National Heritage List inscription date 15 October 2014
The well preserved finger markings and unique archaeological deposits found in Koonalda Cave provide a rare glimpse of Aboriginal life on the Nullarbor Plain during the Pleistocene.
About Koonalda Cave
Koonalda Cave is of outstanding heritage value to the nation for its role in transforming our contemporary understanding of the extraordinary age of Aboriginal art, archaeology and occupation in Australia. The place is of great importance for its contribution to the history of Aboriginal occupation and is of particular significance for the Mirning people.
Koonalda cave contains exceptionally well preserved markings and evidence of silica mining by Aboriginal people. The cave was the first site identified in Australia that had Aboriginal ‘art’ in an area beyond the reach of natural light.
Recognition of extreme age of Aboriginal occupation in Australia
Prior to the study of Koonalda Cave by archaeologist Dr Alexander Gallus, the earliest date for human occupation in Australia was 8,700 years ago. In 1956 Gallas controversially dated the archaeological remains and finger markings at Koonalda to 22,000 year ago. Later confirmation of this date using radiocarbon technology, transformed the scientific community and publics’ understanding of Australian and World prehistory.
The unique archaeology of Koonalda Cave also provides evidence of silica mining dated to the same period. Archaeological evidence hundreds of metres below ground provides further confirmation of occupation to a discreet period over 20,000 years ago and informs our understanding of Aboriginal life and activity during this time.
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.
Consultation with Indigenous people about the Koonalda Cave national heritage listed place
The Indigenous values of the Koonalda Cave National Heritage Place are not definitively mapped. Indigenous people are the primary source of information on the value of their heritage and should be consulted on a proposed action likely to significantly impact on the listed Indigenous heritage values of the place and/or on a protected matter that has Indigenous heritage values (like listed threatened species).
Prior to undertaking any action, proponents should contact the appropriate Aboriginal Traditional Owners and custodians of the land on which the action will occur that has listed values that may be significantly impacted, as well as the Aboriginal Traditional Owners and custodians of adjoining lands that may be significantly impacted by the action.
A letter from the appropriate representative bodies declaring that they have been adequately consulted on the action informs the Department that a best practice approach has been undertaken. Further information on Aboriginal representative bodies is available from Native Title Corporations or via local Aboriginal Land Councils. Guidance about best practice Indigenous engagement can be found at Engage early – guidance for proponents on best practice Indigenous engagement for environmental assessments under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).