Ancient Indigenous carvings return home

More than half a century ago, ancient Indigenous rock carvings were cut from Tasmania's remote north west coast and taken to museums for display.

On Wednesday, after years of campaigning, they began their journey home.

The sacred petroglyphs, created by etching a rock surface using a stone chisel and a hammerstone, are thought to be up to 14,000 years old.

They were taken from preminghana in the 1960s and put on display at Hobart's Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) in Launceston.

TMAG last year apologised to the island's Aboriginal community for removing culturally and spiritually significant items without consultation, after earlier agreeing to return the petroglyphs.

Ceremonies were held at TMAG and QVMAG facilities to mark the departure of the carvings, known as luwamakuna.

"When our ancestors created those carvings, they created them at preminghana," Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre's Andry Sculthorpe said in Hobart.

"They created them with the knowledge of the country at preminghana with the spiritual beliefs that were derived from their lives at preminghana.

"Each piece has a story on it. Each motif, each picture, tells something. What it tells us can't really be seen until all those pieces are put back together.

"If we take a book and we cut a core through the centre, we can read the words on that core but we can't understand the book."

Mr Sculthorpe thanked the museums and those who tirelessly campaigned for their return.

"We don't do this just for us now. We do it for those people from way back. We also do it for our children," he said.

"For probably 20, 30 years I can remember people talking about this. To see it happen now is a wonderful thing."

TMAG director Mary Mulcahy acknowledged the removal of the petroglyphs had caused immense hurt to the island's Aboriginal people.

"(The museum) understands the importance of the repatriation of the petroglyphs and is pleased that the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania is now returning them," she said.

Indigenous woman Zoe Rimmer, former senior curator of First Peoples art and culture at TMAG, said the petroglyphs had been taken down from display in 2005 and placed in storage.

Early in her career at the museum she gave tours.

"(I had to) awkwardly explain to visitors why that exhibition was so offensive to our community. I remember the luwamakuna sitting there sad, underwhelming behind glass," she said.

The petroglyphs, one weighing a tonne, will be taken to the north west by truck before the delicate process of reinstating them begins under the guidance of culture practitioners.

Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania manager Rebecca Digney said they will likely end up being covered by sand, a naturally occurring protective measure.

"We'll just allow nature to take its course," she told AAP.