Jeopardy! category: CAVES (20-5-2015)
$1600 clue: The 5-mile perimeter of this sandstone rock in Australia is dotted with numerous shallow caves
The gist: Those caves are dotted with their own interesting features, too. Ayers rock, known as Uluru in the local Australian Aborigine language (and in the official Australian place names registry), is a large, roughly triangular sandstone formation located deep in the outback of Australia’s Northern Territory, about three metres across at its widest and rising almost 350 metres above the surrounding landscape. It’s thought to have formed somewhere around 550 million years ago, give or take 50 million.
The site is known for both its human and animal attractions. A regular coterie of Australian fauna can be found around it, although in recent times the number of local species has been sadly declining. Still, numerous local marsupials, birds, reptiles, and amphibians can be spotted, as well as several species of introduced placental mammals like rabbits and foxes. Its caves, of course, house numerous bats, that fly out around dusk to feed.
The site also has an important place in the mythology and religious beliefs of the local Anangu tribe, who are the traditional landowners of the rock. One story says that the rock was created by two boys playing in the mud mud after a rain, another that it was formed when the Earth rose up in grief after a great celestial battle. Archaeological evidence indicates that humans have lived in the region for at least 30,000 years, probably in the form of migratory bands leaving during the dry season and returning during the wet. The area’s famous rock paintings, the symbolism of which is still used in traditional Anangu art today, may originate from as long ago as 5000 years ago, demonstrating the remarkable continuity of many aspects of Aborigine culture.
The clue: Australian rock? Yeah, that’s Uluru, and nothing else really needs to be said.
In Jeopardy!: “Ayers rock” is in 33 clues in the J!Archive, but that includes a surprising number of clues about “players” and “layers” and such. The eight clues about Uluru either mention rocks and Australia and want it as the answer, mention it (with or without its English name) and want Australia. The same pattern generally holds true for the Ayers rock clues. If it’s Australia and it’s geological, reach for this one first.