Australia‘s wildfires have revealed an ancient aquaculture system built by indigenous people which is thought to predate the time of the Pyramids of Egypt.
The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape is situated south-west of Victoria and features an elaborate series of stone-lined channels and pools set up by the Gunditjmara people to harvest eels. As of 2019, the site was added to the Unesco World Heritage List.
Some parts of the elaborate system also shows evidence of stone dwellings dating to around 6,600 years ago.
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But after a bushfire which was sparked in December and only brought under control last week, extra sites were spotted that were previously hidden under vegetation. The sites are also believed to be part of the aquaculture system.
Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation project manager, Denis Rose, said he was unconcerned about how the fire when it first broke out would affect the system.
Speaking to ABC, he added: “There have certainly been many fires here in the thousands of years prior.
“Our major concern was the effect after the fire, and we’ve still got some work to do there.
“We were concerned about the trees, particularly those taller trees that are growing in and around some of those fish trap systems and also our associated stone house sites, of the trees being weakened and damaged, and potentially falling over and the roots upending some of these ancient stone structures.”
A new survey will take place in light of the discovery with archaeologists working alongside indigenous rangers as well as aerial photography using specialised software.
Mr Rose said the find was positive but it was also fortunate that the fire was not as severe as other parts of the country.
He added: “We have been extremely fortunate here. We’ve had relatively cool burns — certainly nothing like the damage and the devastation over in the eastern parts of Australia.
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“These fires have burnt the undergrowth rather than scorching the forest the whole way through.”
Scientists say the Australian landscape is being permanently altered by the nation’s wildfire crisis as a warming climate brings profound changes to the island continent.
The Australian government said on Sunday it will provide financial aid to the country’s tourism sector that has been badly hit by long-lasting bushfires, as business owners fretted about cancellations stretching into the months ahead.
Although recent rains have brought some relief, damage to the industry from the fires has approached $1 billion (£529bn), according to estimates from Australian tourism bodies.
A fire earlier this month scorched more than 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) on the island, located off the coast of South Australia, in blazes described as “hell on earth”.
Rains have brought the number of fires burning across Australia’s east and south coast to under 100 for the first time in weeks, easing a disaster that has scorched an area roughly a third the size of Germany.
Twenty-nine people have been killed in the fires while millions of animals are also estimated to have perished.
In Melbourne, fears receded that smoke from the fires would disrupt the Australian Open which starts on Monday as the city and parts of the bushfire-ravaged state of Victoria braced for heavy rains.