A study published in Nature shows that humans arrived in the arid interior of Australia 10,000 years before originally thought. Researchers found paints, tools and evidence of fire in a cave in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges that date back 49,000 years ago.
Previously, it was believed that the first inhabitants of Australia arrived in the country 50,000 years ago but they only remained at the coast and they only moved to the country’s interior 10,000 years after. Now, these artifacts indicate that they actually settled in the desert just 1,000 years after they arrived.
The research team says that the humans who moved to the site became trapped as the condition became harsher. Consequently, these humans developed new tools that allowed them to adapt to the environmental condition of the site, which is located 550 kilometers north of Adelaide.
“The old idea is that people might have come from the East, from the Levant, out of Africa, and these modern humans may have come with a package of innovative technologies,” adds study first author Giles Hamm of La Trobe University, Australia. “But the development of these fine stone tools, the bone technology, we think that happened as a local innovation due to a local cultural evolution.”
The discovery was an accident. Hamm said that during a survey of the Flinders Ranges, local Adnyamathanha elder Clifford Coulthard got out of the car to go to the toilet and stumbled upon the archaeological site. They saw a rock shelter with a blackened roof, which indicates human activity.
The research team also found bones of a Diprotodon optatum, an extinct wombat-like animal, and eggs of an extinct giant bird, which indicate that early humans hunted them. According to co-author Gavin Prideaux of Flinders University’s School of Biological Sciences, these remains challenge the idea that the megafauna that inhabited Australia thousands of years ago died out due to climate change. Perhaps humans also played a role in their extinction.