Uluru - Ancient symbol of Australia’s Aboriginals (31 May)
Interesting Facts about Uluru
THE ORANGE-RED SANDSTONE monolith Uluru rises from sandy, desiccated scrub in sparsely populated Northern Territory. Protected within Ulur_u-Kata Tjut_a National Park (Australians call this region the Red Centre), the ancient behemoth is the symbol of Australia to the world. It has been revered for tens of thousands of years by the local Aboriginals, known as the Anangu, who believe the actions of ancient, giant godlike animals and warriors are recorded on every crevice, mark, and ripple of its weather-worn surface.
The rock is double-named Uluru and Ayers Rock. There is no literal translation for Uluru, the Anangu name. The English moniker was bestowed by British explorer William Christie Gosse to honor Sir Henry Ayers, then chief secretary of South Australia.
The national park also encompasses the less known geological formation Kata Tjuta (Mount Olga), a name that combines the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal tribe word for “many heads” and the name of Queen Olga of Württemberg. The formation of Uluru and Kata Tjuta began more than 500 million years ago, when the area was covered by sea. The water eventually disappeared, and tectonic activity and erosion heaved and weathered the underlying rock into the monoliths we see today.
The 1873 European discovery of Uluru, which has a circumference of 5.8 miles (9.4 km), marked the beginning of a struggle between the British and the Aboriginal traditional landowners, the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara peoples, over land rights and survival in this harsh, dry terrain.
Since Uluru opened to tourism in the 1930s, visitors have scaled the 1,142-foot-high (348 m) rock, which is nearly as tall as the Empire State Building. Though climbing is considered a desecration by Aboriginals and now frowned on, chains were installed in 1964 to reduce the number of deaths from falling.
The Aboriginal religious system the Dreaming, possibly the oldest continuous cultural belief in the world, assigns meaning to virtually every part of the giant formation. The best and most socially responsible way to see Uluru from the Anangu perspective is to take a tour that explains the Tjukurpa, or creation period, and how the local people, animals, plants, and physical features of the giant rock interrelate. Rock paintings and carvings mark the lower surfaces and crevices of Uluru; they are among the oldest art created by humankind. April’s Tjungu Festival highlights local Anangu culture, and at any time of year, the passing sun makes Uluru’s surface radiate with myriad colors. Those who rise early enough to see Uluru at sunrise will be best rewarded.