One of the most recognizable and iconic landmarks in the world is Uluru, a sandstone rock formation that rises to a height of more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding desert landscape in the central part of Australia.
The geological history of the monolith started hundreds of millions of years ago when sand eroded from nearby mountain ranges and was deposited as an alluvial fan in adjacent plains. The plains were then covered by a sea. The water and the deposition of additional sediments created pressures that turned the sand of the alluvial fan into rock. When the sea disappeared and the landscape was uplifted, folded and eroded, the sandstone rock proved more resistant to erosion than the surrounding sediments creating the rock formation we see today. The many bands in the formation attest to its sedimentary past.
The monolith is an awe inspiring site because it protrudes sharply out of the land, and is one of the few landmarks visible for miles and miles of flat dessert.
But it’s not only its presence, but also its shape and color that are remarkable. The curved steep slopes of the monolith contain many potholes, cracks, caves, and other formations sculpted by wind and water.
The Uluru sandstone also has minerals that contain iron oxides which reflect sunlight in startling shades of yellow, orange, and red at dawn or dusk.
Evidence of the presence of humans in the area goes back 30,000 years. Uluru is a sacred place to the local aboriginal people, and in several areas around the rock there are petroglyphs that bear witness to its historic, cultural, and religious importance. Uluru and other such sites in the Australian outback are a central part of The Dreaming, which is a set of aboriginal stories that encompass creation, philosophy, morality, and law.
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