An archaeological find at an ancient campsite beneath a sandstone rock shelter in Australia’s Northern Territory has rewritten human history.
The find, including polished shows that Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for a minimum of 65,000 years – 18,000 longer than had previously been proven.
The find changes the history of early humans‘ first trek out of Africa, according to team leader Chris Clarkson of the University of Queensland.
“We have managed to establish a new age for first occupation in Australia and pushed it back by about 18,000 years beyond what was the previous established age of about 47,000 years,” Prof Clarkson was quoted on the BBC as saying.
“This has huge implications for everything from the out-of-Africa story to the extinction of megafauna and Aboriginal peoples’ own knowledge of how long they have been in this country.”
Most researchers believe that humans journeyed out of Africa between 80,000 and 100,000 years ago – but until now there was no evidence they had reached southeast Asia and Australia any earlier than 50,000 years ago.
The early humans must have made a 55-mile journey across open sea to get to Australia via Papua New Guinea, Clarkson said.
Among the discoveries at the camp are the world’s oldest stone axes with polished and sharpened edges – something that no other culture had until 20,000 years later.
The researchers also found sharpened spear tips and ground ochre – used in Aboriginal wall art.
‘The axes were perfectly preserved, tucked up against the back wall of the shelter as we dug further and further,” Professor Clarkson told Fairfax Media.
‘There was one on the surface, another further down that we dated at 10,000 years. Then there were quite a few further down still which were able to date at 35,000 to 40,000 years, and finally one at 65,000 years, surrounded by a whole bunch of stone flakes.’
‘Now we know humans were living in northern Australia a minimum of 65,000 years ago, the search will be on to discover each of the steps they took on the way.’