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3 July 2005
Prehistoric Aboriginal site found in Queensland

Aborigines and archaeologists have excavated an ancient artefact site in north-western Queensland (Australia), which they believe may be one of the oldest ever discovered in this country. The site was unearthed when the Queensland Government began construction of a bridge. The dig unearthed thousands of spear blades, axes, and tools. It may lead to findings that Aborigines must have penetrated the interior of Australia much earlier than is presently believed.
     For thousands of years, the Aboriginal Injulandgee Dithannoi people have lived along the banks of the Georgina River near Camooweal in far-western Queensland. It's an important spiritual place, tied to the dream time story of the rainbow serpent. Ancestors of present-day Aborigines left proof of their long occupation in the thousands of artefacts littered across the countryside. Five years ago, when the Queensland Government began a new project to build a new bridge across the Georgina River and upgrade sections of the Barkly Highway, it faced a problem - what to do with the artefacts lying in the path of construction. 25,000 artefacts including scrapers, spear points, axes, wooden tools and eating implements were picked up and stored in a container. Twelve months ago, archaeologist Dr Tom Loy got involved when work was about to begin on a a new bridge over nearby Nowranie Creek, excavating the site chosen for the bridge pylons.
     "We've collected about 15 stone axes. They're big, they're thin, they've been flaked on both sides of the edges, and they've never been found anywhere else in Australia," Dr. Tom Loy said. "I really didn't think there was going to be much under the surface because the assumption is that all of the archaeology of Australia is actually on the surface; very little of it is in stratified sites, deep stratified sites. I just kept being more and more amazed the deeper we got - we were still finding artefacts, " he added.?      These artefacts come from one of the few stratified or underground sites in Australia, and it may as ancient as the oldest sites in the Northern Territory - dated to 60,000 years ago. That would mean Aborigines penetrated the interior of Australia much earlier than is presently believed. "We're still waiting for radio carbon dates and other kinds of methods of dating, but my suspicion is, based on the sediments, that it is very, very old indeed; that will show that Aboriginal people have been in the interior, not just up in Arnhem Land, been there for a very long time," Dr. Loy said.?      Work on the archaeological sites will also continue for years to come and for the Aboriginal people who've taken part, the effort to preserve these artefacts is helping pass traditions down to the younger generation.

Source: Australian Broadcast Corporation (29 June 2005)

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