Aboriginals Lived in Western Desert in Australia 50,000 Years Ago

'We found in deposits dating back around 43,000 years ago an early backed microlith, a hafted multifunctional tool which could be used as either a spear barb or for wood-working.' (Image: via PLOS)

Archaeologists from the University of Western Australia working with Traditional Custodians from the Birriliburru Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) have recovered evidence that aboriginals lived in the Australian arid zone 50,000 years ago. This is 10,000 years earlier than previously understood for the interior deserts of Australia, and among some of the earliest known evidence for people living in deserts anywhere in the world.

Location of Karnatukul in the Western Desert, showing the location of sites  of aboriginals named in text.
Location of Karnatukul in the Western Desert showing the location of sites named in text. (Image: via PLOS)

The remote Carnarvon Ranges are near the Canning Stock Route. Evidence from the Karnatukul site (previously known as Serpents Glen) indicates that aboriginals lived in this interior desert from very early in the settlement of Australia and that they remained in these ranges during the last Ice Age.

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(l) ventral and (r) dorsal surfaces of tektite flake showing pitted dorsal cortex (SG1B1002007). (Image: via PLOS )
(L) ventral and (R) dorsal surfaces of tektite flake showing pitted dorsal cortex (SG1B1002007). (Image: via PLOS)

Lead Investigator Professor Jo McDonald, Director of UWA’s Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, said a significant find supported that this early group of desert aboriginals were technological innovators:

Aboriginals dispersed quickly throughout Australia

Professor McDonald said the findings supported the notion that the first aboriginals adapted with ingenuity and flexibility as they dispersed into every bioregion of Australia within 10 millennia after arriving on this continent.

Co-Investigator Professor Peter Veth, UWA Kimberley Foundation Ian Potter Chair in Rock Art Archaeology, said the finding represented a revolution in understanding the adaptive and technological sophistication of early Aboriginal peoples living in the interior deserts of Australia, adding:

Professor McDonald said the Birriliburru IPA is an area of exclusive possession native title determination held in trust by the Mungarlu Ngurrarankatja Rirraunkaja Aboriginal Corporation. The Carnarvon Ranges remain closed to unaccompanied tourist visitation. The Birriliburru Rangers actively patrol and conduct land management activities in the area to protect the cultural and conservation values.

Provided by: University of Western Australia [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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