Vandals have defaced the Nullarbor Plain art carved into the walls of South Australia’s Koonalda Cave. The ancient rock art dates back roughly 30,000 years and was cherished by the Aboriginal Mirning people native to the region.

“This is quite frankly shocking,” said South Australia Attorney-General and Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Kyam Maher, in an interview with ABC Radio. “These caves are some of the earliest evidence of Aboriginal occupation of that part of the country.”

Since the 1980s, the site had been protected by a steel gate, but the vandals dug a hole under it and wrote “don’t look now, but this is a death cave”, over the chalk limestone walls.

“The vandals caused a huge amount of damage. The art is not recoverable,” said Keryn Walshe, an archaeologist of ancient Aboriginal sites, in an interview with the Guardian. “The surface of the cave is very soft. It is not possible to remove the graffiti without destroying the art underneath. It’s a massive, tragic loss to have it defaced to this degree.”

Australian law dictates that anyone who damages an Aboriginal site could be fined A$10,000 ($6,700 USD) and face up to six months of jail time.

Authorities are still investigating the perpetrators of the crime.
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