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World’s Oldest Axe Fragment Found in the Outback

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A piece of the world’s oldest axe has been recovered in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. The axe fragment is about the size of a thumbnail and dates to the Stone Age 45–49,000 years ago – around the time humans arrived on the continent, and more than 10,000 years earlier than any previous ground-edge axe discoveries.

“Since there are no known axes in South-East Asia during the Ice Age, this discovery shows us that when humans arrived in Australia they began to experiment with new technologies, inventing ways to exploit the resources they encountered in the new Australian landscape,” said Prof Peter Hiscock of The University of Sydney.

The axe fragment was initially excavated in the early 1990s by Prof Sue O’Connor of the Australian National University among a sequence of food scraps, tools, artwork and other artifacts from Carpenter’s Gap, a large rock shelter that was one of the first sites occupied by modern humans. “Nowhere else in the world do you get axes at this date,” O’Connor said. “In Japan such axes appear about 35,000 years ago, but in most countries in the world they arrive with agriculture after 10,000 years ago.”

In 2014, Hiscock’s team recovered a small fragment of a polished axe from the oldest levels of the site. New studies of the fragment have revealed that it comes from an axe that had been shaped from basalt and...

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