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Willandra Lakes Region, Arumpo Mungo National Park Rd, Robinvale, NSW, Australia

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List World Heritage List
Class Natural
Legal Status Declared property (30/10/1981)
Place ID 105107
Place File No 1/05/360/0002
Statement of Significance
For the official statement of Outstanding Universal Value see the UNESCO site http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/167
 
Official Values
Criterion (III) Unique cultural tradition
The Willandra Lakes Region demonstrates an exceptional sequence of Aboriginal cultural occupation extending over tens of thousands of years, including an outstanding record of human responses to major changes over time in climate and environments (e.g. due to increasing aridity). The World Heritage values include:
landforms and locations which greatly extend our understanding of Australia's environmental and Aboriginal cultural history, including:
  • exposures of sedimentary sequences which reveal Pleistocene sedimentary profiles and associated archaeological and palaeontological materials;
  • extensive intact lakeshore landforms that may contain extensive archaeological and palaeontological materials; and
  • the remains of hearths, including those with considerable antiquity, which have provided an ideal source for palaeomagnetic measurements;
  • archaeological sites which occur within stratified sedimentary sequences and provide evidence for the antiquity and continuing presence of human occupation;
  • archaeological sites which contain evidence of utilisation of lacustrine resources during lake full phases, and rangeland resources during arid phases;
  • archaeological sites which demonstrate continuity of human occupation for the region through fluctuations in lake levels drying of the system about 15,000 years ago through the Holocene period and up to historic times;
  • archaeological sites which provide outstanding examples of hunting and gathering, a way of life that has dominated the Australian continent up to modern times, including:
  • evidence of human occupation of, and interaction with, the landscape of lakes, lunettes and sand dunes over time in the form of campsites, middens, fireplaces, quarries, knapping floors and burials; and
  • campsites and fireplaces that reflect people's hunting, gathering and fishing diet;
  • burial sites which are of global significance for the antiquity of burial practices represented and also for the information they provide on the development of human societies, including Pleistocene and Holocene burial sites; and
  • burial sites with associated mortuary goods and evidence of ritual burials which demonstrate the antiquity of particular burial practices and the development of religious beliefs and systems over time.
Criterion (VIII) Outstanding examples of stages of earth's history
The Willandra Lakes Region represents major stages of the earth's geological history, particularly associated with the response to major glacial-interglacial fluctuations. The World Heritage values include:
non-glaciated, low-latitude lacustrine landscape lake basins which include:
lunettes;
  • inter-lake areas between major lake basins;
  • connecting channels adjacent to the lake system;
  • connecting dunefields adjacent to the lake system;
  • unusually large clay dunes; and
  • complex downstream variability in the character of the lacustrine system;
  • fossil dunes and lake sediments including those which show:
  • evidence of Pleistocene climatic changes and landscape history for the geomorphological record spanning well over 100,000 years;
  • detailed stratigraphic, geochemical and pedological evidence for climatic and related environmental changes;
  • how non-glaciated inland regions were affected by the major climatic fluctuations associated with oscillations in ice sheets;
  • the influence of the westerly winds that prevailed throughout the period of dune formation, a period extending from at least 100,000 years to about 15,000 years ago; and
  • evidence of giant extinct marsupial species.
  • extensive flat plains of lake floors and sedimentary carbonates which show:
  • evidence of past salinity fluctuations and the stability of the landscape in this region; and
  • evidence of the area's response to major climate change.
  • stunted blue bush (Maireana sedifolia, M. pyramidata) and saltbush (Atriplex stipulata) on the lake floor showing evidence of final saline phases of lakes.
Description
The Willandra Lakes Region occupies some 3,600 square kilometre of semiarid rangelands, and consists of a system of now dry lakes situated in the Murray Basin in south western New South Wales. When last full, over 15,000 years ago, the lakes had a surface area of over 1,000 kilometre squared, represented an important source of water and supported food resources for early man.

At present the place consists of six large and many smaller vegetated dry lake basins in a dunefield, stabilised by mallee vegetation. Mallee and spinifex are the dominant vegetation communities supported within the area. The land is level at about 70m above sea level (ASL) and generally featureless. Slight depressions along the riverine plains of Willandra Creek and anabranches on the south-west corner of the Cobar Peneplain support some trees. The lake basins themselves consist of large, shallow, subelliptical depressions with their long axes oriented in a north/west to south/east direction. All have an irregular western margin often marked by a steep escarpment and a smooth crescentic eastern shoreline marked by a transverse dune or lunette. The lake beds at the downstream end of the system commonly show the development of smaller basins within larger basins, forming lake floor terraces. This would have occurred late in the history of the lakes.

The fauna of the region is typical of semiarid country, and includes twenty two mammal species (five introduced).

The Willandra region has become the most important site in Australia for multidisciplinary Quaternary studies.

1) Quaternary environments: important for understanding how nonglaciated regions were effected by major climatic fluctuations due to the waxing and waning of the northern hemisphere ice sheets. The geologic fork in the Willandra Lakes is of value to the reconstruction of the nature and causes of climatic fluctuations of the Pleistocene age and in elucidating the environments produced by these fluctuations.

2) Early man sites: this area has become one of the prime sites for archaeological work in Australia dealing with Pleistocene populations. The geological work done in close association with archaeological work has proved invaluable in helping to assess evidence obtained and in elucidating environments where populations existed.

3) Geological yardstick: this area is very important as a modern or near modern deposition and soil formation where much is known of the climate and physiography of the region, the origin of the sediments and the time and longevity of their deposition. It allows detailed sedimentalogical studies to be used as a geological yardstick comparison with ancient sediments to understand their depositional environments and processes.
History Not Available
Condition and Integrity Not Available
Location
About 240,000ha, 35km north east of Robinvale, located in the Murray Darling Basin in south western New South Wales, comprising the revised boundary as endorsed by the World Heritage Committee in 1995. The revised boundary is a reduced area of that originally inscribed into the World Heritage List in 1981.
Bibliography
Bowler, M. J. and Thorne, A.G. (1976)  'Human remains from Lake Mungo: Discovery and excavation of Lake Mungo III' in The Origin of the Australians, eds R. L. Kirk and A. G. Thorne Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra.
Flood, J. M. A. (1983) Archaeology of the Dreamtime, Collins.
Fox, A.. (1992)  Mungo National Park, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Broken Hill.
Mulvaney, D. J. (1975)  The Prehistory of Australia, Penguin.
White, J. P.and O'Connell, J. F. (1982)  A Prehistory of Australia, New Guinea and Sahul, Academic Press.
 

Report Produced  Sun Jul 13 08:03:08 2014