Simpson Desert Outback Australia Wangkangurru Aboriginal habitation Mikiri Native Wells
simpson desert
Aboriginal habitation of Simpson Desert

The Wangkangurru people lived in the Simpson Desert, ranging over the southern desert in good seasons and falling back on a series of native wells or Mikiri when the country dried out. The Wangkangurru left the desert voluntarily in 1901 and walked south to the Bethesda Lutheran Mission at Killalpaninna.

Wangkangurru Aboriginal original inhabitant of Simpson Desert

David Lindsay visited nine native wells in January 1886 with a native from Murraburt Well. Linguist Luise Hercus and historian Vlad Potesny and adventurer Denis Bartels relocated these wells in the 1980s. There are possibly several other wells and waterholes in existence. There are several waterholes on the Kallakoopah, and Yelkerin and Mudloo. Andrew Dwyer with Chris Amos, John Fellows and Jamie Davies relocated them again in July1997.
The nine wells visited on this expedition were
Murraburt, Bilpa, Balcoora, Pudloowinna, Beelaka, Wolporican, Perlanna, Boolaburtinna and Kilpatha

The Mikiri are not spectacular and nor will they hold much interest to the recreational traveller. They are however of immense archaeological and palaeontologic importance. They are extremely fragile and will not tolerate any visitor impact. Please help protect our future scientific research and our national heritage by avoiding any non-scientific and therefore non-essential visitation of these sites.
Travellers are only permitted to travel 200 meters off the main tracks across the Simpson Desert without specific permission from the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The western most Mikiri is fully silted up and resembles a crater just east of a small dune. There are two small gypcrete kopi (cairns), and considerable skeletal remains and lithic material in a 1km range. A very large stone was found several dunes to the south east of the Mikiri.

In a wide swale near a grove of corkwood (Hakea eyreanea) the crater is marked by a distinct watercourse flowing in from the northwest. Lithic material is wide spread, up to two kilometres from the well site. The airstrip nearby cuts alongside a dune containing considerable deposits of lithic material.

The southern most Mikiri, Bilpa is associated with a waterbird dreaming. To the north there are some eroded gypcrete domes, and some skeletal and lithic remains. All the lithic material in the Simpson Desert share a similarity in size. Due to the lack of parent material, they are much smaller than those found elsewhere. There is a “curse” associated with Bilpa, however the Wangkangurru still lived there.

Close to a disused shot line, Wolporican is found in a corkwood grove. Andrew Dwyer discovered a previously undocumented and badly rusted remains of a metal drawer with a wire handle probably belonging to David Lindsay. There is not excessive lithic material at this site, however Denis Bartels removed a fallen tree blazed by David Lindsay and returned it to Adelaide. Three star pickets in a pyramid mark the site of the tree.

To the southwest of a huge corkwood tree shaped more like an oak. This Mikiri was difficult to find because of the abundance of umbrella bush (Acacia ligulata) in the area.

First of the northern Mikiri, located amongst a grove of gidgee and corkwood. Lots of magnificent campsites nearby in blowouts full of lithics, including several unidentified quartz like green stones.

Very close to Balcoora in a pretty swale. Has the feeling of a happy valley. Unfortunately a large corkwood nearby was blazed DB by Denis Bartel. Lots of lithic material on dunes on both sides.

Mischief has been afoot here, with signage denoting the well site 500 metres east of the actual site. A shot line has been pushed straight through the site, but there are still the frames of two wiltjas, and a blaze in a tree by David Lindsay still visible. Sadly another Bartels blaze.

North of Poeppels Corner, sadly this well was excavated by a bulldozer, and the aquifer destroyed. There is evidence of dingos digging for fresh water at the base. A shell pendant was found to the west, lots of lithic material. One wiltja frame is still standing, and there are gravesites on a dune to the east.
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keywords: aboriginal, simpson desert, wangkangurru, mikiri, bethesda, lutheren, mission, killalpaninna, Murraburt, Bilpa, Balcoora, Pudloowinna, Beelaka, Wolporican, Perlanna, Boolaburtinna and Kilpatha, diamantina