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Ochres from western Arnhem Land Ochres give a rich warm colour to contemporary artworks from the Western Desert, Kimberley and Arnhem Land.

The surfaces it was used on varied widely from rock, wood and bark to the skin of participants in ceremonies.

His father then sprayed his hand with red ochre against the rock - leaving a stencil he could still recognise many years later.

Some of these materials are rooted strongly in tradition - such as the use of ochres in the Kimberley and, to a lesser extent, ochres on bark from Arnhem Land.

For example, in Arnhem Land and the Kimberley as a final stage in mortuary rites the bones of a deceased person may be painted with ochres and then wrapped in paperbark and placed in a rocksheleter or cave, or placed in a log coffin.

The oldest evidence so far found of mortuary practices by modern humans (and hence evidence of a belief in an afterlife) is at Lake Mungo in western New South Wales (see Australian Prehistory page).

Ochre was the most important painting material used traditionally by Aboriginal people.

It is mined from particular sites and is a crumbly to hard rock heavily coloured by iron oxide.

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The source material was traded extensively across Australia in the past, with some material traveling many hundreds or even thousands of kilometres from where it was mined to where it was used.

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