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Archaeological cave dig in Australia

17 Jun 2014
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According to an article by Tim Barlass in the Brisbane Times, archaeologists are finding artefacts from over 45,000 years ago. Dates as old as these reflect the work of Professor Stephen Oppenheimer in the 'Journey of Mankind' and the earliest human settlement in Australia. The work is being carried out in the Pilbara region of Western Australia at the Ganga Maya Cave.

Ganga Maya Cave Australia

The discovery, documentation and implications of the artefacts of animal bone and charcoal at the cave (whose traditional name means 'house on the hill') will be presented in a forthcoming scientific paper. The items analysed through carbon-dating techniques indicate first use of the cave from more than 45,000 years ago. The research is demonstrating that the cave may have been settled continuously, right through the Ice Age, up until about 1700 years ago. The excavations have revealed charcoal, stone artefacts and animal bone. Some of the material is burnt so it suggests it has possibly been used for food.

Dr. Kate Morse, Director of Archaeology at Fremantle heritage consultancy Big Island Research remains rightly cautious about such claims, since the excavations are at an early stage. However, other archaeological excavations being carried out in northwestern Australia are finding similar results; Professor Jean-Michel Geneste, Director General of France's Centre National de Prehistoire (CNP), is leading the archaeological research at the Nawarla Gabarnmang site in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory,  Australia, where they have established a date for archaeological occupation of c. 50,000 years (corresponding even more with Stephen Oppenheimer's research) and for rock art of 29,000 years. This clearly has implications for dating the rock art such as the Gwion Gwion, also known as the Bradshaw paintings. Other early sites in Australia include: Devil's Lair, a limestone cave in south-west Western Australia, 41 to 46,000 years old; Lake Mungo, a dry lake basin, Willandra Billabong Creek, western NSW, 43,000 years old; Malakunanja, a rock shelter, Arnhem Land 250 kms east of Darwin, 45,000 years old.

Pilbara Region Australia
Image courtesy of Hugh Brown

The work at the Ganga Maya Cave is particularly poignant because of the development that is going on in the Pilbara region. Clearly, sites such as this one will need to be protected and managed in the future, working closely with the Njamal traditional owners.

Archaeological cave dig unearths artefacts from 45,000 years ago
Tim Barlass
Brisbane Times June 14 2014


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