Prehistoric mining at Olympic Dam in arid South Australia


  • Note on authorisation: The two HEH authors hold all rights to the work. The study was undertaken as part of a BHP Billiton contract. BHP Billiton has approved publication of this material.


A site in the Olympic Dam area, recorded during archaeological surveying as a silcrete quarry, was investigated. Hand-excavated squares and subsequent machine-excavated trenches revealed an ancient “mine” rather than a simple surface quarry. Blocks of high-quality silcrete were levered from below the ground surface and many were knapped in the immediate area. Rubble in the pit backfills included large numbers of flakes. Single-grain optical dates from sediments in the backfilled pits demonstrate that the silcrete “mining” occurred during a short period in the late Holocene.