Willandra Lake and Aboriginal History

The Willandra Lakes is a World Heritage region and covers 2400 km2 of semi-arid landscape in far South-Western New South Wales. The region contains a system of Pleistocene lakes formed over the last two million years. The original source for the lakes was a creek that flowed from the Eastern Highlands to the Murray River but this has dried over the past several thousand years and become progressively more saline. Aborigines have lived on the shores of the Willandra Lakes for more than 60 000 years. Lacustrine freshwater shells, burnt animal bones and stone artefacts indicate the presence of humans around 32 750 years ago and there is abundant evidence in lake sediments of humans living in the area over the last 10 000 years. In 1968, excavation uncovered a cremated woman in the dunes of Lake Mungo, making this 60 000-year-old cremation site the oldest in the world. In 1974, the ochred burial site of a man was found nearby. Radiocarbon dating has established that these are some of the earliest evidence of modern humans in the world and are least 60 000 years old.

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