|16 March 2010
Ancient tribal meeting ground found in Australia
Australian archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the world's southernmost site of early human life, a 40,000-year-old tribal meeting ground. The site appears to have been the last place of refuge for Aboriginal tribes from the cannon fire of Australia's first white settlers, said Michael Mansell of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre. The find came during an archaeological survey ahead of roadwork near Tasmania's Derwent River and soil dating had established the age of the artifacts found there. "When the archaeological report came out it showed that (life there) had gone back longer than any other recorded place anywhere else in Tasmania, dating back to 40,000 years," Mansell said.
Up to three million artifacts, including stone tools, shellfish fragments and food scraps, were believed to be buried in the area, which appeared to have been a meeting ground for three local tribes. "When you get something like this that evokes memory of what your people did before we were born and evokes a memory about the legacy that they left us... it makes the place irreplaceable," Mansell added.
The survey was finished a few weeks ago and chief archaeologist Rob Paton said he had been surprised at the age of the items found. "We haven't even done a reading on the bottom sample yet, I was expecting 17,000 (years) for the base of the trench and about four or 5,000 (years) for the top," Paton said. Paton added luminescence readings - measuring the age of the artefacts based on how much exposure they had received to sunlight - had been 'nice and statistically tight'. "That suggests to me that they're probably correct, giving us a top reading of 28,000 (years old) and certainly seeming to go back another 10,000 (years) at least beyond that," he said. The readings indicated that "we do have the oldest, most southern site anywhere in the world", said Paton, making it "an important site for anyone and quite exciting for us".
Mansell said the dig's findings were merely the "tip of the iceberg" and called for plans to build a bridge over the site to be scrapped. "The Tasmanian government must immediately declare it a protected site, not just for Aboriginal people but for peoples of the world," said Mansell.
Fiona Newson from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land and Sea Council says the Tasmanian Goverment needs to take the latest report from archaeologists seriously. "We're talking about a worldwide significant site in regards to the scientific values and heritage values," she said. "It would be a total waste and not a good look on Tasmania if they were going to destroy it."
The remains found in the contentious Jordan River valley section of the $176 million bypass have forced the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources back to the drawing board this week. Plans have been redrawn to include a 70m elevated bridge span over the site, costing an extra $10 million to $15 million. Department secretary Norm McIlfatrick has said the Government will do all it can to protect the significant site. "If it is 28,000 years old or 40,000 years old, it doesn't matter, this is a significant find and we will be protecting it," Mr McIlfatrick said.
Sources: Discovery News, ABC News, The Mercury (10 March 2010)
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