Research proposal

Now Closed

This online engagement was hosted on YourSAy from 4 September to 12 October 2020. Below is a record of the engagement.

Koonalda Cave is an ancient Aboriginal rock art and archaeological site located some 400 km west of Ceduna. As part of the research proposal, the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) is seeking authorisation to:

  • remove 50 charcoal samples from within the Koonalda Cave Art Chamber
  • remove those samples from South Australia for the destructive analysis
  • carry out destructive analysis of those samples using radiocarbon dating methods
  • conduct non-invasive laser mapping of finger flutings within the Koonalda Cave Art Chamber

The purpose of the research

The Koonalda Cave Art Chamber, and particularly the finger flutings contained therein, have never been reliably dated. Sophisticated technology, previously unavailable to researchers, now provides an opportunity to learn more about the timescale of Aboriginal presence within the cave and specifically, the chronology of the finger flutings.

Key aspects of the research proposal

DEW advises that:

  • the research team will be made up of eight to ten people, including at least two Traditional Owners
  • the samples will be collected over a single visit into the cave
  • each sample will generally weigh between 20mg and 100mg (approximately between one half and 2.5 teaspoons). Some samples may be wholly consumed by the analysis, while others may only be partially consumed
  • the samples will be sent to the University of New South Wales’ Radiocarbon Dating Facility in New South Wales for the analysis
  • the outcomes of the research proposal will be made available to Traditional Owners and, are likely to be published

DEW also seeks to map the finger flutings using a laser scanner. However, this work will not involve any physical contact with the finger flutings

Reducing the impact on Aboriginal heritage

DEW considers that impacts to heritage within the cave will be very unlikely. By collecting charcoal samples from the floor of the Art Chamber, DEW and its research team can avoid conducting archaeological excavations within the cave.

To reduce the impact the research proposal may have on Aboriginal heritage within the cave, DEW proposes to:

  • access the Art Chamber via pre-existing tracks within the cave
  • adhere to AAR’s Aboriginal Heritage Discovery Protocols when accessing the cave. These protocols provide for the management and reporting of Aboriginal heritage discoveries, and ensure that the discovery of Aboriginal remains is dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Coroners Act 2003 (SA)
  • engage with the Far West Coast Aboriginal Corporation, which will ensure that cultural protocols are adhered to during the research activities
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Consultation has concluded

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