Basal optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages of more than 50 000 years in loessic (parna) mantles on the Central Tablelands of New South Wales indicate significant aeolian silt (c. 30 μm mode) deposition commenced well before the onset of the last glacial maximum. Each mantle consists of >1 m of reddish silty clay loam–silty clay with an earthy fabric which sits atop manganese and iron pans and saprolite. Mixing of saprolite-derived material into the pans and also into the silty layer indicates a site history of steady accumulation of aeolian loess and continual pedogenesis. No palaeosols are found. The OSL chronology of both sites, while low resolution, indicates an almost constant mass accumulation rate from 50 000 years ago through the last glacial maximum and into the Holocene. Local factors affecting retention of deposited dust may be responsible for the apparent passivity of the sites.