Ads Top

The 6,000-Year-Old Eel Traps of Budj Bim

The Gunditjmara people of southwestern Victoria, Australia, have been living in a region of roughly 7,000 square kilometers west of Hopkins River for thousands of years. Their long occupation is evident from the extent to which they created, manipulated and modified the landscape around them. The most culturally significant among them are the water channels, dams, weirs and traps these people built using volcanic rocks to trap, store and harvest eels—one of their major source of sustenance. This sophisticated system of trapping fish and eels is the world’s oldest aquaculture system in the world. Archeologists have dated the site to be about 6,600 years old, which makes them older than the pyramids of Egypt.

Budj Bim

Photo: WEC2019

The eel traps are spread around an area of about one hundred square kilometers in the vicinity of Lake Condah. At the center of this region is an extinct volcano called Budj Bim, which means “High Head”. When the Europeans arrived, they renamed the mountain to Mount Eccles, but people still call it by its original Gunditjmara name.

For the Gunditjmara, the mountain holds a spiritual significance. They believe that the landscape's features mark out the traces of the creator, Budj Bim, who emerged in the form of the volcano. In a spate of eruption, the lava flows, constituting his blood and teeth, spilled over the landscape and fashioned its geography. The eruptions which occurred some 30,000 years ago disrupted the drainage system of the region, creating a landscape of swamps, and wetlands. The abundant water features and the presence of eels and fish enabled the aboriginal people, who were primarily nomadic, to develop into a settled society constructing permanent stone dwellings.

Budj Bim

The crater of Budj Bim. Photo: Mertie/Flickr

The Gunditjmara people dug long channels in the basalt rock to bring water and young eels from the lake and numerous creeks to low lying areas where they were trapped into small holding ponds. These ponds kept the eels fresh until they were needed for food. The Budj Bim site also features the remnants of almost 300 stone houses, the only remaining permanent settlement built by an Indigenous community in Australia. The recent bushfires that has been ravaging across Australia since the past few months have revealed several more sites previously concealed under vegetation that are part of that aquaculture system.

The Budj Bim area is one of several new properties that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year.

Budj Bim

An ancient fish trap channel. Photo: Engineers Australia/Flickr

Budj Bim

This burnt section of bush near Lake Condah, part of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, is believed to be a previously-undocumented channel that forms part of the ancient eel-harvesting system. Photo: Sian Johnson

Budj Bim

Remains of an Aboriginal stone house. Photo: denisbin/Flickr

Budj Bim

Remains of an Aboriginal stone house. Photo: denisbin/Flickr

Budj Bim

Remains of an Aboriginal stone house. Photo: denisbin/Flickr

Budj Bim

Remains of an Aboriginal stone house. Photo: denisbin/Flickr

References:
# WEC2019, https://www.wec2019.org.au/2019/07/10/budj-bim-6000-year-old-aboriginal-engineering-site-earns-world-heritage-status/
# UNESCO, https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1577/
# ABC News, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-19/fire-reveals-further-parts-of-6600-year-old-aquatic-system/11876228
# Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, https://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/places/national/budj-bim
# Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budj_Bim

Ads bottom

Powered by Blogger.