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10 August 2013
Early civilisation off north west coast of Australia

Doctor Ingrid Ward of the University of Western Australia is confident there are amazing landscapes waiting to be discovered 20 kilometres off the north-west coastline, and 30 metres below sea level, around the Dampier Archipelago.
     High-resolution surveys for oil and gas development reveal evidence for past coastal lagoons, salt marshes and river channels: environments which may have combined to support Aboriginal communities. These surveys also reveal drowned and hardened sand dunes which could contain artefacts linked to Aboriginal cultures more than 7000 years ago.
     Doctor Ward says, "Ultimately what needs to be done is to create a 3-D visualisation of what the landscape looked like before it was submerged and to link this with the traditional knowledge and archaeological evidence on the islands and adjacent mainland so we can determine how people lived. With high-resolution airborne surveying, an initial map of the area could be obtained within weeks.
     "Western Australia is unique in having one of the most stable coastlines in the world, relatively uncomplicated by tectonics, so might produce a record of sea-level change that goes back far beyond 10,000 years," Dr Ward said. "We want to collaborate further with industry and indigenous communities to help us to begin to understand more about past human use of Western Australia's submerged landscapes."

Edited from PhysOrg (1 August 2013)

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