professor Boyo Ockinga and to me he appeared both a thorough and competent fellow. Admittedly it’s been 10 years since my uni days and the only symbol I recognised was Anubis, which as I’ve stated, is a god of the dead.
A few facts
- While there are claims the glyphs were found at various stages throughout the 20th century, the first official discovery of the site, made by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), was in 1983.
- Geologists have stated the sandstone in which the hieroglyphs were carved erodes quickly. Furthermore, 250-year-old Aboriginal petroglyphs, which are located nearby, show considerably more erosion.
- In 1983, geologist and rock art conservator of the NPWS, David Lamber, discovered some clean cut glyphs at the site which he estimated to be less than 12 months old.
- In 1984, Neil Martin, a NPWS ranger who was performing fire management in the area, discovered an old Yugoslav man at the site chipping away with a Sidchrome cold chisel. He said, “because he was mentally handicapped, we took no further action, but I later gave the chisel to the local historical society. We never saw the old man again.”
- A sphinx and pyramids are known to have been carved on sandstone in the vicinity by an Australian soldier.
A few feelings
By now it’s probably clear that I believe the glyphs are not authentic. I consider myself fairly open minded, yet sceptical. However there’s no doubt I felt very strange after visiting the site. After meeting up with my partner, we were supposed to drive north from Gosford back to Carey Bay, near Toronto, Newcastle. However, I ended up driving back towards Sydney and became irrational and angry on the road. My partner freaked out.
Furthermore, the next morning I saw Rudi sitting under a tree looking ill at ease. Now I don’t believe in the Egyptian hype, but the place has been declared an Aboriginal site by the NSW Government, as it contains significant Aboriginal rock art. Also ‘amateur investigators’ claim to have discovered an Aboriginal ‘star chart’ above the site, which allegedly contains “thousands of engraved star markers.”
Of course this could mean nothing and their findings could be completely bogus, but who knows? Perhaps the place has some spiritual indigenous significance, perhaps I didn’t get my protein fix that day? In any case, go and check the place out if you can.
It’s a pretty spot.