The lost oasis: Archaeology of a ‘forgotten’ mikiri well in the Simpson Desert

Don Rowlands, Mike Smith, Ingereth Macfarlane, Duncan Wright, Max Tischler


This paper describes a previously unknown mikiri well in the Simpson dune field. This site was abandoned about 500-600 years ago and does not feature in ethnographic records for this region. We argue that its abandonment was most likely due to failure of the well caused by a fall in the local watertable. The Simpson Desert is one of the major sand-ridge deserts of the world, but current views of the chronology of human use of this vast dune field rest on only a handful of radiocarbon ages (n=12). The radiocarbon ages for this mikiri, and its surroundings, add to this limited dataset. We plot all available radiocarbon ages from archaeological sites in the dune field showing that occupation of this mikiri coincided with a widespread increase in use of the dune field during the last millennium, at about the time the Wangkanguru people in the dune field were becoming linguistically distinct from the Arabana to the west.

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ISSN 1839-339X (online) ISSN 0814-3021 (print)