Original paper

Inselbergs and monoliths: a comparative review of two iconic Australian landforms, Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Burringurrah (Mount Augustus)

Bourman, Robert P.; Ollier, Clifford D.; Buckman, Solomon


The concept of 'monolith' is considered with reference to two imposing inselbergs in semi-arid Australia, Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Burringurrah (Mount Augustus). Individually each has been described as the 'largest monolith in Australia'. To assess this comparison we outline the geology, morphology and geomorphic history of each. Both consist of sedimentary rock, but they differ in almost all other aspects including dimensions, lithological variations, geological evolution, tectonics, rock structures, operating processes and ages of both the landforms and the underlying rocks. The term 'monolith' has been used to describe such a wide range of features involving so many criteria that we prefer not to use 'monolith' as a geomorphic term. In relation to the inselbergs described here, the use of the term 'monolith' has led to needless and unhelpful comparisons between these two remarkable landforms.