Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Lake Tandou

150 km northwest of Lake Mungo in the Willandra Lakes region. About 700,000 years ago Lake Bungunnia drained when the raised southern margin breached and the lake drained. This led to the formation of the southern end of the Murray River, and a number of smaller water bodies were left in the lower parts of the former lake. Among these were the Menindee Lakes System and Lake Tandou, as well as some smaller lakes along the course of the Darling River and Murray River.


Among the fossils found in the Lake Tandou deposit was a tooth from a lungfish. Since the draining of Lake Bungunnia it is believed lungfish have been restricted to a few rivers in Queensland. The fossil fauna of Lake Tandou, believed to be from more than 30,000 BP includes modern arid zone animals as well as extinct megafauna species. The megafauna species present include Diprotodon, Protemnodon (a large browsing kangaroo), Sthenurus (a browsing kangaroo), Thylacoleo and Procoptodon.

Among the modern species were hare wallabies, nailtail wallabies, bettongs, pig-footed bandicoots and bilbies. A similar fauna was found at Lake Menura and Lake Victoria, but koalas were also found at these lakes, indicating the environment at the time of deposition was a riverine forest that was seasonally arid, as koalas still inhabit in Queensland at the present.

The Frog Kill Site was studied by Jeanette Hope dated to earlier than 30,000 BP.

At another site the remains of 500 yabbies were found.

Work on the large eroded lunette at Lake Tandou has revealed a long sequence of 11 firmly dated sites. It was found that most of the extinct species found here were gone from the area by 27,000 BP. Very thorough work by Jeanette Hope has demonstrated that the fossil fauna was rare in the Bootingee (upper) stratigraphic unit after 27,000 BP. At this site it cannot be argued that the rarity of the megafauna in this site was the result of poor preservation, has been the case at Lake Mungo. It has been demonstrated that there was very little overlap between the megafauna fossils in the older strata and the large number of artefacts found in the later levels. This evidence suggests that most of the megafauna had gone extinct in western New South Wales before the large climatic shift that occurred at about 25,000 BP. There were probably exceptions, such as Procoptodon, that is believed to have survived until a later time.

According to Hope, the results of her work does not support the suggestion that the extreme conditions between 17,000 and 15,000 BP or even between 25,000 and 15,000 BP, was the main cause of the extinctions. She suggests that it was probably during the Lake Mungo lacustral period, between about 50,000 and 25,000 BP, characterised by high lake levels, that the extinction of the megafauna, as well as the size reduction of surviving species, such as Sarcophilus, the Tasmanian devil, took place. The only major change that is known in the area at the time of the extinctions was the arrival of humans, especially the arrival of their firestick practices. This would tend to support the suggestion that humans led to the extinction of the megafauna, at least locally, though it does not distinguish between the proposed method of extinctions, hunting as opposed to, or as well as, habitat change by the introduction of more frequent fires to the environment.

Human remains

Sources & Further reading

  1. Mary E White, After the Greening, The Browning of Australia, Kangaroo Press, 1994
  2. Flood, Josephine, 2004, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, JB Publications.


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 30/09/2011


Journey Back Through Time
Experience Australia
Aboriginal Australia
National Parks
Photo Galleries
Site Map
                                                                                           Author: M.H.Monroe  Email:     Sources & Further reading