| 6 June 2017
Earliest evidence of aboriginal occupation discovered in Australia
Recent evidence from Western Australia has pushed back the original occupation of the Indigenous occupation to more than 50,000 years ago. The research was carried out by the University of Western Australia, where they discovered charcoal, animal remains, and ancient artefacts in Boodie Cave on Barrow Island, confirming hunter-gatherer occupation.
The island is located 60 kilometres off the Pilbara coast and was cut off from the mainland roughly 7,000 years ago due to rising sea levels. However, the results of the recent research shows that the cave had been used as a hunting shelter from almost 50,000 years ago and as a residential area from 10,000 years ago.
According to lead archaeologist Peter Veth: "This pushes back the age of occupation from the previous and more conservative limit of 47,000 years ago. Even older dates are entirely plausible." The island also contained the longest record of dietary fauna in Australia with Veth adding: "Barrow Island provided rich records of ancient artefacts, gathering and hunting of marine and arid animals, and environmental signatures which show the use of a now-drowned coastal desert landscape."
Apart from the material culture found in the island, the archaeologists also discovered rock shelters, deep chambers, as well as caves, which contained well-preserved remains. Veth notes that this coastal occupation did not stop even after the sea rose: "Our current research at Barrow Island has provided the earliest evidence of coastal living in Australia. Remarkably the early colonists of the now-submerged North West Shelf did not turn their back on the sea or remain coastally tethered but rapidly adapted to the new marsupial animals and arid zone plants of the extensive maritime deserts of North West Australia."
The study has been published in the Quarternary Science Review and the research was assisted by the University of Queensland, the University of Adelaide, the University of Waikato and Oxford University. Four international laboratories also helped date the finds, which were supported by Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal corporation and Kuruma Marthudunera Aboriginal corporation.
Edited from theguardian 19 May 2017
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