Contributor(s)Macquarie University. Department of Biological Sciences
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AbstractHumanity does not have a good record when it comes to caring for signs of its past accomplishments. Napoleon’s gunners famously shot the nose off of the Sphinx, bombers in World War II destroyed many architectural triumphs, and ISIS fanatics have recently deliberately demolished priceless artefacts from Middle-Eastern civilizations. But this vandalism has largely affected remains of relatively recent civilizations, the past few millennia or centuries. But in Australia there are records from the longest-known sustainable societies, Aboriginal clans going back tens of thousands of years. These records are in the form of rock art, paintings and engravings preserved, often in shallow caves and sheltered spots, telling stories of secular and sacred life, and marking boundaries between clans. But this vast library, records of the society that was sustained for the longest period ever, is now threatened by resource exploitation. It is ironic that the death-throes of what is probably the least sustainable society of all time, scrambling after the last usable resources, can destroy this remarkable archive documenting a remarkable people.