By Steven Strong and Andy Whiteley
Contributing Writers for Wake Up World
During 1939 two extremely open-minded and dedicated men spent a great deal of time trying to come to grips with what one of those men, Frederic Slater, President of the Australian Archaeological and Education Research Society, claimed to be Australia’s “Stonehenge.” Countless hours were spent measuring and drawing a huge variety of stone arrangements, alignments and engravings placed above and beside a series of “terraces” and “mounds.”
This ancient complex, according to Slater, formed “the basis of all knowledge, all science, all history and all forms of writing, which began in numeration.”
Figure 1: Computer generated image of Standing Stones
Our initial tasks are simple: examine and assess the work and notes of Slater and his colleague and compare this to available archaeology and geography, oral testimonies of Original and non-Original people past and present, and as always, consult with Original Elders and Custodians before embarking upon such a daunting investigation.
We also intend to pick up from where the two men left off. First and foremost it would seem Slater’s recommended next target, the smaller 70 metre mound, is deserving of discreet excavation. Consisting of material foreign to the region, Slater claimed that the nearest site able to cater for the sandstone tonnage on site is “14 miles” away. If he is correct, questions relating to extraction, metal blades and transportation in a land of sticks and stones technology need to be addressed.
What is a little more problematic is proving or refuting in absolute terms whether Slater was correct in proposing that “the mound is one of the oldest, I should say the oldest, forms of temples in the world, and dates back to the Palaeolithic age with the advent of first man.” Equally, and possibly even a touch more sensational, is Slater’s belief that the most ancient of all tongues on Earth, the “Sacred Language,” was first chronicled at this complex.
Figure 2: Smaller mound/burial site
Just before anything could be resolved or formally investigated, the Second World War began, Government agencies pressured the landholder and the site was destroyed soon after. All discussion came to a close until mid-2013, when Slater’s correspondence was found amongst unmarked files in the local Historical Society.
Very little, in terms of general location, specific soil types and geology, can be shared for fear that such information would betray either the position of this complex of “terraces,” “mounds,” “circles” and “stone arrangements,” or the landholders’ identity. All that can be said is that the site is quite remote and can be found within 40 kilometres of Mullumbimby NSW.
Figure 3 (Map 1): western slope of bigger mound
The bigger mound is on a westerly slope and the smaller mound was built on top of a level swampy plain of black/grey loam. On parts of this flat wide plain, sugar cane is grown and the slopes that are cleared are carrying beef cattle. The alignment and distance from the ocean is known, but again sharing such information achieves nothing bar narrowing down possibilities and geography. What can be stated with absolute certainty is that this area contains no natural deposit of sandstone, while igneous rocks, some weighing hundreds of kilograms, can be found across all slopes and gullies and throughout the level paddocks.
Figure 4 (Map 2): Smaller mound and scatter of sandstone rocks
On the two days we were permitted to conduct archaeology, the two mounds (see Maps 1 and 2) were of particular interest. The smaller mound, which is approximately 70 metres long and 5 metres high, seems in opposition with the surrounding landscape. There are hundreds of hectares of flat land all around, and this mound is at least 50 metres from any natural slope.
A variety of commentators had made note of the obvious artificial nature of this construction. A teacher from a nearby school, who was following up on the scant details still available in 1964, made reference to “the presence of a single mound of this type in an entire swampy flood plain, the locals say imported. So far I have not had time to carry out a profile examination, but again our geographers on staff cannot understand its presence.” Even though the teacher maintained a degree of skepticism, he posed a rhetorical question that we must attempt to answer:
“How can a natural line of small sandstone pieces suddenly appear in a line and on a mound in a swamp when all surrounding rocks are igneous?” 
The much larger mound, which spans well over one hundred metres, was originally the place where the Standing Stones were carefully positioned and realigned throughout the year. Not only were all the stones of this construction and the many other arrangements nearby bulldozed and disc ploughed, it seems the actual mound itself was cleared of stones and ‘de-terraced.’
In one of Slater’s first letters to his on-site colleague, he not only asks “how many terraces on the mound,” but reminds him if he can “ascertain the number of terraces on the hillside” it would solve one of the many riddles associated with this site. He privately hoped that there were “six terraces.” Further on, he requests that more investigation into the terracing be done, suggesting that if the terraces have “wavy lines” it may “indicate something flowing or moving onwards.”
Even though all signs of the terraces are gone, not so the displaced rocks that were on the mound. They are spread all over the slopes of the larger mound and some can be found down on the flats, over 50 metres from their original position. A large proportion of the sandstone rocks that are easily seen, seem to have worked edges, flat sides and straight lines, but bear no impact or percussion marks as would be expected if fashioned by rock tools. Apart from the two mounds and hundreds of sandstone rocks, no other stone arrangements or unusual formations are apparent.
Figure 5: Sandstone “shaped stones”
Figure 6: Sandstone “shaped stones”
Figure 7: Sandstone “shaped stones”
Slater’s work was nowhere near complete, and when first establishing a working relationship with his colleague on site, he set out 15 “points to look for in searching for facts connected with the XXXXXXX circles, terraces and mounds.” Due to the phenomenal overload of sites and stone arrangements most of these points were not addressed, particularly when it came to conducting any archaeology on either mound beyond charting the positions of each rock and determining its meaning.
It was our intention to dig three small pits, one on top of, another at the edge of, and the third 15 metres away from the smaller mound. The off-site trench is important in establishing what the natural soil is, and whether there are deeper deposits of sand and sandstone similar to the material inside the mound. One smaller trench needs to be dug at a location where the mound finishes and the natural soil is re-established, we will be searching for the layer of original soil (grey/black loam) which we believe sits under the mound, thus proving this material was placed above the natural topsoil. Finally, and with the utmost trepidation, we intend to dig from the very top of the mound to analyse the materials used as fill with the possibility of dating material by use of either Carbon 14 or Thermoluminesence dating technologies.
We also needed, in the most approximate terms, an estimate of the amount of exotic material found within the mound and will need measurements of length, width and height. But we also have to factor into our calculations the gradual slope on the eastern side and much steeper rise on the western side.
Any thought of excavating one thimble of soil from the larger mound was always dependent on what took place once the Elders and Custodians stood on the bigger mound. From the time the eight hawks circled above, the prospect of turning over one sod of earth from this mound was never going to part of our two days on site.
Even though Slater’s colleague surveyed the area for sandstone deposits of any size, and made claim that the nearest deposit was at least “14 miles away,” one group was sent out to check every ridge and the flat area for any sign of sandstone (and any other formations or anomalies).
After considerable negotiation, all women were restricted to the lower parts of the slope, which was more clustered and intense in sandstone rocks. Their brief was to count, observe and GPS-mark all visible rocks. They were not allowed to touch or move any rock, just record. Further up the rise on the plateau was the place where men danced and sung ceremonies in the Sacred, First Language, and because of this the top of the mound is taboo to all women past and present. The future, as always, is unknown.
To begin with, excavating three trenches near and on the smallest mound was our highest priority. Apart from the chance of establishing its age through organic matter, lack of exposure to sunlight and decay of rocks, we had to determine whether the mound is a combination of soil, sandstone, clay and sand, and how different this exotic mixture is to the surrounding geology.
The southern section of the smaller mound has been extensively damaged through excavating the sandstone and sand to use as road-fill. Unlike the natural soil, the material in the mound is very porous and an excellent road base to use on soggy flat plains. Behind the mound is a level flat section of 2 metres, then a drainage ditch used to divert the build up of stagnate water. The area (3 metres x 70 metres) is strewn with sandstone pieces of various sizes and numbers at least 500.
Unlike our count of all sandstone rocks that tumbled down the southern section of the bigger mound (of which every rock will be assigned elevation and GPS co-ordinates) it is my expectation the sandstone behind this mound was fill, and will not show indications of a human hand and tool or message. As such, a mud map, although still to scale and fairly exact in positioning, is sufficient for our purposes as long as the count is careful.