Forming one of the Northern Territory’s most impressive geological wonders, the Devil’s Marbles can be found not too far from Uluru. These impressive granite boulders are peppered around a sprawling valley about 100 kilometres to the south of Tennant Creek.
The “Marbles” have been formed over millions of years by the act of erosion and rise up out of the desert scenery in a surreal display of granite – kind of like a natural art exhibition. Each boulder comes in a different size, ranging from between 50 centimetres to six metres across. Perhaps the most amazing part of the scene is that many of the huge stones are balanced on top of each other, seeming to defy gravity. Even today, they are continuously evolving in a constant stream of cracking and erosion.
As well as making an eye-catching natural landscape, the Devil’s Marble are important to the local Warumungu, Kaytetye, Alyawarra, and Warlpiri people who live in the traditional country that surrounds them. They refer to the wonder as Karlu Karlu which, when translated into English, simply means “round boulders”.
The Aboriginal Importance of the Devil’s Marbles
The Aboriginal history surrounding the Marbles is fascinating, and they are now protected under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act. Many legends of the stones have been passed down through several generations, but they are incredible secret so only a few can be shared amongst visitors in the region.
One of the most popular Dreamtime stories that involves the rocks relates to how they came to be. The legend introduces “Arrange”, an ancient ancestor of the local people who once walked through the area. As he passed through, he made a hair-string belt, which is a traditional garment worn by initiated Aboriginal men. As he began spinning the hair into strings, he dropped big clumps of them which then turned into the big red boulders we see today. According to the end of the legend, Arrange went back to his origins in Ayleparrarntenhe, where he is thought to still live today.
Exploring the Devil’s Marbles
There are no set walks around the Devil’s Marbles. Instead, there is simply a network of self-guided routes that take you around the eastern side of the reserve. As you stroll along the walkways, you’ll learn more about the geological wonder, like how it was formed, and how it has stood up against the elements for all this time. If you’re visiting between May and October, be sure to check out the program of live events run by the park rangers to celebrate their Territory Parks Alive Program.