Budj Bim’s world heritage listing is an Australian first – what other Indigenous cultural sites could be next?



Ranger Trevor Bramwell on the walk up to the Split Rock art galleries in Cape York’s Quinkan Country in 2017.
Rebekah Ison/AAP

Claire Smith, Flinders University; Gary Jackson, Flinders University, and Jordan Ralph, Flinders University

The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in south-west Victoria is the first Indigenous Australian landscape to be gazetted on the World Heritage List purely for its cultural values.

This listing breaks an invisible barrier: even the most iconic Indigenous Australian cultural sites, such as Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu National Parks, were listed for both natural and cultural values.




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Could the Budj Bim listing open the door to other Australian Indigenous sites obtaining a World Heritage listing? Here are five that certainly deserve greater attention.

When considering them it’s important to understand how ancestral beings inhabit living Indigenous landscapes, which they created during the era known as the Dreaming.

Today, these beings continue to live in the land. They are seen by Indigenous people as powerful and intelligent, with the capacity to hurt those who don’t act in the right way. They can be in different places at the same time. And they see everything.




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Australia’s problem with Aboriginal World Heritage


The Dampier Archipelago (including the Burrup Peninsula)

The Dampier Archipelago, 1,550 kilometres north of Perth, has one of the most spectacular rock art landscapes in Australia. The richness and diversity of this art is extraordinary, ranging from small shelters to complexes with thousands of engravings. Some images are similar to those found hundreds of kilometres away in Depuch Island, the Calvert Ranges and Port Hedland, revealing ancient social connections spanning vast distances.

The Ngarda-Ngarlie people believe this area of land was created by the ancestral beings Ngkurr, Bardi and Gardi, who left their marks in its physical features. For instance, the blood of creative beings turned into stains that are now the Marntawarrura, or “black hills”.

Ancient Aboriginal rock art found amongst thousands of drawings and carvings near the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia.
Robert G. Bednarik/AAP

Baiame’s Ngunnhu (Brewarrina Fishtraps)

The Brewarrina fishtraps, located in the Darling River near Brewarrina in New South Wales, are a clear example of Indigenous science. They offer material evidence of the Ngemba people’s advanced knowledge of dry-stone wall technology, river hydrology and fish ecology.

The Ngemba people believe the ancestral being Baiame revealed the innovative design of the traps by throwing his net over the river. With the help of his two sons, Baiame built the fishtraps in the shape of this net.

Nearly half a kilometre long, the fishtraps’ design and complexity is extraordinary. Dry-stone weirs and ponds were designed to take advantage of the specific configuration of the landscape and seasonal changes in river flows. The pond gates are strategically located to trap fish as they migrate both upstream and downstream. For thousands of years, these distinctive traps have been used to catch fresh water fish.

The fish traps at Brewarrina photographed in 2008.
Dean Lewins/AAP

Ngarrabullgan

Ngarrabullgan, a sacred and dangerous place in north Queensland, is an important example of congruence between Aboriginal traditions and archaeologically recorded changes in behaviours. Excavations show that Aboriginal people began living on Ngarrabullgan more than 37,000 years ago. They stopped camping there about 600 years ago.

There is no evidence of climate or environmental change at this time. Nor is there evidence of depopulation, which could have caused changes in site use. However, the Djungan people believe that a spiritual being called Eekoo lives on Ngarrabullgan (also known as Mt Mulligan). He can cause sickness by throwing stones, hooks or pieces of wood into a person’s body. This does not leave a mark.

Djungan people avoid going near the top of Ngarrabullgan where Eekoo lives to avoid disturbing him. They attribute any sickness when on the mountain to Eekoo.

Ngarrabullgan, also known as Mt Mulligan, in Queensland.
Wikimedia Commons

Quinkan country

The distinctive feature of Quinkan Country in the Cape York Peninsula in North Queensland is the richness, size and density of its Aboriginal paintings and engravings. This country is best known for its depictions of Quinkan spirit beings, tall, slender Timaras and fat-bodied Imjims (or Anurra).

The rock art of Quinkan Country provides insights into Aboriginal occupation of the north-east region of Australia. The cultural traditions, laws, and stories told there were developed over at least 37,000 years.

Ranger Trevor Bramwell points to rock paintings at Split Rock near the Cape York town of Laura in 2017, in the land known as Quinkan Country.
Rebekah Ison/AAP

Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape

The Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape provides evidence of a specialised and more sedentary way of life based on seals, shellfish and land mammals. This unusual Aboriginal way of life began around 2,000 years ago. It continued until the 1830s.

Shell middens in this landscape do not contain the remains of bony fish. However, they do contain “hut depressions”. Sometimes, these are formed into the shape of villages. Circular pits in cobble beaches are near some of these depressions. It is likely that they are hides that were used when hunting seals.

A shell midden in Tasmania.
Candice Marshall/AAP

Other candidates

These places already appear on our national heritage list. There is a plethora of other important ones, both on and off the list, including Mutawintji National Park, Gundabooka National Park and State Conservation area, and Koonalda Cave, on the Nullarbor Plain.

But Aboriginal owners and custodians must be the decision-makers when it comes to proposing a World Heritage listing. They have an inherited right to benefit from a listing – and they hold cultural responsibility for the consequences of it.
Protecting these living landscapes is their responsibility. Increased tourist activity could be a new source of income for them but it could also place cultural landscapes at risk.The Conversation

Claire Smith, Professor of Archaeology, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University; Gary Jackson, Research Associate in Archaeology, Flinders University, and Jordan Ralph, PhD Candidate, Archaeology, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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2,000 years of records show it’s getting hotter, faster



European heatwaves are part of a pattern of rapid global warming.
EPA/ABEL ALONSO

Ben Henley, University of Melbourne

New reconstructions of Earth’s temperature over the past 2,000 years, published today in Nature Geoscience, highlight the astonishing rate of the recent widespread warming of our planet.

We also now have a clearer picture of decade-to-decade temperature variations, and what drove those fluctuations before the industrial revolution took hold.

Contrary to previous theories that pre-industrial temperature changes in the last 2,000 years were due to variations in the Sun, our research found volcanoes were largely responsible. However, these effects are now dwarfed by modern, human-driven climate change.




Read more:
40 years ago, scientists predicted climate change. And hey, they were right


Reading the tree rings

Without networks of thermometers, ocean buoys and satellites to record temperature, we need other methods to reconstruct past climates. Luckily, nature has written the answers down for us. We just have to learn how to read them.

Corals, ice cores, tree rings, lake sediments, and ocean sediment cores provide a wealth of information about past conditions – this is called “proxy” data – and can be brought together to tell us about the global climate in the past.

Tree rings, corals and ice cores all provide ‘proxy data’ – information about changing temperatures over the centuries.
Simon Stankowski/Unsplash, CC BY

Teams of scientists around the world have spent many thousands of hours of field and laboratory work to collect and analyse samples, and ultimately publish and make available their data so other scientists can undertake further analysis.

Previously, our team, along with many other proxy experts, meticulously analysed and collated temperature-sensitive proxy data covering the last 2,000 years from around the world, creating the largest database of temperature-sensitive proxy data yet assembled. We then made all of the data publicly available in one place.

Astonishing consistency between reconstruction methods

With this unique dataset in hand, our team set about reconstructing past global temperature.

We scientists are notoriously sceptical of our own analysis. But what makes us more confident about our findings is when different methods applied to the same data yield the same result.

In this paper we applied seven different methods to reconstruct global temperature from our proxy network. We were astounded to find that the methods all gave remarkably similar results for multidecadal fluctuations – a very precise result considering the breadth of the methods used.

This gave us the confidence to delve further into what drove global temperature fluctuations on decadal timescales before the industrial revolution really took hold.

What happened before human-induced climate change?

Our study produces the clearest picture yet of Earth’s average temperature over the past two millennia. We also found that climate models performed very well in comparison, and they succeed in capturing the amount of natural variability in the climate system – the natural ups and downs in temperature from year-to-year and decade-to-decade.

Using climate models and reconstructions of external climate forcing, such as from volcanic eruptions and solar variability, we deduced that before the industrial revolution, global temperature fluctuations from decade to decade in the past 2,000 years were mainly controlled by aerosol forcing from major volcanic eruptions, not variations in the Sun’s output. Volcanic aerosols have a temporary cooling effect on the global climate. Following these temporary cooling periods our reconstructions show there is an increased probability of a temporary warming period due to the recovery from volcanic cooling.

Earlier this year One Nation leader Pauline Hanson suggested that volcanic eruptions may be responsible for the recent rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Recent warming is far beyond natural variability

There are, of course, natural changes in Earth’s temperature from decade to decade, from century to century, and also on much longer timescales. With our new reconstructions were also able to quantify the rate of warming and cooling over the past 2,000 years. Comparing our reconstructions to recent worldwide instrumental data, we found that at no time in the last 2,000 years has the rate of warming been so high.

In statistical terms, rates of warming during all 51-year periods from the 1950s onwards exceed the 99th percentile of reconstructed pre-industrial 51 yr trends. If we look at timescales longer than 20 years, the probability that the largest warming trend occurred after 1850 greatly exceeds the values expected from chance alone. And, for trend lengths over 50 years, that probability swiftly approaches 100%. So what do all these stats mean? The strength of the recent warming is extraordinary. It is yet more evidence of human-induced warming of the planet.

But hasn’t there been natural climate change in the past?

Our understanding of past temperature variations of the Earth contributes to understanding such fundamental things as how life evolved, where our species came from, how our planet works and, now that humans have fundamentally altered it, how modern climate change will unfold.

We know that over millions of years, the movement of tectonic plates and interactions between the solid earth, the atmosphere and the ocean, have a slow effect on global temperature. On shorter (but still very long) timescales of tens to hundreds of thousands of years, our planet’s climate is gradually influenced by small variations in the geometry of the Earth and the Sun, for example, small wobbles and variations in the Earth’s tilt and orbit.

From the Last Glacial Maximum, about 26,000 years ago, when huge ice sheets covered large parts of the Northern Hemisphere landmass, Earth transitioned to a 12,000-year warm period, called the Holocene.




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Two centuries of continuous volcanic eruption may have triggered the end of the ice age


This was a time of relative stability in global temperature, apart from the temporary cooling effect of the odd volcano. With the development of human agriculture, our prosperity and population grew. Before the industrial revolution, Earth had not seen carbon dioxide concentrations above current levels for at least 2 million years.

Following the industrial revolution, warming commenced due to human activity. With a clearer picture of temperature variations over the past two millennia we now have a better understanding of the extraordinary nature of recent warming.

It is up to all of us to decide whether this is the kind of experiment we want to run on our planet.


I would like to gratefully acknowledge the leader of this study, Raphael Neukom, and my fellow co-authors from the PAGES 2k Consortium. We also owe the teams of proxy experts much gratitude. It is their generous contribution to science and to human knowledge that has allowed for this, and other palaeoclimate compilation and synthesis studies.The Conversation

Ben Henley, Research Fellow in Climate and Water Resources, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.