Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

Barrow Island's Cave Reveals Earliest Australians Lived on Coast 50000 years ago

Barrow Island's Cave Reveals Earliest Australians Lived on Coast 50000 years ago

Archaeological excavations in a remote island cave off northwest Australia reveal incredible details of the early use by people of the continent's now-submerged coast. "First occupation occurs between [51,100 and 46,200 years ago], overlapping with the earliest dates for occupation of Australia".

The team focused on Barrow Island, which provides a unique window into the now-drowned North-West Shelf of Australia.

The earliest known archaeological sites so far reported are found in inland Australia, such as Warratyi rock shelter in the Flinders Ranges and Madjedbebe in Arnhem Land.

The find shows the adaptability of the first people of Australia, hunting and eating entirely different land-based animals when the sea receded.

The island was connected to the mainland by a land bridge until 6,800 years ago, but Aboriginal people abandoned it when sea levels rose.

"This site contains cultural materials clearly associated with dates in the order of 50,000 years", Professor Veth said.

In Australia have found traces of a settlement, which is more than 50 thousand years.

The artifacts included what was left of a shellfish meal and were found in a cave on Barrow Island off the coast of northwestern Australia, according to a study in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

The investigators concluded that foragers carried molluscs from the coast up to 12 miles (20 kilometres) to the cave. For most periods of lower sea level this cave would have been within the foraging range of the Pleistocene coastline.

But research from the University of Western Australia provides unique evidence of the early and successful adaptation of Aboriginal people to both coastal and desert landscapes and the earliest evidence of coastal living in the country.

The cave contains some of the most detailed and intact records of how the first Aboriginal people on the Australian continent survived.

"The cave was used predominately as a hunting shelter between about 50,000 and 30,000 years ago before becoming a residential base for family groups after 10,000 years ago", said study author Peter Veth of the University of Western Australia in a statement.

The earliest known human settlements in Australia, now submerged by the sea, have been discovered.

The combined results of radiocarbon and optical luminescent dating provided a consistent timeline for the finds.

The earliest dates for occupation of Boodie Cave, based on results from four worldwide dating laboratories, are between 51,100 and 46,200 years ago.

The discovery, by a team that included a University of Queensland researcher, is of global significance in providing the earliest direct dates for Aboriginal use of marine resources in Australia.

The research "has helped to clarify our understanding of the behaviour of modern peoples who dispersed from Africa and reached Australia", Levchenko said.

'Our quality control, which includes the use of a large pool of process blanks that are updated continuously, enhance the accuracy and reliability of our measurements.

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