Koonalda Cave is an Aboriginal heritage site entered on the Central Archive maintained by Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (AAR) – Central Archive Site 4835-502. The site is also entered on the South Australian Heritage Register and the National Heritage List.
The cave contains very significant Aboriginal cultural heritage features, including well preserved finger flutings and engraved lines, created by Aboriginal people thousands of years ago. The cave also contains archaeological deposits; artefacts; stelae (standing stones) as well as evidence of Aboriginal flint quarrying and stone tool manufacture.
The Premier of South Australia, as the Minister responsible for the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 (SA) (Act), has received an application for authorisations under section 23 and section 29(1)(b) of the Act from the Department for Environment and Water (DEW).
In conjunction with a research team, DEW is seeking to remove 50 charcoal samples from the area within Koonalda Cave known as the Art Chamber and, to conduct destructive radiocarbon analysis on those samples outside South Australia to determine their age. Non-invasive laser mapping of finger flutings within the Art Chamber is also proposed
DEW considers the research to be an opportunity to learn more about the timescale of Aboriginal presence within the cave and specifically, the chronology of the finger flutings.
Section 23 of the Act makes it an offence to damage, disturb or interfere with Aboriginal sites, objects or ancestral remains without authorisation while section 29(1)(b) of the Act makes it an offence to remove Aboriginal objects from South Australia without authorisation.