As if the Australian bushfires haven’t already led to enough devastation, now archaeologists are afraid that thousands of historic Aboriginal sites and artifacts may have been damaged by the fires. Much of the area destroyed by the fires was home to important indigenous sites, which served as living monuments to how people lived thousands of years ago. The sites have also proven invaluable to the scientific understanding of rock art, canoe carving, and other Aboriginal practices.
Georgia Roberts, an archaeologist in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, told Nature, “It’s not a question of if significant sites have been impacted, it’s just a matter of determining the extent and how badly they’ve been impacted.” Although a formal assessment of the damage has not been done, experts are calling on the government to launch a thorough investigation of important sites to gauge the fire’s effect on historically significant sites and artifacts.
The one upside to the situation, however, is that the fires may have cleared away areas of dense vegetation that were previously inaccessible. Some of these places could potentially hold culturally important sites. The fires in the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, for example, revealed previously unknown sections of the channels and pools carved into the rock by indigenous peoples 6,000 years ago.