Spirits in the Stone showcases the world's oldest living culture and brings to light spectacular art and history that has been hidden in a remote corner of the world for more than 45,000 years.
Spirits in the Stone explores some of the thousands of ancient Aboriginal cultural and rock art sites that have been recently discovered in north Australia's remote Arnhem Land, with a special focus on an ancient sandstone art gallery called Gabarnmung.
The project documents the first archaeological dig on the traditional lands of the Jawoyn tribe and reveals scientific findings that are re-shaping Australian history and the world's understanding of ancient people.
It traverses the social history of Jawoyn people and their culture, and also tells a very personal story of one woman's race to discover her heritage, reconnect with her country and generate pride among her people.
Spirits in the Stone is a documentary feature about Margaret Katherine, an Aboriginal elder of the Jawoyn tribe, and the journey of her people's cultural reclamation through the discovery of some of the world's oldest rock paintings.
In 2006, a helicopter survey of rugged and remote land in the Northern Territory revealed a unique rock shelter, a place Margaret's people call Gabarnmung or "hole in the rock." Jawoyn elder Margaret is the traditional owner of the land, which has been passed down through her ancestors over tens of thousands of years.
This spectacular rock shelter is covered in hundreds of paintings that vary from kangaroos and snakes, to spirits and other stories central to the beliefs of the Jawoyn people. Some are a few hundred years old while others are thousands. Many of them are as fresh and vivid as if they were painted yesterday.
Margaret believes the winds at Gabarnmung are her ancestors calling, telling her to restore her people's cultural pride. This is a powerful mission for Margaret as many Aboriginal people were forced from their lands generations ago, living in small settlements and communities, taught the "white man's" way of life.
Inspired by her ancestors, Margaret made a momentous decision to allow an international team of archaeologists and rock art experts to explore Gabarnmung and conduct a 10-day dig.
What the archaeology team found in that short time was astounding. Carbon dating of charcoal found buried in the cave's floors reveal Margaret's ancestors walked this land more than 45,000 years ago – almost 40,000 years before the Great Pyramid was raised – reinforcing the Jawoyn people's place as part of the oldest living culture in the world.
As one of the few remaining Jawoyn elders, Margaret had feared the loss of traditional beliefs and customs. However, with the growing enthusiasm for Gabarnmung's art, Margaret has an opportunity to fulfill her deepest desire to resurrect the knowledge of the Jawoyn for the next generation and share it with the world.