In time, we reached the final destination on the Victoria Fossil Cave tour
- the fossil chamber. It was this that gave the Naracoorte Caves
their status as a World Heritage site. When the cave guide turned
on lights positioned around the chamber, it revealed a surface scattered
with thousands of fossil bones. Although the bones preserved here
are permineralized (sub-fossilized), and often stained slightly red by
the presence of iron oxide in the cave earth, some of them are still rather
white and look quite recent, despite the passage of tens of thousands of
bone bed inside Victoria Fossil Cave. The sheer amount of fossils
contained within this deposit will provide hundreds of years of excavation
work for palaeontologists. Courtesy: Sonny Vandevelde.
Caves can preserve bones in excellent condition over very long periods
of time. In the dark silence of the fossil chamber, these remains
had lain undisturbed, buried in a fine red silt for many millennia.
Through mineral action, the silt had become bonded to many of the bones
as a reddish encrustation. Some of the cave's bone-bearing deposits
may be up to several hundred thousand years old.
cast reconstruction of the skeleton of Thylacoleo carnifex.
This model is on display in Victoria Fossil Cave.
It was Gartrell and Wells, in 1969, who first found an extension to Victoria
Cave which led to their discovery of the fossil chamber. They were
hoping to find a bone or two, but instead found something that was far
beyond anyone's expectations - a natural time capsule preserving a diverse
record of life in Pleistocene Australia. Adjacent to the fossil chamber,
the park has set up replica skeletons of two of the large, extinct marsupial
species that have been found in the cave: Thylacoleo carnifex and
Simosthenurus occidentalis (a short-faced
a large, extinct species of leaf-eating kangaroo whose remains are prevalent
in Victoria Fossil Cave. The skull of an Eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus
giganteus) is shown beside it for scale. Sthenurids
were a group of short-faced browsing kangaroos which underwent a great
diversification during the Pleistocene, and several different species are
represented in the cave.
maxillary fragment (cast) of Zygomaturus trilobus bearing three
perfectly preserved teeth. This species is well known from fossils
(including the specimen shown) found in Victoria Fossil Cave. Zygomaturus
is a member of a group of large, extinct grazing marsupials which were
common in Australia during the Pleistocene.
- 95 mm.