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3 November 2007
Dig uncovers ancient Aboriginal dwellers

New archaeological evidence, publishedin Octoberin the journal Australian Aboriginal Studies, reveals that Aboriginal people visited the Watarrka Plateau, south-west of Alice Springs (Australia), 13,000 years ago.
     Archaeologists Dr June Ross from the University of New England and Dr Mike Smith from the National Museum of Australia were dropped by helicopter on the Watarrka Plateau as part of a survey of rock art in the Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park. "The new finds were unexpected," said Dr Ross. "We were carrying out a small excavation to establish the age of a rock art site, when we uncovered stone artefacts small, multi-purpose tools in an ancient buried sand plain." Radiocarbon dating of charcoal in these sediments showed that Aboriginal people were using the area at the end of the last ice age. "We will have to uncover additional evidence before we can establish a clear picture of desert life over the past 13,000 years," Dr Ross explained.
     The excavation was part of an ongoing collaborative investigation involving researchers at the University of New England, the National Museum of Australia, and the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service of patterns of past human occupation within Central Australia. "Knowledge about past human use of the deserts assists both ourselves and the traditional owners to make informed management decisions," Chris Day, Chief District Ranger for Watarrka National Park, explained. This collaborative research builds on the ground-breaking discoveries of Dr Smith showing that people were living in the Central Australian arid zone 35,000 years ago. "The finds at Watarrka confirm early use of the relatively well-watered country in the George Gill Range, midway between the better known ice-age sites of Kulpi Mara and Puritjarra," Dr Smith said.

Sources: Universitu of New England (1 November 2007), ScienceAlert (2 November 2007)

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