Media release by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation
A team of archaeologists and dating specialists have new proof that Aboriginal people have been in Australia for at least 65,000 years — much longer than the 47,000 years believed by some archaeologists.
The new findings have been published in Nature magazine this week.
The site where this new evidence has been found is Madjedbebe, located on the traditional lands of the Mirarr people surrounded by the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.
The site is located on Aboriginal land excluded from Kakadu National Park as a result of the Jabiluka uranium mining lease granted in 1982. The lease is now held by Energy Resources of Australia, which partnered with the Gundjeihmi Corporation to provide access to the site.
Madjedbebe rock shelter has been excavated four times since the 1970s, most recently in 2012 and 2015 by an international team led by Associate Professor Chris Clarkson of the University of Queensland, in partnership with the Mirarr traditional owners.
Dating carried out by Professor Zenobia Jacobs, of the University of Wollongong has revealed that Aboriginal people lived at Madjedbebe at the same time as now extinct species of giant animals were roaming around.
In addition to showing the deep antiquity of Aboriginal occupation, the dig also revealed new evidence of activities and lifestyle.
“The site contains the oldest ground-edge stone axe technology in the world, the oldest known seed grinding tools in Australia and evidence of finely made stone points which may have served as spear tips,” says Professor Clarkson.
“Most striking of all in a region known for its spectacular rock art are the huge quantities of ground ochre and evidence of ochre processing found at the site, from the older layer continuing through to the present.”
“This study confirms the sophistication of the Australian Aboriginal toolkit and underscores the universal importance of the Jabiluka area. These findings reinforce the need for the highest level of conservation and protection for this site,” says Justin O’Brien, CEO of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation.
Pictures by Dominic O’Brien. Copyright Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation 2015.