Prehistoric Australia

21 04 2012

at the entrance to the Naracoorte Caves National Park - perhaps fossils from the iron age????

Naracoorte is a small town in the south-east of the state of South Australia. It is about four hours drive from Adelaide, so more of an overnight stay than a day-trip, if being attempted with children.

Naracoorte was one of my favourite holiday places as a child – and more specifically, the Naracoorte Caves. These massive caves are naturally formed from the actions of water on limestone, and as well as featuring spectacular stalagmites (from the ground up), stalactites (from the ceiling down) helicotites (sideways!), columns and curtains (as they sound), they also feature fossils from prehistoric animals.

While there are no massive dinosaurs here, there are a large number of smaller fossils ranging from lizards and small rodents up to megafauna – giant prehistoric kangaroos and wombats, and my favourite, thylacaleo carnifex – the marsupial lion. The caves are still under excavation by archeologists so who knows what other animals will be found in the tonnes and tonnes of material yet to be sifted through.

The underground caves have guided tours while a few caves which have larger openings to the surface are self-guide. One of the caves is now home to a large colony of bats.

The rate of petrification in these caves is much (much) slower than the caves we visited in France, where the rate of water flow and the calcium load in the water was such that they could use it to petrify objects for the tourist trade. Here the stalactites, stalagmites etc grow at a miniscule rate.

another "iron age" fossil!

a banksia outside the caves

fairytale castles.....stalactites reflected in a perfectly still pond underground

these stagmites look like a nativity scene

stalactites formed along a crack in the ceiling

stalactites formed along a crack in the cave ceiling

a "curtain" stalactite feature

sink hole to the surface (looking upwards). These sorts of holes were how the animals fell into the caves and then were unable to get out again. Underneath these holes would be large piles of silt and rubble, unless a flood event had washed the rubble further into the cave.

Thylacaleo carnifex (marsupial lion)

Thylacaleo Carnifex (marsupial lion)

archeological dig

"Stanley" - megafauna kangaroo

thylacaleo carnifex - "Leo"

the archeological dig

Wet Cave

thylacaleo carnifex battling a giant snake


megafauna kangaroo (model)

columns in White Cave - look like architectural columns

Flinders University archeology digs in White Cave - each stripe in the soil indicates a different period of time

leaving White Cave

Want more pictures of Australian sites? Try….
Adelaide Botanic Gardens
In the red hot centre
Old Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium


More Pompeii photos

5 02 2012

gymnasium – change-rooms and storage-rooms are built into the walls around the edge

The amazing thing about Pompeii is how large it is, The town was considered to have a population of anywhere between 12,000 and 22,000. It was a modern metropolis in 79AD when it was destroyed. It boasted plumbing – water piped into homes through lead pipes – storm-water drains, sign-posts on the street corners. The streets were paved and had footpaths and stepping-stones so you could cross the streets without walking in the horse manure. It had theatres, a gymnasium, bars, bakeries, a large fresh food market, and most famously, brothels. This was not a farming community, this was a city. When we visited, our guide was asked why we didn’t visit both of the amphitheatres. His answer was that if we had wanted to visit the other one it would have entailed a hour’s walk from the first one. It is a big place. (It was also quite hot and very humid when we were there.)

So here are a few (OK, really a lot) more photos from our visit to Pompeii last year. You might also like to Google Street-view of Pompeii (which will show you the exteriors of the buildings, but also the massive size of the place). Almost all of the rooves were destroyed in Pompeii, so where you see rooves on buildings, they are probably reconstructions to protect the interiors of the buildings.

And yes, unless you are an archeologist with a job on the digs, everywhere you go in Pompeii there will be tourists. Lots of them. But it was a city, so maybe it was about this busy when Vesuvius exploded in 79AD.

For further information on Pompeii there are plenty of books with fabulous photographs of the site and the treasures that have been found both here and at Herculaneum. Here are a few suggestions:

The Last Days Of Pompeii

Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii

The Wonders Of Pompeii

The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found

amphitheatre inside the theatre

detail of carvings on one of the columns at the gymnasium


details of the gymnasium / theatre complex

detail of the marble counter-top in the bar

paved street with raised footpaths

stepping-stones to cross the street without stepping in manure. The stepping-stones are wide enough apart to allow the wheels of chariots to pass through easily

some of the brothel "menu"

a stone "bed" in a brothel room. Presumably there must have been a mattress!

more "menu"

more "menu"

menu in the brothel

bar - theatre in the background.. The basins in the counter are for cooling jugs of wine.

shop with oven (possibly a bakery)

water fountain (drinking water)

Sacrificial Altar in the temple of Diana and Apollo

temple of Diana and her brother, Apollo, statue of Apollo

statue in the temple of Diana and Apollo

statue in the temple of Diana and Apollo

statue in the temple of Diana and Apollo

urns and other relics in the storage area, in the former food markets

reconstruction of a body, urns and other relics

cart, body and urns

reconstruction of a dog

plaster reconstruction of a body, surrounded by urns and other relics

not a pleasant death

Fish and wheat market

detail of carving on a column in the storage area of the markets

urns and other artefacts in storage area in the markets

meat and fish markets

paintings of the menu in the markets

row of shop fronts on the street

rain catchment in the front room of a house

a bar - the basins on the counter are for cooling wine

a bakery, with ovens visible

shop counters

wide city streets

lead pipes for plumbing. They presumably didn't know the dangers of lead poisoning.

storm-water drain in the street

tourists on a street

apparently a "good-luck" symbol, carved in the road. These are all over Pompeii on walls and roads.

main square

main square

main square

courtyard entrance to public baths

courtyard entrance to public baths

public baths

public baths

detail of wall carvings inside the public baths

detail of wall carvings inside the public baths

public baths

font inside the public baths

font in the Roman Baths

detail of marble craftsmanship inside the Roman Baths

exterior of private house

entrance to private house, mosaic "cave canem" - beware of the dog

courtyard letting light into the centre of a private house

private house looking to front entrance through atrium with rainwater collector

wall mural inside private house

household altar in the courtyard

household altar in a private house

streets of Pompeii

monument in the graveyard / mausoleum section, outside the city gates of Pompeii

exterior of a farmhouse outside the city gates of Pompeii. The roof is a reconstruction.

machine for pressing grapes

elaborate and bright murals inside the farmhouse. Experts are unsure whether this represents a cross-dressing cult or same-sex marriage....they knew how to party in Roman Pompeii!

atrium with rainwater catchment

farmhouse outside the gates of Pompeii. The roof is a reconstruction.

courtyard in farmhouse

farmhouse decoration - either men dressing as women based on Bacchus, or a woman being prepared for marriage

If you liked this post, you might also like:
A childhood dream (Pompeii)
Sorrento – an after-thought
The Amalfi Coast