(ORDO NEWS) — An Aboriginal site in Western Australia estimated to be 46,000 years old was destroyed in order to build an iron ore mine in its place.
The refuge caves of Juukan Gorge 1 and 2, which carry significant historical and cultural heritage, were destroyed by detonating explosives.
These two shelters were located about 60 km northwest of Mount Tom Price on the Hamersley Plateau. Preliminary archaeological research has shown that the caves were inhabited by Aboriginal peoples over 46,000 years ago – they are the oldest known inhabited caves on the plateau.
Excavations of the shelters carried out in 2014 revealed many artifacts dating back 28,000 years ago. Among the artifacts are sacred objects and tools.
A 4,000-year-old braided human hair was also found in the cave. After genetic analysis of the hair, it was determined that the cave dwellers were the direct ancestors of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, the current owners of the area.
Burchell Hayes, director of the PKKP Aboriginal Corporation and member of the Kurrama land committee, told Ngaarda Radio:
“It’s terrible. And it really stirs up emotions when you hear that these places were destroyed and that the age of these places and that the people of Puutu Kunti Kurrama and the people of Pinikura have a direct connection with this place.
It was there that our ancestors settled in this country. It’s very, very hard to come to terms with it – it’s not there anymore.”
Demolition was authorized in 2013 by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972, which allows for mining.
However, this law is heavily criticized for being outdated. By law, activities that destroy any Aboriginal property must be approved in advance by the Aboriginal Cultural Monuments Committee.
Surprisingly, there is no requirement that an indigenous representative be on the committee, and no right to appeal is granted.
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