Koonalda Cave

Koonalda Cave is a cave in the Australian state of South Australia, on the Nullarbor Plain in the locality of Nullarbor. It is notable as an archeological site.[2][3]

Koonalda Cave
LocationNullarbor, South Australia
Coordinates31°24′25″S 129°50′10″E[1]

I.D. Lewis described the cave in 1976 as:[1]

Large doline 60m in diam. and 25m deep; talus slope to two main large passages connected by a high window; total length of cave 1200m; three lakes at -80m; narrow airspace beyond third lake leads to 45m diam. dome and lake; another 30m sump leads off this...

Thousands of square metres in the cave are covered in parallel finger-marked geometric lines and patterns, Indigenous Australian artwork which has been dated as 20,000 years old,[2][4] making it older than any known prehistoric art in Europe.[5] It is located about 99 kilometres (62 mi) west of the Nullarbor roadhouse[1] and about 97 kilometres (60 mi) north east from Eucla[6] within the Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area.[7]

The cave was abandoned 19,000 years ago, and rediscovered by archeologists in 1956.[4]

The cave was explored by an expedition led by Captain J. M. Thompson in 1935. The team entered the cave by a ladder and found themselves in a chamber some 244 metres (800 ft) in circumference and walked down tunnels over 366 metres (1,200 ft) in length.[6]

In the 1960s, the cave was excavated by Alexander Gallus, who found that Aboriginal peoples had mined flint there.[8]

Koonalda Cave was declared as a prohibited area under the South Australian Aboriginal and Historic Relics Preservation Act 1965 on 30 May 1968.[9] It was listed on the South Australian Heritage Register on 4 March 1993 and inscribed onto the Australian National Heritage List on 15 October 2014.[10][11] It was also listed on the now-defunct Register of the National Estate.[12]

See also


  1. "Search result for 'Koonalda Cave' with the following datasets selected - 'Suburbs and localities' and 'Gazetteer'". Location SA Map viewer. Government of South Australia. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
  2. "Koonalda Cave", Encyclopædia Britannica
  3. "Koonalda Cave" Australia Thru Time. Retrieved 2014-3-17.
  4. "Koonalda" Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Minnesota State University
  5. BLAINEY, Geoffrey, Triumph of the Nomads: A History of Aboriginal Australia, 1976, ISBN 0-87951-084-6, p.84
  6. "Caves and Lakes". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 20 November 1935. p. 12. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  7. "Protected Areas of South Australia September (Map) 2014 Edition" (PDF). Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  8. "Secrets of Koonalda Caves". South Australian Museum. 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  9. DeGaris, R.C. (30 May 1968). "ABORIGINAL AND HISTORIC RELICS PRESERVATION ACT, 1965: NORTH OUT OF HUNDREDS—PROHIBITED AREA DECLARED" (PDF). The South Australian Government Gazette. Government of South Australia. p. 1641. Retrieved 15 August 2019. Site of Koonalda Cave (Latitude 31° 24' 18" South, Longitude 129° 49' 50" East), approximately 4 miles north of the Eyre Highway and situate within pastoral block 297B, north out of hundreds, out of counties.
  10. "National Heritage Places – Koonalda Cave". Department of the Environment (Australia). Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  11. "Koonalda Cave, Nullarbor National Park [also on the National Heritage List ID 106022]". South Australian Heritage Register. Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. Archived from the original on 15 February 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  12. "Koonalda Cave, Old Eyre Hwy, Cook,(sic) SA, Australia (Place ID 106022)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of the Environment.
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