A staggering discovery regarding the first humans to migrate to Australia has been made in Kakadu, Northern Territory over the past few days. A team of archaeologists has firmly established that human beings have lived in Australia for a minimum of 65,000 years – 18,000 years longer than had been proved previously. Just to put some perspective on that, 65,000 years ago there still existed some of Australia’s most incredible megafauna including 7 metre long Goannas, 2,500 kg Wombats and Echidnas the size of sheep. This dramatic finding, which comes after years of research and digging, drastically changes the previously held beliefs about human migration out of Africa, according to Chris Clarkson, associate professor at the University of Queensland and leader of the international team of archaeologists. What scientists and archaeologists are basing their findings on is the discovery of a number of stone axe heads with polished and sharpened edges.
“There was one (axe head) on the surface, another further down that we dated at 10,000 years. Then there were quite a few further down still which we were able to date at 35,000 to 40,000 years, and finally one at 65,000 years, surrounded by a whole bunch of stone flakes.” Professor Clarkson said.
These discoveries, while clearly proving that the first Australians were here a staggeringly long time before we first thought, also shows that the earliest Australians were among the most sophisticated tool-makers of their time: no other culture had similar axes for 20,000 years. Among other significant repercussions this find entails is that archaeologists and historians alike will have to recalibrate previous notions about the movements of modern humans out of Africa. Most academics argue that the human trek out of Africa took place around 100,000 years ago, with little to no evidence of when humans reached south-east Asia until around 50,000 years ago.
“Now we know humans were living in northern Australia a minimum of 65,000 years ago, the search will be on to discover each of the steps they took on the way,” Professor Clarkson said.
The site of the discoveries known as Madjedbebe, has a long history with digs dating back to the 1970s. Under a landmark agreement that rightly gave the traditional owners of the land the right of veto and consultation, Professor Clarkson and his team were granted permission. The dig is still incomplete – who knows what else will be revealed?