Willandra Lakes Region

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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Willandra Lakes Region
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Willandra Lakes.png
Part of the Willandra Lakes system. 1) Lake Mulurulu, 2) Willandra Creek, 3) Garnpung Lake, 4) Lake Leaghur, 5) Lake Mungo, 6) Lake Arumpo, 7) Chibnalwood Lakes.

Location Australia
Type Mixed
Criteria iii, viii
Reference 167
UNESCO region Asia-Pacific
Coordinates 34°00′S 143°00′E / 34.000°S 143.000°E / -34.000; 143.000Coordinates: 34°00′S 143°00′E / 34.000°S 143.000°E / -34.000; 143.000
Inscription history
Inscription 1981 (5th Session)
Willandra Lakes Region is located in Australia
Willandra Lakes Region
Location of the Willandra Lakes Region on the Australian continent

The Willandra Lakes Region is a World Heritage Site in the Far West region of New South Wales, Australia.[1] The Willandra Lakes Region is the traditional meeting place of the Muthi Muthi, Nyiampaar and Barkinji Aboriginal tribes. The 240,000-hectare (590,000-acre) area was inscribed on the World Heritage List at the 5th Session of the World Heritage Committee in 1981 with the following inscription:[2]

...contains a relict lake system whose sediments, geomorphology and soils contain an outstanding record of a low-altitude, non-glaciated Pleistocene landscape. It also contains an outstanding record of the glacial-interglacial climatic oscillations of the late Pleistocene, particularly over the last 100,000 years. Ceasing to function as a lake ecosystem some 18,500 years ago, Willandra Lakes provides excellent conditions to document life in the Pleistocene epoch, the period when humans evolved into their present form.

The undisturbed stratigraphic context provides outstanding evidence for the economic life of Homo sapiens sapiens to be reconstructed. Archaeological remains such as hearths, stone tools and shell middens show a remarkable adaptation to local resources and a fascinating interaction between human culture and the changing natural environment. Several well-preserved fossils of giant marsupials have also been found here.

Willandra contains some of the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens sapiens outside Africa. The evidence of occupation deposits establishes that humans had dispersed as far as Australia by 42,000 years ago. Sites also illustrate human burials that are of great antiquity, such as a cremation dating to around 40,000 years BP, the oldest ritual cremation site in the world, and traces of complex plant-food gathering systems that date back before 18,000 years BP associated with grindstones to produce flour from wild grass seeds, at much the same time as their use in the Middle East. Pigments were transported to these lakeshores before 42,000 years BP. Evidence from this region has allowed the typology of early Australian stone tools to be defined.

Since inscription, the discovery of the human fossil trackways, aged between 19,000 and 23,000 years BP, have added to the understanding of how early humans interacted with their environment.
— Brief synthesis of the Willandra Lakes Region as inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Region contains important natural and cultural features including exceptional examples of past human civilization including the world's oldest cremation site. A small section of the region is protected by the Mungo National Park.

The World Heritage status of the region was created and negotiated in 1981.[2] The site was gazetted on the Australian National Heritage List on 21 May 2007[3] under the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1), 2003 (Cth).[4]



  1. ^ "21 World Heritage Sites you have probably never heard of #4". The Telegraph. London. 
  2. ^ a b "Willandra Lakes Region". World Heritage List. UNESCO. 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  3. ^ "Willandra Lakes Region". Department of the Environment. Australian Government. 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "Determination regarding including World Heritage places in the National Heritage List" (PDF). Special government gazette (PDF). Department of the Environment and Water Resources, Commonwealth of Australia. 21 May 2007. Retrieved 30 August 2014. 

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