Debate continues on when the first Aborigines moved into the area but the best evidence suggests that it was at least 20 000 years ago.
The notes of Uluru National Park explain the Aboriginal understanding of Uluru in the following terms: 'In the beginning the world was unformed and featureless. Ancestral beings emerged from this void and journeyed widely, creating all the living species and the characteristic features of the desert landscape you see today. Uluru and Kata Tjuta provide physical evidence of feats performed during the creation period. Anangu are the direct descendants of these beings and are responsible for the protection and appropriate management of these ancestral lands.'
The arrival of Europeans in the area was part of the exploration of the centre during the 1870s. Ernest Giles travelled through the area in 1872 and named both Lake Amadeus and Mount Olga. Giles returned to the area in 1873 but was beaten to Uluru by William Gosse who sighted the monolith on 19 July and named it after the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. Giles also was the first European to climb the rock which he did accompanied by an Afghan camel driver.
The inhospitable nature of the terrain ensured that few Europeans ventured into the region. Pastoralists were defeated by the lack of water and the only Europeans to pass through the area were trappers, miners, and the occasional missionary. The area was declared the Petermann Aboriginal Reserve in the early 1900s and this existed until the 1940s.
Ayers Rock was created a national park in 1950. In 1957 Bill Harney came to the area and in 1958, when the rock was combined with the Olgas to form the Ayers Rock National Park, he was appointed the first official curator. In 1959 a motel lease was granted near the rock and soon after an airstrip was built. In 1976 the Commonwealth Government set up the lease at Yulara and in 1983-84 the old tourist locations near the rock were closed down. In 1985 the title to the rock was handed back to the traditional owners who, in turn, granted the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service a 99 year lease on the park.