A First for Early Australians

A difficult piece – should it be under news or olds? This is an incredible piece of archaeology, from Wednesday’s i paper:

Archaeologists have unearthed the world’s oldest-known axe in Western Australia – dating back as far as 49,000 years – suggesting that early Aboriginal settlers may have been more cutting edge than they have been given credit for.

Professor Sue O’Connor, from Australian National University, said the axe dates back almost all the way back to the time people first arrived on the continent 50,000 years ago.

“This is the earliest evidence of hafted [handled] axes in the world. Nowhere else do you get axes at this date. The discovery shows early Aboriginal technology was not as simple as has been previously suggested,” she said.

In Japan these kinds of axes didn’t appear until about 35,000 years ago while most countries didn’t come up with them until they began to introduce agriculture around 10,000 year ago, she said.

“We know that the Aborigines didn’t have axes. There’s no axes i the islands to our north. They arrived in Australia and innovated axes,” Prof O’Connor added.

The archaeologists did not unearth an entire axe but rather fragments belonging to it. Professor Peter Hiscock, of the University of Sydney, then analysed the fragments.

“The question of when axes were invented has been pursued for decades. Now we have a discovery that answers the question,” he said.

Analysis of the fragments has revealed that they came from an axe made of basalt that had been shaped and polished by bringing it against a softer rock such as sandstone.

“Since there are no known axes in South-east Asia during the Ice Age, this discovery shows us that when humans arrived in Australia they began to experiment with new technologies, inventing new ways to exploit the resources they encountered,” Prof O’Connor added…

Professor Hiscock said:”Axes were only made in the tropical north. These differences between northern Australia, where axes were always used, and southern Australia, where they were not,  originated around the time of colonisation,” he said.

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