A recent discovery in Australia’s Outback may necessitate a rewrite of parts of human history.
Some ax heads and grinding stones were uncovered by a team of archaeologists in an ancient camp-site in Kakadu in the Northern Territory, about 185 miles from the city of Darwin. After being studied and dated with a technique called luminescence dating, it was found that the ancient tools are around 65,000 years old. This places humans on the Australian continent roughly 18,000 years earlier than archaeologists previously thought.
This finding means that Australia’s aboriginal culture is much older was originally believed. They are already known as the world’s oldest civilization. But this find is also causing scientists to reappraise the date they believe the first humans left Africa.
For many years, it was thought that the first human beings migrated out of Africa between 100,000 and 60,000 years ago. Since Australia is at the far end of the route they used for migration, humans must have left earlier than this in order to have reached the continent in time to have left these tools.
This discovery also shows that aboriginal Australians definitely undertook the first major migration by sea in the world. To reach Australia from Africa, they would have had to sail nearly 60 miles across open water even from the shortest route available. Once they reached Papua New Guinea, they could have made the remainder of the journey by foot to northern Australia because sea levels were much lower at that time. No other group of humans is known to have taken such a long sea journey by this time.
Since the Aborigines arrived so early, they also could not have caused an abrupt extinction of Australia’s megafauna upon their arrival, an assumption that has long been held by scientists. These original Australians would have co-existed with these animals, such as the giant wombat and the giant kangaroo, around 20,000 years before they died out.
Digs have been going on at this particular site since the 1970s, but earlier dating methods (like radiocarbon dating) were not sophisticated enough to establish the dates of human occupation so precisely. The site is owned by the Mirrar people, who forced a mining company to cease operations there in 1999. They maintain control over the site and will approve and consult over future archaeological digs there.