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    Australia Highway May Destroy Aboriginal Site 'Older Than the Pyramids'

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    An area significant to native Australians that dates back 5,000 years was taken off the list of Aboriginal heritage sites by local authorities deeming “no Aboriginal material” was detected there, despite the discovery of artifacts there decades ago. The decision coincided with the approval of a freeway to run through the site.

    Australian authorities gave the green light to the extension of a highway on the banks of North and Bibra lakes to the south of the city of Perth. Under the project proposal, historically significant Aboriginal lands could be affected.

    Construction to extend the Roe Highway is now scheduled to begin next year, as part of the first leg of the so-called Perth Freight Link that will cost an estimated $1.6 million, according to the Guardian.

    The Aboriginal cultural materials committee (ACMC) of Australia finally gave clearance to builders in June after results of new archeological research declared the land doesn’t contain any Aboriginal artifacts. The project was proposed in 1987, but the committee issued rulings prohibiting construction numerous times.

    Over 2,000 pieces of Aboriginal artifacts, including those made of clay, quartz, glass and chert — a rock composed of silica — were found at the site during an archeological expedition in the 1970s.

    Lynn MacLaren, WA Greens MP, said those findings proved the “particular [cultural] significance” of the area, pointing out the chert, which could only have been obtained in the last ice age, proves the site’s age.

    “This site is older than the pyramids and has been around longer than western civilization,” she told the Guardian.

    “Allowing 1,000 years for those chert artefacts being in reuse, it is a clear indication that the site has been in use at least 5,000 years and, given the glass artefacts, made since European arrival, the site clearly has been in continuous use by Aboriginal people for at least 5,000 years,” MacLaren said.

    But government archaeologists, who carried out a survey in 2014, came up with a different answer. According to them, the area itself was “subjected to high amounts of disturbance” and “no Aboriginal cultural material was identified within the site boundaries.”

    A 20-centimeter pit also found no Aboriginal cultural material, their report said.

    But it also noted: “An in-depth archaeological excavation program may establish the presence of an intact subsurface deposit below the level of disturbance which was beyond the scope of the inspection visit.”

    Many experts, including MacLaren, along with Aboriginal community representatives, labeled the government study “inadequate.”

    “From speaking to archaeologists, I understand at least 20 shovel pits, each to a depth of a metre, should have been done,” she said.

    The site is sacred for the Noongar people, who believe that the shores of two lakes were the birthplace of a giant serpent called a Waugal that created rivers in the Perth area, ABC reported.

    The area is still inhabited, and the new road will destroy the “web of life there,” according to Gail Beck, regional development manager with the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council.

    "The biggest problem is the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, they know how important that site is, but the minister gave it the tick off," Beck told ABC.

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    aboriginals, highway, construction, Perth, Australia
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