In 1857, guided by the flickering light of a candle deep in a cave at Naracoorte, Reverend Julian Tenison-Woods stumbled across thousands of tiny bones of rodents and small marsupials buried at the base of crystal columns. Without knowing it, Woods had found a time machine of sorts – a record of biodiversity and environment spanning more than half a million years.
Fast forward to fifty years ago and one of the world’s 10 greatest fossil sites was discovered at the Naracoorte Caves when Professor Rod Wells and Grant Gartrell discovered the palaeontological equivalent of King Tutankhamen’s tomb. Twenty five years later the significance of the fossils at the Naracoorte Caves was recognised on the World stage when the Naracoorte Caves were inscribed on the World Heritage list.
The World Heritage listed Naracoorte Caves are globally significant and provide a unique window into biodiversity and climate.
The World Heritage listing recognises the diversity and the quality of preservation of its fossils and the scientific value of the fossil deposits. The fossils found at the Naracoorte Caves allow you to step back in time, giving an insight into 500,000 years of history and a fascinating insight into Australia’s prehistoric past.
Palaeontologists work to reveal the secrets of the caves by excavating fossils revealing the earth’s evolutionary history and telling the story of Australian’ mammals. The Caves have revealed fossil remains of 99 vertebrate species that roamed the area during the Ice Age. Some of the species found in the Fossil Chamber are giant browsing kangaroos, large echidnas, a wombat the size of a hippopotamus and a marsupial lion.