Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Earliest Evidence for Aboriginal Coastal Occupation

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

A team of international archaeologists has confirmed evidence from a remote cave in Australia’s north-west that pushes back human occupation of Australia to around 50,000 years ago. The discovery provides one of the earliest age brackets for the settlement of Australia, and also documents the longest record of dietary fauna, providing unprecedented insights into the lives of the earliest Australians.

Lead archaeologist Prof Peter Veth of The University of Western Australia said the findings, published in Quaternary Science Reviews, provided unique evidence for the early and successful adaptation of Aboriginal people to both the coastal and desert landscapes of Australia.

“This site contains cultural materials clearly associated with dates in the order of 50,000 years,” Veth said. “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 team focused on Barrow Island, a large limestone island located 60 km off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia. “The large cave on 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 – if you like an Atlantis of the South,” Veth said. “We know about old desert sites from the...

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