Australia’s earliest known site of human occupation of the Australian coast has been discovered in a remote cave in Western Australia, pushing back the start date of Indigenous occupation to more than 50,000 years ago. Archaeologists led by the University of Western Australia found evidence of inhabitation on Barrow Island in the country’s north west, discovering charcoal, animal remains and ancient artefacts that confirmed hunter-gatherer occupation.
Located 60 kilometres off the Pilbara coast, the Boodie cave on Barrow Island was cut off from the mainland roughly 7,000 years ago due to rising sea levels. But researchers found the cave had been used as a hunting shelter from as early as 50,000 years ago, before becoming a residential base for groups of families from 10,000 years ago. “This pushes back the age of occupation from the previous and more conservative limit of 47,000 years ago,” said lead archaeologist Peter Veth. “Even older dates are entirely plausible.”
The researchers said the site contained the longest record of dietary fauna in Australia. “Barrow Island provided rich records of ancient artefacts, gathering and hunting of marine and arid animals, and environmental signatures which show the use of a now-drowned coastal desert landscape,” said Veth. “Particularly in the north west of Barrow Island there were rock shelters and deep chambers and caves where there were excellent and well-preserved remains ... we managed to piece together a picture of this extraordinary adaptation. The first evidence of Australians living on the coastline [and] the first Australians.” “The cave was used predominately as a hunting shelter between about 50,000 and 30,000 years ago before becoming a residential base for family groups after 10,000 years ago. It was abandoned by about 7,000 years ago when rising sea levels finally cut it off from the mainland,” he said... read more:
Australian dig finds evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 80,000 years ago
A groundbreaking archaeological discovery in Australia’s north has extended the known length of time Aboriginal people have inhabited the continent to at least 65,000 years.
The findings on about 11,000 artefacts from Kakadu national park, published on Thursday in the journal Nature, prove Indigenous people have been in Australia for far longer than the much-contested estimates of between 47,000 and 60,000 years, the researchers said. Some of the artefacts were potentially as old as 80,000 years.
The new research upends decades-old estimates about the human colonisation of the continent, their interaction with megafauna, and the dispersal of modern humans from Africa and across south Asia.
“People got here much earlier than we thought, which means of course they must also have left Africa much earlier to have traveled on their long journey through Asia and south-east Asia to Australia,” said the lead author, Associate Prof Chris Clarkson, from the University of Queensland.
“It also means the time of overlap with the megafauna, for instance, is much longer than originally thought – maybe as much as 20,000 or 25,000 years. It puts to rest the idea that Aboriginal people wiped out the megafauna very quickly.”
Clarkson said the Madjedbebe rock shelter where the artefacts were found – which has been excavated four times since the 1970s – had been controversial in the past, but the processes used to date the artefacts meant the team could say “precisely” that the area was occupied 65,000 years ago and “hopefully put the controversy to rest”. The findings also suggested people crossed over from south Asia at a time that was cooler and wetter, with lower sea levels allowing easier sea crossings.