Remarkable new evidence has shown that human kind began to venture into Australia’s interior much earlier than was previously thought.
The research by archaeologists and local traditional land owners, published in Nature this week, puts the date that humans first inhabited Australia’s arid centre at about 49,000 years.
It his been understood for some time that people came to the continent around 50,000 years ago, but the new findings show that the human journey inland from the norther coast occured some 10,000 earlier than was thought.
“Our evidence shows that people not only settled in the arid interior within a few millennia of entering the continent, but also developed key technologies much earlier than previously recorded for Australia and Southeast Asia,” the research states.
The reserach site, known as the Warratyi rock shelter, is in the Northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia, in the traditional lands of the Adnyamathanha people.
Among some 4300 human artifacts uncovered at the site were tools, burned egg shells, and pigments including ochre which were dated up to 10,000 years earlier than other reported occurences. In fact, it is the “earliest known use of ochre in Australia and south-east Asia”, according to research leader and discoverer of the site, PhD candidate Giles Hamm.
Mr Hamm described to the ABC how he came across the while surveying gorges with local Adnyamathanha elder Clifford Coulthard
“Nature called and Cliff walked up this creek bed into this gorge and found this amazing spring surrounded by rock art,” Mr Hamm said.
“A man getting out of the car to go to the toilet led to the discovery of one of the most important sites in Australian pre-history.”
The incredible findings also suggest that man co-existed with some megafauna – the giant animals that once roamed Australia but are now extinct.
Bones from a now extinct diprotodon, which was something like a gigantic wombat, were also discovered in the cave. Mr Hamm argues that the animal could not have climed to the shelter of its own accord and so the bones must have been brought there by humans, thus suggesting that the animals did indeed co-exist with humans.
“The idea there was no interaction between humans and megafauna has really been put to bed by the Warratyi evidence,” said Lee Arnold from Adelaide University, one of the research authors, according to Fairfax.
Mr Coulthard, who is also a co-author of the study, said he was not suprised by the research findings.
“Our old people know we’ve been here a long time,” he said, according to Fairfax.
TOP IMAGE: Research leader Giles Hamm at the Warratyi rock shelter site. (Credit: Giles Hamm)