New discoveries have revealed that settlers colonized Australia about 20,000 years before humans first migrated to Europe.
The recent discovery includes the world's oldest stone axes, art, and other artifacts found in northern Australia. These relics show that humans occupied Australia as far back as 65,000 years ago. By contrast, despite its close proximity to Africa, the earliest known examples of human settlements in Europe only date back to about 45,000 years ago, making the Australian settlement much older.
In addition to axes, Chris Clarkson, the lead researcher on the study, said that there is evidence that these settlers carried spears and made use of seeds.
"The site contains the oldest ground‐edge stone axe technology in the world, the oldest known seed grinding tools in Australia and evidence of finely made stone points which may have served as spear tips."
The artifacts were found on land owned by the Mirarr clan located in the region of Madjedbebe. The land is surrounded by the Kakadu National Park but is legally distinct from it due to a deal struck in 1982.
Representatives of the Mirarr have said that the find highlights the importance of the area and has requested that it receive the "highest level of conservation and protection."
This discovery holds implications not just for the people of Australia but also for everyone, as it sheds new light on our origins as a species.
"The settlement of Madjedbebe around 65,000 years ago ... sets a new minimum age for the human colonisation of Australia and the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa and across south Asia," the researchers wrote in Nature.
While the main thrust of the research focused on the implications this colony had on theories regarding the migration of early humans, it also shed some interesting light on mankind's relationship with Australia's megafauna. Many of these creatures, such as a 2-ton wombat or kangaroos too large to jump, were believed to have been wiped out by humans fairly early after they arrived in Australia. However, this settlement predates the extinction of Australia's megafauna by about 20,000 years.
"Our chronology places people in Australia more than 20,000 years before continent-wide extinction of the megafauna," the researchers wrote.
Of course, this doesn't mean that humanity wasn't at least partially responsible for the loss of Australia's megafauna. It just means that it may have taken longer than previously thought.