The Willandra Lakes Region
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The fossil remains of a series of lakes and sand formations that date from the Pleistocene can be found in this region, together with archaeological evidence of human occupation dating from 45–60,000 years ago.
It is a unique landmark in the study of human evolution on the Australian continent. Several well-preserved fossils of giant marsupials have also been found here.
The region contains a system of Pleistocene lakes, formed over the last two million years. Most are fringed on the eastern shore by a dune or lunette formed by the prevailing winds.
|Today, the lake beds are flat plains vegetated by salt
tolerant low bushes and grasses. About 10 per cent of the World Heritage
area is gazetted as the Mungo National Park, which covers about two-thirds
of Lake Mungo and includes the spectacular parts of the Walls of China
The remaining area comprises pastoral leasehold properties.
There are five large, interconnected, dry lake basins and fourteen smaller basins varying from 600 to 35 000 hectares in area. The original source for the lakes was a creek flowing from the Eastern Highlands to the Murray River. When the Willandra Billabong Creek ceased to replenish the lakes, they dried in series from south to north over a period of several thousand years, each becoming progressively more saline.
Aborigines lived on the shores of the Willandra Lakes from 50 000 to 40 000 years and possibly up to 60 000 years ago. Excavations in 1968 uncovered a cremated female in the dunes of Lake Mungo. At 26 000 years old, this is believed to be the oldest cremation site in the world. In 1974, the ochred burial of a male Aborigine was found nearby.
The remains of a large number of animals have been found in Willandra. More than 55 species have been identified, 40 of which are no longer found in the region, and 11 are totally extinct. Twenty-two species of mammals are currently recorded at Willandra, of which bats are the most diverse group. There are some 40 species of reptiles and amphibians. The bird life of the Willandra region is similar to that in many other semi-arid areas of Australia. Parrots, cockatoos and finches are the most conspicuous of the 137 recorded species.
Policy coordination and funding are the responsibility of the joint State/Commonwealth Ministerial Council, with advice from a Community Management Council and a Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee. Day-to-day management is the responsibility of the NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Sources and links:
Other World Heritage Sites in Australia (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Australia-section, for further information about such sites.
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Revised 01 jul 2007