Bushfires have likely damaged Australia’s ancient aboriginal sites


  • Thousands of indigenous groups’ aboriginal sites and artifacts have been feared to be ‘ravaged’ by bushfires in Australia.
  • Many of the damaged sites are difficult to access and it may take some time to determine the extent of the impact.
  • Fires have burned away dense vegetation in some areas but at the same time, have opened the gateway to unidentified sites.

Thousands of ancient aboriginal sites and artifacts from indigenous groups have been feared to be ‘damaged’ or ‘destroyed’ by raving bushfires which have swept across Australia since September.

In a report by Nature, the sites are hugely important for the indigenous groups for they have uncovered the progress of people over thousands of years and their cultural practices such as carved canoes and rock art.

Photo Credit: Marc Anderson/Alamy
Photo Credit: Marc Anderson/Alamy

The blazes have burned millions of hectares of land and have claimed the lives of more than 30 people, The New York Times reported. Important aboriginal sites which are located in national parks and other forests have been badly distressed by the fires.

Tiina Manne, an archaeologist from the University of Queensland and president of the Australian Archaeological Association (AAA) disclosed that likely, thousands of sites have been affected by the blazes, although no formal study has yet been conducted.

Currently, many of the burned sites are difficult to access and it may take some time to determine the extent of the impact.

In an interview with Nature, Georgia Roberts an independent archeologist and secretary of the AAA explained what should be determined in the light of this unfortunate event.

“It’s not a question of if significant sites have been impacted, it’s just a matter of determining the extent and how badly they’ve been impacted”.

Photo Credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Aside from stone artifacts, the sites allegedly house works such as rock arts, engravings and modified trees which are “culturally significant”.

Roberts further shared that she is concerned most about the parts of eastern Victoria state in the southeast of the country where ‘Gunaikurnai’ people live. Some sites in this area have existed 20,000 years ago.

Meanwhile, sites in another southeastern state, New South Wales, where aboriginal elders reside, have been feared to be damaged by the deadly fire.

Glenda Chalker, an aboriginal elder from Dharawal Country in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, expressed her concern about the extent of the damages of the blaze.

“We have a lot of concerns about damage to lots of sites, but we don’t have access at the moment,” she said.

Previously, research unearthed hundreds of earlier unknown aboriginal sites in the forested area around the Warragamba Dam. However, the sites were placed at risk after fires have wrecked the area.

Despite the impending destruction caused by the fires, some previously unknown sites have been discovered.

Paul Tacon, a rock art expert from Griffith University shared to Nature that while fires have burned away dense vegetation in some areas, access to unidentified sites has been enabled.

“One of the very few silver linings to these fires is that we will be able to get into these areas now, and identify new sites, Roberts said.

The AAA is now pressing the need for the Australian government to review aboriginal cultural sites in response to the fires.

Source: Newsweek

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