By Darren Coyne
Archeologists investigating ancient stonewalls and other sites on the North Lismore Plateau believe the area could be as culturally significant as Uluru.
Led by Bundjalung elder Mickey Ryan, the archeologists from Tocomwall Pty Ltd visited the plateau yesterday as part of a survey of the area’s cultural landscape.
Mr Ryan has been leading the fight to stop a 1500 dwelling development proposed by the Lismore City Council and local landowners.
The council has rezoned the plateau for residential development and has said that development applications would be lodged before the end of the year.
But Scott Franks, managing director of Tocomwall, an Aboriginal cultural heritage consultancy firm that provides archeological, ecological and cultural heritage services across Australia, yesterday told Echonetdaily that such a development would be desecration.
‘I believe it’s as significant as Uluru. I’ve never seen anything like this and I grew up with my old people walking the country. I’ve been in the army and all over Australia and I’ve never seen anything like it … especially not in New South Wales,’ Mr Franks said.
‘I believe it’s highly significant and the council should be turning their minds to ways to protect this. If this area is cleaned up and managed properly, and the right protocols are put in place with the right knowledge holders, I think it could be an unbelievable teaching area for archeology, and also for tourism.’
‘The council needs to get with it and understand what they’ve got here but it seems they haven’t got a clue.’
Tocomwall’s senior archeologist Jakub Czastka, who trained at the Institute of Archeology in London, said the site should be properly surveyed and protected.
‘What I’ve seen up there in terms of the wall alignments and the features most certainly do not conform to European or post-contact practice,’ he said.
Mr Czastka dismissed a previous theory that the stonewalls could have been Chinese market gardens.
‘They are located at the top of a slope and there is no soil build-up behind the walls. If they were gardens they would have been built further down the slope to contain soil,’ he said.
‘The only interpretation you can put on those stone alignments, even though we saw only a small section of them, is that they were established pre-contact, and would have been built over hundreds, if not thousands of years.’
‘I have no doubt in my mind that they are Indigenous, and looking at the location and the size, I would suggest there have been some very, very serious ceremonies occurring up there.’
‘And from what Mick (Mr Ryan), the local informant, has told us, it’s just one spoke in a much larger wheel of the cultural landscape.’
During their visit to the plateau yesterday, the archeologists also found evidence of where Aboriginal people had used the granite rocks to sharpen tools.
The archeologists also identified what they believed was a burial site, however further investigations would be required to confirm their theory.
Meanwhile, Mr Ryan said the advice from the archeologists confirmed what he had been telling the council for a long time … that the plateau was highly significant to Aboriginal people and should be protected.
Mr Ryan has vowed to fight any plans to develop housing on the plateau, and has the support of the Bundjalung Council of Elders.