Aboriginal people have been in Australia for longer than previously thought, said archaeologists, based on the new discovery of artifacts dating back to 65,000 years, more than 10,000 years earlier than previously thought.
While the first humans were believed to have emerged 200,000 years ago, archaeologists believed the first human settlements in Australia dated back to 47,000 years but now they want to revise the period to 65,000 years, in view of the recent discovery of artifacts at the Madjedbebe site on Mirarr land within the Jabiluka mineral lease, surrounded by the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.
Led by Chris Clarkson from the University of Queensland and a team of scholars from the University of Washington, the team discovered more than 10,000 artefacts in the lowest layer of the site. "The site contains the oldest ground-edge stone axe technology in the world, the oldest known seed-grinding tools in Australia and evidence of finely made stone points which may have served as spear tips," Clarkson said.
Since 1973, excavations at Madjedbebe rock shelter have unearthed more than 10,000 stone tools, ochres, plant remains and bones. Dating them has confirmed that Aboriginal people lived at Madjedbebe at the same time when giant animals still roamed the continent before becoming extinct.
The new dating of Australian settlement at around 65,000 years ago confirms some of the shifting theories about the period when the first humans left Africa, moved into Asia about 80,000 years ago and reached Australia some to 15,000 years later.
The findings also suggest Homo sapiens' predecessors, Neanderthals and Denisovans, overlapped with humans for a long period in Australia, giving the continent prime role in the story of humankind, said researchers.