Devil’s Marbles

Devil’s Marbles (Karlu Karlu)

Devil’s Marbles (Karlu Karlu), Northern Territory

Nature

  • Large granite boulders that form the exposed top layer of an extensive and mostly underground granite formation.
  • The reserve protects one of the oldest religious sites in the world as well as the natural rock formations.

History

The Traditional Owners

  • The traditional owners of the land are Alyawarre people.  
  • The Marbles is the meeting place of four different Aboriginal groups who have important spiritual connections and responsibilities for the area.  These traditional people are;
    • Alyawarre
    • Kayteye
    • Warumunga
    • Warlpiri
  • The Alyawarre name for the entire area is Ayleparrarntenhe.

Land and Language

  • The name “Karlu Karlu” is the Aboriginal term for round boulders.
  • The English name “Devil’s Marbles” is derived from explorer John Ross’s quote, “This is the Devil’s country; he’s even emptied his bag of marbles around the place!”
  • Alyawarre is the local Aboriginal language.  

2008 to Present Day

  • The whole area is protected under Northern Territory law as a Registered Sacred Site.
  • 2008 – Ownership of the area was officially handed back to the traditional owners.
  • 2008 onwards – The park is now on a 99-year lease to the Parks Service.
  • Currently, the site has been jointly managed by the traditional owners and Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Services.
  • Aboriginal youth as well as the local Indigenous Ranger group in Tennant Creek look after the reserve.
  • The traditional owners request visitors to respect their culture and look after this reserve.

For historical information of Devil’s Marbles please visit this website: Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve

Major Beliefs

  • A number of Dreaming stories have Karlu Karlu as their setting.  As such it is considered to be very sacred to the Aborigines.
  • Only a few of these stories are suitable for telling uninitiated visitors.

Origin of Devil’s Marbles

  • The Aboriginal people believe in a Dreaming Story in which a Devil Man called Arrange travelled through the area.  
  • While travelling, he was making a hair belt, twirling the hair into strings.
  • Arrange dropped clusters of hair on the ground, and these clusters of hair turned into the boulders at Karlu Karlu.
  • On his way back, he spat on the ground and his spit turned into the granite boulders at the central part of this area.
  • Arrange finally returned to his place of origin, Ayleparrarntenhe and still remains in these hills.

Tradition / Customs

  • The Alyawarre and other Aboriginal people were not free to visit any part of Devil’s Marbles as they pleased.
  • Current day’s visitors’ campsite was once considered a sacred site for both men and women.
  • Alyawarre Elders still hold the stories and songs for the area.  
  • These Elders visit the central area of Devil’s Marbles to maintain these sites and teach younger people about the sacredness of this place.
  • In ancient times, the central part was open to all Alyawarre people to hunt and gather bush food and medicines.
  • The Aboriginal men and women hold separate and different stories, songs and ceremonies for the site.

Ceremonies

  • Certain parts of Devil’s Marbles were considered very dangerous and only certain Elders were allowed to visit them for important ceremonial purposes.
  • Their ceremonies play an important role in passing dreaming stories to successors.

Animals / Birdlife 

Species

Places spotted

Birds:

 

Zebra finch, painted finch, fairy martin, dollar bird, koel, rainbow bee-eater

Devil’s Marbles

Reptiles:

 

Black-headed goanna, black snake, redbelly snake, brown snake, blue tongue and spiky black lizard

Devil’s Marbles 

Animals:

 

Land crabs

Devil’s Marbles 

For more information on the animal and birdlife of the region please visit this website: karlu-karlu-devils-marbles-conservation-reserve

Devil’s Marbles Reserve Tours

Features of the tours :-

  • Short walks
  • Geological features
  • Wildlife spotting
  • Camping
  • Ranger-guided activities

Notes for traveller safety and comfort:-

  • Traditional owners ask that Karlu (marbles) are not climbed by tourists

Please note, The Devils Marbles are no longer visited on our tours. For alternative Northern Territory Destinations take a look at our outback Uluru camping tours

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