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Humans Settled, Developed Sophisticated Tools In Australia’s Arid Interior 10,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought

According to a new study, humans occupied Australia's arid lands and started to develop sophisticated tools approximately 10,000 years earlier than previously documented, placing them roughly 49,000 years in the past.

The study, published in the journal Nature on Nov. 2, was conducted by researchers from the University of Adelaide and it analyzes the oldest evidence of Aboriginal occupation in South Australia. While people have reached the Australian territory roughly 50,000 years ago, it was unclear whether they actually remained there to occupy it or simply migrated toward another place.

Led by Giles Hamm, research archaeologist and Honorary Fellow of the South Australian Museum, and his conjoined team, the study suggests that people settled down in the Australian region a few millennia since arriving on the continent. During that time, they developed key technologies, started important cultural practices and essentially built a cultural community long before previously believed.

Proof Of Early Development

Among the instruments and possessions recovered from different layers of sediment at the Warratyi Rock Shelter in the desert region of northern South Australia were bone tools, stone tools as well as red ochre, found to be utilized as pigment. The discovery shifts the perception of how the civilization evolved massively because of the very early use of such materials. Gypsum was also found at the site.

As part of the research procedure, the geochronology of the study was undertaken, which involved the identification of the time period when people habited the area. This was based on a series of factors from ground layers to the objects' characteristics.

"One of the key strengths of this study is the chronology, which has typically proved to be a contentious issue at early archaeological sites in Australia. We have used a range of complementary dating techniques and targeted different types of materials to ensure that the age of the site is reliably known," explained geochronology specialist Lee Arnold, ARC Future Fellow with the University of Adelaide.

In order to identify the dates of the objects they discovered as precisely as possible, the researchers used a single-grain optically stimulated luminescence procedure to establish the date when the sediments containing the fossils and artifacts were deposited. Along with complementary statistical techniques, the team managed to find out a precise occupation history of the archaeological site.

According to the results of the research, the occupation of the arid zone took place long before the last ice age, being contemporaneous with the Australian megafauna. The study puts into perspective the development of the Australian culture and civilization, by comparison to Europe's development.

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