Evidence has been found of fifty thousand year old sites where our earliest ancestors lived off the North West Coast of Western Australia.
Craig Quartermaine

19 May 2017 - 4:26 PM  UPDATED 19 May 2017 - 4:26 PM

New findings in Western Australia have pushed back the date for human occupation of Australia to at least 50,000 years.

The discoveries in Boodie Cave on Barrow Island have helped establish the dietary habits of traditional owners, and the location of hunting grounds.

Professor Peter Veth from the University of WA said the artefacts are incredibly rare.

“The deposits of shellfish and animals that were collected from the coastal desert plains, as well as artefacts like shell-beads that show an incredible record of life ways which is very, very rare for Australian sites,” he said. 

The cave was used primarily as a hunting shelter between 50,000 to 30,000 thousand years ago, before becoming a residential base, according to researchers. Professor Veth said the extraordinary dietary records illustrated great detail about the people that once used the cave.

Shells that were fashioned into tools and weapons were deposited across the site, and were preserved by the limestone surroundings of the cave.

The excitement around the project comes from the amount of detail that’s been derived from sites as they transitioned and changed due to dramatic climate and environmental shifts.

“Our current research at Barrow Island has provided the earliest evidence of coastal living in Australia,” Professor Veth said.

“Remarkably, the early colonists of the now-submerged North-West Shelf did not turn their back on the sea or remain coastally tethered, but rapidly adapted to the new marsupial animals and arid zone plants of the extensive maritime deserts of North West Australia.” 

Research for the discovery was a joint venture between universities around the world, including Oxford and Sacramento State. The Buurabalayji Thalanyji and Kuruma Marthudunera Aboriginal Corporations of the North West supported the project, which was funded by the Australian Research Council.