Photo: The Budj Bim bushfire burnt through more than 7,000 hectares of land. (Supplied: Heywood Incident Control Centre.) Photo: The Budj Bim bushfire burnt through more than 7,000 hectares of land. (Supplied: Heywood Incident Control Centre.)

Bushfires reveal new sections of ancient Australian aquatic system

Extra sections of an ancient aquaculture system built by Indigenous people in south-west Victoria thousands of years ago have been discovered after a fire swept through the area over the past few weeks.

Key points:

  • Parts of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape have been dated at 6,600 years old
  • Traditional owners are confident new sections of the eel-harvesting system have been revealed by the fire
  • The aquaculture system set up by Gunditjmara people was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List last year

The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, which includes an elaborate series of stone-lined channels and pools set up by the Gunditjmara people to harvest eels, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List last year.

Some parts of the landscape, which also features evidence of stone dwellings, have been dated back 6,600 years — older than Egypt's pyramids.

Traditional owners, who inspected the site after the fire was brought under control last week, spotted extra sites previously concealed under vegetation that they believe are part of that aquaculture system.

Ancient channels lay hidden under vegetation

A fire sparked by a lightning strike at Lake Condah in late December, which was later subsumed by another fire that ignited nearby, was only brought under control last week after a mammoth firefighting effort.

It burnt through more than 7,000 hectares of land around Lake Condah and in the Budj Bim National Park, including some parts of the aquaculture system in an area known as the Muldoon trap complex.

Photo: Gunditjmara elder Denis Rose at an area razed by fire near Lake Condah, where new sections of the aquaculture system have been revealed. (ABC South West Victoria: Sian Johnson)

Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation project manager Denis Rose said when the fire first broke out he was not "too concerned" about how the fire would affect the system.

"Most of the cultural features out here on the lava flow are stone," he said.

"There have certainly been many fires here in the thousands of years prior.

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By Sian Johnson / Journalist
(Source: abc.net.au; January 19, 2020; https://is.gd/cVqqmA)
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