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24 July 2003
Australia colonized earlier than previously thought?

Prehistoric stone tools discovered at Rottnest Island and Rockingham could rewrite the story of Australia's colonisation by early humans. The tools could be at least 70,000 years old and there is no archaeological evidence of early human occupation until about 50,000 years ago.
     WA Museum archaeologist Charlie Dortch, who found the Rottnest artefacts on a recent field trip with scientists from the Australian National and James Cook universities, said it was a major find. "Rottnest Island stands to become the oldest human cultural site in the country," Dr Dortch said after inspecting the Rottnest site. He would not commit to an age for the artefact in the absence of reliable dating, but one of the team members suggested the Rottnest artefact could be at least 70,000 years old. The location of the Rottnest and Rockingham finds are being kept secret until they can be removed.
     The black-speckled piece of white stone flint is embedded in ancient sandstone. Rough estimates of the Rottnest artefact's age are based on the geological layering of the rock in which it was found, known as Tamala limestone. Ancient coastal communities camped on the continental plain, then west of Rottnest Island, during low sea levels when rock outcrops were mined to make tools. Fashioned by stone tool knappers, they were used to gut fish and small birds, sharpen spears and trim wooden implements.
     The Rockingham remains look like a small skull cap poking out of the ground. Dr Dortch said the team found the artefacts after studying the ancient Tamala limestone at Rottnest.

The West Australian (19 July 2003)

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