The “very uncommon” archaeological significance of Kokatha Aboriginal websites inside a authorities weapons testing facility has been revealed, in line with an unpublished report obtained by SBS Information.

The report describes a cluster of stone hut foundations discovered contained in the weapons testing vary that have been both used as “habitation buildings” or as “low-walled looking hides”.


“A complete of 14 particular person buildings have been recorded, though extra could possibly be current,” GML Heritage Consultants wrote in a 2020 heritage administration plan for the Defence Division.
“Among the archaeological website sorts – such because the hut foundations at Lake Hart North – are archaeologically very uncommon on the nationwide degree.

“The stone foundations at Lake Hart North show adaptation and inventive achievement, with using bodily stone to supply everlasting habitation buildings.”

Lake Hart rock art, near Woomera in South Australia.

An instance of the petroglyphs – or rock engravings – discovered close to Lake Hart contained in the Woomera Prohibited Space. Supply: Equipped / Equipped.

The stone buildings have been discovered at a website known as Lake Hart North contained in the Woomera Prohibited Space – about 450 kilometres northwest of Adelaide.

Overlaying some 120,000 sq. kilometres, the Woomera Prohibited Space stretches over a landmass about the identical measurement as England. It’s the largest land-based weapons vary on the planet.

Massive segments of the Woomera Prohibited Space overlap with the Kokatha Native Title dedication.


The Defence Division doesn’t use the Lake Hart North website, and the stone buildings are effectively documented and preserved.
However different sections of Lake Hart are at present used for navy workout routines and weapons trials.

In January 2021, the physique of a Saab anti-aircraft missile was found at a special listed heritage website known as Lake Hart West. It took 12 months earlier than the missile was retrieved.

Lake Hart rock art 1.jpg

One other instance of the rock engravings discovered close to Lake Hart, contained in the Woomera Prohibited Space. Supply: SBS Information / Equipped.

The GML report describes how cultural websites discovered inside the WPA have the “potential to supply new data on Australia’s cultural historical past within the arid inside”.

“The range and extent of archaeological websites, and the extent of data which may be gained from their examine on the cultural panorama degree, can be thought of uncommon.”

The report additionally notes that elements of the panorama “show the traits of a location that has been inhabited and used for a lot of 1000’s of years”.


“Inside these landscapes are a collection of archaeological websites with traits demonstrating the evolution and survival of Aboriginal desert tradition,” the report continues.

“The various and complex stone software expertise exhibited in a whole bunch of 1000’s of artefacts unfold throughout the panorama, however notably concentrated within the conventional campsites, offers proof for long-term artistic and technical adjustments in fashion, supplies and use.”

‘Like pages in a ebook’

SBS Information not too long ago visited a website contained in the Woomera Prohibited Space known as Wild Canine Creek, which options a lot of distinctive rock engravings.
The engravings have been produced within the Panaramitee fashion, which makes use of sharp instruments to chip away on the rock.

“The fashion is usually acknowledged thus far into the Pleistocene – 10,000 years in the past – though anybody particular occasion can’t be instantly dated,” the GML report reads.

Andrew Starkey

Kokatha lore man Andrew Starkey is a former Indigenous liaison officer with the Defence Division. Supply: SBS Information / Peta Doherty/SBS Information.

Kokatha lore man Andrew Starkey mentioned the Wild Canine Creek engravings have been just like the “pages in a ebook” for his folks.

“It’s suffering from various kinds of engravings. There are kangaroo footprints, human footprints, carvings that signify shelter,” he mentioned.
“If you already know these carvings, you may learn the story – you already know the place to get meals, the place to get water.

“This is sort of a web page in a ebook for us. That’s the reason it’s necessary these websites are left as they’re.”

‘There is a hidden splendour’

Affiliate Professor Neale Draper is a heritage guide who has independently studied Kokatha websites all through the Woomera area.
He mentioned that – as a result of the nation was open and unsheltered – it could possibly be troublesome to exactly nail down the ages of some websites.

“When folks primarily camp out within the open among the many sand dunes, issues blow away, folks can unfold out, and it is a harder archaeological report. “

Archaeologist Neale Draper at his desk.

Archaeologist Neale Draper says the Kokatha websites within the Woomera area are stuffed with ‘hidden splendour’. Supply: SBS Information / SBS Information

However dates from Aboriginal shelters discovered within the neighbouring Flinders Ranges advised Kokatha may have been across the Woomera area for tens of 1000’s of years.

“We may assume that the oldest dates for the Flinders Ranges most likely apply usually subsequent door,” Dr Draper mentioned.

“At this stage, we’re as much as practically 50,000 years outdated [in the Flinders Ranges].”


Some rock artwork appeared to depict the tracks of long-extinct Genyornis birds, including weight to those estimates, Dr Draper mentioned.
“There’s additionally some rock artwork all through this area, together with at Lake Hart. There are birds, there are emus, and there are big chook prints, which match the Genyornis, an extinct big chook.
“In all probability they have been overlapping at occasions – so 40,000 to 50,000 years.”

There are kangaroo footprints, human footprints, carvings that signify shelter.

Andrew Starkey, Kokatha lore man

Dr Draper mentioned the Kokatha archaeology at Woomera was stuffed with “hidden splendour”.
“There is a very robust have to preserve and take care of that.
“It’s extremely, essential to Kokatha folks and different western desert folks. It is all a part of the Tjukurpa and the opposite dreaming tracks that run proper all through the western desert.
“The archaeology is exceptional, the rock artwork is wonderful. The anthropology is much more great – as a result of there’s nonetheless a lot cultural information concerning the conventional panorama.”
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