Bradshaw Foundation - Latest News



Evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 80,000 years ago

24 Jul 2017
Share on Facebook

An article in the by Helen Davidson at Madjedbebe and Calla Wahlquist - Australian dig finds evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 80,000 years ago - reports on a groundbreaking archaeological discovery in Australia's north. Artefacts in Kakadu national park have been dated between 65,000 and 80,000 years old, extending likely occupation of this region of northern Australia by thousands of years.

Evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 80,000 years ago, Australia

Madjedbebe site custodian May Nango and excavation leader Chris Clarkson in the pit. Image: Dominic O'Brien/Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation.

Lead author, Associate Prof Chris Clarkson, from the University of Queensland, states that some 11,000 artefacts from Kakadu national park prove Indigenous people have been in Australia for far longer than previously thought. Published recently in the journal Nature, the research asserts that some of the artefacts were potentially as old as 80,000 years.

He believes it also means the time of overlap with the megafauna, for instance, is much longer than originally thought, perhaps as much as 20,000 or 25,000 years. It puts to rest the idea that Aboriginal people wiped out the megafauna very quickly.
The artefacts were discovered in the Madjedbebe rock shelter. The shelter has been excavated four times since the 1970's, but the most recent processes used to date the artefacts meant the team could state directly that the area was occupied 65,000 years ago.

Article continues below

The artefacts were buried in 2.6 metres of sand and sediment on the western edge of the Arnhem Land plateau. The site at Madjedbebe is on the traditional lands of the Mirarr people, but currently within the confines of the Jabiluka uranium mining lease, and surrounded by the 20,000 hectares of the heritage-listed Kakadu. The Mirarr retained total control over the dig and the artefacts during this 5 year project.

Evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 80,000 years ago, Australia

Edge-ground hatchet head being excavated. Image: Chris Clarkson/Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation.

More than 10,000 artefacts were uncovered in the zone of first occupation, including ochre and reflective paint substances, as well as the oldest unbroken ground-edge stone axes in the world - by about 20,000 years - and the oldest known seed-grinding tools in Australia. Professor Richard Fullagar from the University of Wollongong states that there were significant consistencies in the discovered technologies, throughout the timeframe. There were both strong similarities as well as remarkable changes.

Evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 80,000 years ago, Australia

Clarkson and traditional owner Nango at the dig. Image: Glenn Campbell.

In the deepest levels of sediment, some artefacts were estimated to be about 80,000 years old, or at least 95% likely to be older than 70,000 years.

Artefacts were both carbon dated and dated using optically stimulated luminescence, a technique that measures the radiative signature of a grain of sand to measure when it was last exposed to sunlight. That dating method meant samples had to be extracted in complete darkness under red lights. Dates were confirmed by researchers at the University of Adelaide, who tested a blind sample, and at New Zealand's Waikato University.

Evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 80,000 years ago, Australia

Clarkson standing in front of the 2015 excavation area with local Djurrubu Aboriginal rangers Vernon Hardy, Mitchum Nango, Jacob Baird, and Claude Hardy. Image: Dominic O'Brien/Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation.

The site has been excavated twice by Clarkson's team, under a special agreement with the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, in partnership with the current leaseholders, Energy Resources of Australia. Based on this agreement, researchers are now systematically surveying the surrounding area to find additional sites, to see if even older evidence of occupation can be found.

Visit the Australian Rock Art Archive:


** Like Page below to receive our articles on Facebook **
12 Jun 2019
Bradshaw FoundationAboutiShopBook ReviewSite MapMailing ListDonateFacebookTwitterContact
If you have enjoyed visiting this section of the website please consider adding a link
Bradshaw Foundation © MMXI
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter List of Research Papers Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Privacy Policy Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Birnin Kudu Rock Art Center Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Baja California Film Coso Range Talking Stone Film Nevada Oregon Territory Moab, Utah Clovis First Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Avebury Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Introduction Peterborough Petroglyphs Western Canadian Rock Art Writing-On-Stone Wuikinuxv Territory Dinosaur Provincial Park Archive Index Huashan Rock Art Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Rouffignac Cave Portable Art Defining Rock Art Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Preservation & Education Dr. V. S. Wakankar Articles on India Rock Art Contemporary Art Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Scandinavian Rock Art Archive Scandinavian Introduction Alta Rock Art Norway Rock Art in Finland Tanum Rock Art Sweden Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Banksy Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes Other Websites Contact the Foundation