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Early rock art that lasted tens of thousands of years is being destroyed by global warming | TheHill – The Hill

Archaeologists have discovered Indigenous rock art that has withstood aging tens of thousands of years is now being destroyed by the devastating effects of climate change.

Flinders University in Australia held a symposium on Tuesday, discussing the sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released in August, which found that more extreme weather events are “likely” if the global temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

Daryl Wesley, an archaeologist from Flinders University who has studied the effects of climate change on ancient art, recalled how the 2006 Cyclone Monica first took down trees surrounding Australia’s Arnhem Land, damaging ancient art sites. 

“This was seen in 2006 when Cyclone Monica made landfall over Arnhem Land resulting in widespread devastation along the northern portion of the sandstone plateau,” Wesley said in a press release.


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The trees later acted as fuel to a wildfire, the heat of which caused the water-absorbing sandstone art to expand and explode, destroying some of the sites altogether.

“Today, we’re in sort of a critical situation or critical juncture,” Wesley told The Guardian.

The symposium is meant to discuss the archaeological implications of global warming and how archaeologists and researchers can do their part to mitigate the damage and preserve these ancient pieces.

“While the severity and speed of changes now is new and pressing,” Flinders archaeology lecturer Ania Kotarba said in a press release, “archaeological and historical research can, and should, excavate examples of communities adapting to rapid change, often in a sustainable way, and offer insights for the future.”


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