JOINT MEDIA RELEASE WITH MR ROWAN RAMSEY MP, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GREY
Today the Australian Government placed the Nullarbor Plain’s Koonalda Cave on the National Heritage List in recognition of its rare Aboriginal archaeology and heritage.
“I am delighted that Koonalda Cave has been given Australia’s highest heritage honour,” Mr Hunt said.
“Aboriginal people have long inhabited the harsh environment of the Nullarbor Plain, but it wasn’t until the study of Koonalda in 1956 that contemporary Australians really started to comprehend the extreme age of Aboriginal occupation in this part of Australia.”
“With its well preserved finger markings and unique archaeological deposits, Koonalda Cave gives us a glimpse of life on the Nullarbor tens of thousands of years ago.”
“The discovery caused a sensation and forever changed the then accepted notions about where, when and how Aboriginal people lived on the Australian continent,” Minister Hunt said.
Koonalda Cave was the first place in Australia where Aboriginal rock art could be reliably dated to 22 000 years ago during the Pleistocene. This transformed our understanding of Australian and World prehistory, which had held that Aboriginal people had been in Australia for about 7000 years.
Koonalda Cave is a tangible link to the past and a place that continues to hold special significance for the Mirning people today.
The enigmatic ‘art’ of Koonalda Cave involves two styles of rock markings.
Commonly referred to as finger flutings (marks made by drawing fingers down the soft surface of the limestone caves) they cover two large sections of the cave deep beneath the earth. These distinctive hand markings are moving reminders of the ice age people who once lived in this region.
The second set of markings are lines made by a sharp tool cut into harder limestone sections of the cave. Patterns of horizontal and vertical lines carved in a v-shape are widespread.
The complex and abstract nature of these markings has led some archaeologists to compare the finger fluting with early prehistoric markings in southern France and northern Spain.
The Federal Member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey MP said the finger markings and associated archaeological evidence make Koonalda Cave unique as one of the few arid sites used by Aboriginal people during the Pleistocene period and represents their long and rich cultural connection with the landscape.
“Koonalda Cave is just one example of the rich and diverse heritage and history of the Nullarbor Plains,” Mr Ramsey said.
“National Heritage listing for Koonalda Cave recognises its place in Australia’s history and ensures this long and rich connection of Aboriginal Australians with the Nullarbor landscape is protected and celebrated for future generations.”
Koonalda Cave is the 102nd place on the National Heritage List.
For more information go to: http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/places/national/koonalda(ENDS