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The Australian National University

Siding Spring Observatory

Based on linguistic evidence Tindale (1974) has noted the Coonabarabran area as the boundary between the lands of the Kamilaroi and Kawambarai people. The former extended east beyond Tamworth and north of Taree, whilst the latter extended west from Coonabarabran to Warren and north to Coonamble. It is highly likely that boundaries and ranges were fluid and varied over time. As a consequence, the patterns recorded in the recent past may represent only the situation at European contact.

The historical evidence for aboriginal occupation in the Warrumbungles region dates back as far as 1818 with John Oxley noting the existence of many aboriginal groups in the area (Oxley 1820). Early explorers to the region noted local aboriginal tribes utilising plant materials for making nets and rope for catching ducks (Dawson 1881) and collecting native millet (Parker 1905). Settlers began to arrive soon after Oxley's explorations with land clearing being undertaken mainly in valleys and on lower slopes. On the 30th of October 1953 an area of 3360 hectares was notified as the Warrumbungle National Park with evidence of former pastoral settlement, in the form of fence lines, ruins and stands of exotic trees still present (NPWS 2001).

Some of the earliest sites in the Warrumbungles date back to c. 21 000 years BP (Geering and Roberts n.d.). Several excavations within the region have yielded a significant amount of evidence of Aboriginal occupation. The site of Kawambarai Cave was excavated in 1987 with the remains of emu egg and fresh water mussel shells, flaked stone implements as well as animal bones belonging to various species including kangaroo, wallaby, bandicoot, potoroo, possum and native rat being found. It was reported that over 2000 stone tools were recovered from Kawambarai. Similar finds were also reported from the excavation of Crazy Man Shelter (Beck, Davidson and Gaynor 1988). Bell (1985) recorded the discovery of a near complete human skeleton from Tibuc near Coonabarabran. The skeleton was believed to have come from a child about ten years old and was found with a number of artefacts including a 'dilly bag' and points carved from the bones of what was identified as a species of macropus.

A survey of the Observarory site in 2005 failed to locate any sites indicating Indigenous occupation at the Siding Spring Observatory (Estcourt 2005). Heavy development since its inception in 1962 has likely destroyed traces of aboriginal sites or artefacts on the property itself. The likelihood of any intact sites being found on the Siding Spring Observatory site is low, however isolated artefacts may be found on the property.

Updated:  12 December 2013/Responsible Officer:  Director, Facilities & Services Division/Page Contact:  Systems & Information Technology