Archaeologists from ANU have uncovered what is being called the oldest-known axe, found a large rock shelter in Windjana Gorge National Park in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Lead archaeologist Professor Sue O’Connor said the axe dates back between 46,000 and 49,000 years, around the time people migrated across the continent.
“This is the earliest evidence of hafted axes (an axe with a handle attached) in the world. Nowhere else in the world do you get axes at this date,” said Professor O’Connor from the ANU School of Culture, History and Language.
“Australian stone artefacts have often been characterised as being simple. But clearly that’s not the case when you have these hafted axes earlier in Australia than anywhere else in the world,” she said.
Professor O’Connor said evidence suggests the technology was developed in Australia after people arrived around 50,000 years ago.
“Since there are no known axes in Southeast Asia during the Ice Age, this discovery shows us that when humans arrived in Australia they began to experiment with new technologies, inventing ways to exploit the resources they encountered,” Professor Hiscock of the University of Sydney said, after analyzing flakes of the axe.
“The question of when axes were invented has been pursued for decades, since archaeologists discovered that in Australia axes were older than in many other places. Now we have a discovery that appears to answer the question,” Professor Hiscock said.