Human Settlement in Australia happened much earlier than previous estimates: Research

Human Settlement in Australia happened much earlier than previous estimates: Research

Human settlement in arid interior regions of Australia happened much earlier than previous estimates, as per a new research paper. The study team led by archaeologist Giles Hamm from South Australia’s La Trobe University has found certain objects in Warratyi rock shelter in the southern interior which date back to 49,000 years. The study estimates that humans settled in arid Australia nearly 10,000 earlier than previous estimates of human settlements in the region.

Earlier, objects like bone tools and pigments found in layers of sediments in suggest that human population was thriving in the region around 40,000 to 38,000 years ago. The region studied by the research team led by Hamm is the southern-most oldest site in Australia. Warratyi shelter is around 100 miles inland.

The study team recovered nearly 4,300 artefacts, plant matter, and nearly 6 pounds of bones. The bone chunk belonged to Diprotodon optatum, the largest-known marsupial and it points towards human interaction with ancient animals. Many researchers believe that humans played a role in the extinction of Australia’s megafauna.

Earlier research projects have estimated that first people came to Australia between 45,000 to 60,000 years ago. It is still unclear where and how fast this population was able to spread across the continent.

The current project was also helped by researchers from University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association. The research paper has been published in the journal Nature.

The research team also suggested that people moved much faster in parts of Australia compared to earlier estimates. Research lead Professor Hamm said, “The objects recovered from layers of sediment also represented the earliest-known use in Australia of technologies such as bone tools (40,000 to 38,000 years ago) and pigments like red ochre (49,000 to 46,000 years ago). It complements the work that has been done on Australia’s coasts. It fits in with this threshold of dates, between 45,000 and 50,000 (years ago).”

The research paper added, “If people are coming in at 50,000 (years ago), it means that people are moving in a whole range of directions perhaps. And we’ve got some new genetic evidence that might be also adding data to that question.”

According to a report published by CS Monitor, “Among the oldest artifacts at the site, the researchers found red ochre on some tools suggesting the earliest known use of a pigment used today in cultural body adornment. The team also found tools made of bone that they dated to be between 38,000 and 40,000 years old, and tools used just a few thousand years later that were made by attaching multiple pieces, like a sharp stone to a shaft.”