Koonalda cave art destroyed by vandals in SA

22,000-year-old art sacred to indigenous people was destroyed by vandals.

The Koonalda Caves hold great spiritual significance for the Mirning people of the Nullabor Plains, but they have also been crucial to the archaeological understanding of all Indigenous Australians.

Vandals are said to have dug under a steel gate earlier this year and completely destroyed some of the delicate finger-marked cave art at the listed site.

The group sprayed the words “don’t look now, but this is a death cave”.

A South Australian government spokesman said the vandalism was “shocking and heartbreaking”.

“If these vandals can be arrested, they should face the full force of the law,” they said.

After the vandalism, the South African government said it had been consulting with traditional owners over the past few months to develop a plan to “better protect this important site”.

“The existing fencing and the general difficulty in accessing the caves discourage the vast majority of visitors from entering them,” the spokesman said.

The destruction made international headlines and sparked outrage on Twitter.

“What the heck is wrong with people?” one person wrote.

Live monitoring by CCTV is being considered.

Under Australian law, the Mirning people have not been recognized as traditional stewards of the land and still need to obtain permission from the South African government to access the site.

The Koonalda Caves turned the scientific acceptance of aboriginal history on its head, as it was the first site to find indigenous rock art, before 8,000 BC. could be dated.

Art has been able to prove that Indigenous Australians existed at least 22,000 years ago.

It’s not the first time native art has been vandalized in recent years.

In 2020, mining company Rio Tinto blasted the 46,000-year-old rock shelters of Juukan Gorge to make way for an iron ore mine expansion.

The incident sparked outrage among Australians and led to a parliamentary inquiry into the issue.

A month ago, Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation and Rio Tinto signed a remedy agreement to provide financial assistance to establish the Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation.

Originally published as Sacred 22,000 year old indigenous art destroyed by vandals

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