Australian archaeologists uncover 40,000-year-old site

Mar 10, 2010 by Amy Coopes
An archeologist examines the colonial graveyard beneath Sydney's city hall in 2008. Australian archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the world's southernmost site of early human life, a 40,000-year-old tribal meeting ground, an Aboriginal leader said Wednesday.

Australian archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the world's southernmost site of early human life, a 40,000-year-old tribal meeting ground, an Aboriginal leader said Wednesday.

The site appears to have been the last place of refuge for Aboriginal tribes from the cannon fire of Australia's first white settlers, said Michael Mansell of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.

The find came during an ahead of roadworks near Tasmania's Derwent River and soil dating had established the age of the found there.

"When the archaeological report came out it showed that (life there) had gone back longer than any other recorded place anywhere else in Tasmania, dating back to 40,000 years," Mansell told AFP.

Up to three million artefacts, including , shellfish fragments and food scraps, were believed to be buried in the area, which appeared to have been a meeting ground for three local tribes.

They died out after white settlers arrived in the late 18th century.

"They (settlers) hunted people here to this place and shot them just so they could get the land," said Mansell. "Many others were imprisoned until they died."

"In terms of culture and history this region now represents Tasmania's Valley of the Kings," he added, referring to the listed Egyptian tombs on the west bank of the Nile.

"When you get something like this that evokes memory of what your people did before we were born and evokes a memory about the legacy that they left us ... it makes the place irreplaceable."

The survey was finished last week and chief archaeologist Rob Paton said he had been surprised at the age of the items found.

"We haven't even done a reading on the bottom sample yet, I was expecting 17,000 (years) for the base of the trench and about 4 or 5,000 (years) for the top," Paton told state radio.

Paton said luminescence readings -- measuring the age of the artefacts based on how much exposure they had received to sunlight -- had been "nice and statistically tight".

"That suggests to me that they're probably correct, giving us a top reading of 28,000 (years old) and certainly seeming to go back another 10,000 (years) at least beyond that," he said.

The readings indicated that "we do have the oldest, most southern site anywhere in the world", said Paton, making it "an important site for anyone and quite exciting for us".

"I think the thing to stress is no matter what the age of the site it's important anyway," he added.

Mansell said the tribes were famous for their defiant stand against the settlers, and so frustrated the authorities they ultimately issued an order that any Aborigine in the area be shot on sight.

He said the dig's findings were merely the "tip of the iceberg" and called for plans to build a bridge over the site to be scrapped.

"The Tasmanian government must immediately declare it a protected site, not just for Aboriginal people but for peoples of the world," said Mansell.

Australia's original inhabitants, with cultures stretching back tens of thousands of years, are believed to have numbered around one million at the time of white settlement.

There are now just 470,000 out of a population of 21 million and Australia's most impoverished minority.

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User comments : 16

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frajo
3.5 / 5 (11) Mar 10, 2010
They died out after white settlers arrived in the late 18th century.
I wouldn't call it "they died out". I'd call it genocide.
x646d63
2.7 / 5 (7) Mar 10, 2010
Fortunately white people don't bomb dark people to death anymore. Oh, wait.
frajo
3.9 / 5 (8) Mar 10, 2010
Somebody with the nick "christian_physicist" rated us "1". Obviously he wants people to believe that Christians don't like a genocide called "genocide".
Shootist
2.9 / 5 (10) Mar 10, 2010
They died out after white settlers arrived in the late 18th century.
I wouldn't call it "they died out". I'd call it genocide.


Rather depends on how they died, eh? Be careful about falling for the self-hatred promulgated by those of a so-called "progressive" bent.
JayK
3.6 / 5 (8) Mar 10, 2010
Evidently Shootist isn't familiar with the history of Australia, so he rapidly came in here to defend his whiteness with blinding ignorance, rather than going and learning about it.

http://en.wikiped...lack_War
http://en.wikiped...e_debate

Perhaps familiarizing himself with the inhumane "Stolen Generations" programs might even be a step in the right direction.
BigTone
3.3 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2010
Well JayK did you read your own links? There is still considerable debate about what constitutes genocide and if historical facts are murky - the labeling problem compounds... i.e. if HIV/AIDS infections happen in Africa, is it genocide? who exactly is to blame?

Why is there racial and religious flaming on this science site? If you take a world view of history, almost every race and religion has been victimized horribly by another, and yes, some are more guilty than others (Persians, Mongols, Romans, Nazi's, etc)

Instead of arguing over labeling the past (which we can all agree that the suffering of humankind is unnecessary and terrible) - shouldn't we be spending our time finding ways for future generations to get along...

JayK
3 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2010
Actually, having familial links back to Australia, I am familiar with what is in the links. Genocidal denialism is frowned on, generally, by typical Aussies, but the debate over the definition of "genocide" continues anyway. How many aborigines across Australia and Tasmania have to have been murdered in order for it to be considered genocide? Australian "genocide" happened in so many different ways, it doesn't really matter much anymore. One of the best examples of how the white colonists viewed the aborigines comes from the "Stolen Generations" but there are many examples and each person will find a different facet more damning than the others. I view this in much the same light as I view Holocaust denial, those that continue are willfully ignorant or are hiding something.

You might also want to look at some of Shootist's history on this site.
PinkElephant
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 10, 2010
Obviously he wants people to believe that Christians don't like a genocide called "genocide".
It wasn't a genocide: they just all had urgent appointments with Jesus, and the nice Christians helped them get there on time. Christians have historically been always very helpful to all sorts of aboriginal peoples.
Husky
1 / 5 (2) Mar 11, 2010
Valley of the Kings sound a little glorious for people who didn't leave pyramids as testament to their greatness, maybe if they old ones handcarved ayers Rock i would be awed
Doug_Huffman
not rated yet Mar 11, 2010
Another battle in the culture wars, with a loser and a winner. Who will cast the first stone? Any one seen ol' Cro' recently? Thought not.
frajo
not rated yet Mar 12, 2010
Who will cast the first stone?
All those who want to get rid of those rotten manners.
StJames
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2010
Okay, I can't be the only one who caught this: a site was discovered where aborigines settled but were destroyed by the "white man's" canon fire? There were no firearms 40 thousand years ago. I understand that maybe a couple hundred years ago the natives were killed on that spot but the way the article's written leads the reader to understand that this happened FORTY THOUSAND YEARS AGO. It's either bad writing or bad science. Maybe a little of both because the article also states that THREE MILLION artifacts have been found. The effort to find and catalog that many artifacts is inconceivable. So maybe they were just theorizing. I don't know. This entire news brief is extremely suspect. I'll wait for more information before commenting further...
SexyArchaeologist
not rated yet Mar 12, 2010
What about LM3? Lake Munga? Doesn't that date to 40kya and isn't it further south? Is this another example of the headlines being spun in the wrong direction? No doubt an exciting find either way.
epicureous
not rated yet Mar 13, 2010
Okay, I can't be the only one who caught this: a site was discovered where aborigines settled but were destroyed by the "white man's" canon fire?
HAHAHA!!! I was waiting for someone to catch that... LMFAO! This is sadly one of the most confused articles I have read in awhile. I believe this has to be a case of poor writing.
Caliban
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 13, 2010
Well, like it or not- the distribution of modern humans throughout the world is much older than previously thought. Here's an example that's closer to home for most of us:

http://www.free-t...84293699

Food for thought.
Graeme
not rated yet Mar 15, 2010
Michael Mansell speaks garbage, and that is what has polluted the story on what is a very exciting find. Pay attention to what the archaeologists say. Brighton Tasmania is further south than Lake Mungo.