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Australia’s Arid Zone Settled 10,000 Years Earlier

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Humans arrived in Australia about 50,000 years ago but the timing of their settlement in arid regions and cultural innovation has been uncertain. Now the Warratyi Rock Shelter in the desert region of South Australia’s north has revealed that humans occupied Australia’s arid interior and began developing sophisticated tools around 49,000 years ago – 10,000 years earlier than previously documented.

The discovery, published in Nature, is the oldest evidence of Aboriginal occupation in South Australia, and reveals new insights into modern human colonisation of Australia, unique cultural innovation, and interaction with now-extinct megafauna.

The project was led by arid zone research archaeologist Giles Hamm, an Honorary Fellow of the South Australian Museum and La Trobe University PhD candidate, with University of Adelaide geochronology specialists Dr Lee Arnold and Prof Nigel Spooner, geomorphologist Dr Peter Mitchell, and other researchers from Flinders University and The University of Queensland. They have worked for the past 9 years with the Adnyamathanha people in the Flinders Ranges.

The study suggests that people settled in the arid interior within a few millennia of arriving on the continent, and developed key technologies and cultural practices much earlier than previously thought for Australia and South-East Asia.

The team found that...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.