Ancient tools unearthed in Australia
- Ancient tools unearthed in Australia
By TANALEE SMITH, Associated Press Writer
April 7, 2008
SYDNEY, Australia - Tools dating back at least 35,000 years have been
unearthed in a rock shelter in Australia's remote northwest, making
it one of the oldest archaeological finds in that part of the
country, archaeologists said Monday.
The tools include a piece of flint the size of a small cell phone
and hundreds of tiny sharp stones that were used as knives. One local
Aboriginal elder saw it as vindication of what his people have said
all along that they have inhabited this land for tens of thousands
"I'm ecstatic, I'm over the moon, because it's now indisputable,"
Slim Parker, an elder of the Martidja Banyjima people, told The
Associated Press by telephone from Western Australia.
The tools, along with seeds, bark and other plant material, were
found nearly 6 1/2 feet beneath the floor of the shelter a slight
crevice in the hillside protected by an overhang of rock on the
edges of an iron ore mine site about 590 miles northeast of Perth,
the capital of Western Australia.
"This area of land, in regard to our culture and customs and beliefs,
is of great significance to us," Parker said. "We have songs and
stories relating to that area as a sustaining resource that has
provided for and cared for our people for thousands of years."
The excavation was carried out between October and February by
archaeologists from Australian Cultural Heritage Management who were
hired by the local Aborigines to find and preserve heritage sites
within the mine area run by resource giant Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto, which had been expanding its Hope Downs mine, halted all
work when the rock shelter was discovered, company spokesman Gervase
The company will amend its expansion plans to preserve the shelter,
Archaeologist Neale Draper said the tools included at least
one "beautifully made" piece of flint from which sharp knifelike
shards were knocked off, hundreds of tiny knives and pieces of
grindstones. He hopes that testing of the knives will reveal residue
that could indicate what the people ate.
"Very old sites are rare, and this is one of the oldest" in this
region, Draper said by telephone from Adelaide in central Australia.
"We're filling in a picture of who the first Australians were and
what they were doing where they were really, really early," Draper
Draper said the team has sent other materials for carbon sampling
including a piece of charcoal that were found in the dirt layers
below the tools.
"These could be another 5,000 to 10,000 years old, and that would be
really exciting," Draper said.
A dozen similar rock shelters in the area will also be excavated, he
Iain Davidson, an archaeology professor at the University of New
England in Armidale, Australia, said the find was significant because
it confirmed that the first people had moved into the more arid parts
of Australia earlier than previously known and had adapted and stayed.
"This appears to significantly extend the date of occupation" of the
remote Pilbara region, said Davidson, who was not involved in the
dig. "They learned to survive there relatively quickly."
Australia's Aborigines have been called the world's oldest continuous
culture; some archaeological sites elsewhere in Australia date
Aboriginal presence to at least 40,000 years ago.
They are now an impoverished minority of 450,000 within Australia's
population of 21 million. They have been battling to reclaim their
traditional lands since the early 1990s, when the country's highest
court cleared the way for so-called native title claims.