Science Could Unlock Confirming Insights into Australia’s Ancient Humans » Explorersweb

The first Australians on the planet lived on a completely different continent than it is now.

For anyone familiar with the concepts of continental drift and climate change, that should come as no surprise. But the treasure trove of cultural resources left behind by these Pleistocene peoples can lead to new insights into Australia’s first inhabitants and the ancient art they created.

Pleistocene supercontinent

Sahul was a Pleistocene supercontinent that included modern-day Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia. About 50-65,000 years ago, humans first visited it Sailing has sparked some debate.

The last ice age stranded them there about 10,000 years ago, and an archaeological mother lode confirmed their presence: researchers found thousands of stone tools and the remains of food scraps. Madjedbebe rock shelter In the Northern Territory of Australia.

Sunda and Sahul. Photo: Kangule via WikiCommons

But apart from Madjedbebe, significant sites where early Australians lived have proved scarce. To help, a team of researchers and tribal rangers are trying to reconstruct the ancient landscape where they lived, although it is now buried beneath the floodplain.

The team and its lead researcher, Flinders University archaeologist Jared Kowlesar, are collaborating with the Njanjma Rangers on the project. It’s the Rangers „Traditional Owners” (or Aboriginal title holders) of the Greater Red Lily Lagoon area in western Arnhem Land.

Not only does the project reveal what the ancient landscape looked like, it may also shed light on what influenced the era’s rock artists.

„We want people to see and know what happened thousands of years ago,” said Alfred Naingul, heritage owner and co-author. Flinders University said in a press release.

Tribal heritage owner with rock art

As a heritage owner, Nayinggull helped preserve rock art in the wider study area. Photo: Flinders University

Millennium mangroves

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the team’s paper demonstrates how environmental changes in the pond interact with the fish, crocodiles and birds that appear in artistic depictions.

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„Based on the results of this study, all Pleistocene sites in western Arnhem Land were close to the sea and, later, mangrove swamps at some point during the topographic transition. This has important implications for the palaeontological settings of these sites, including stone artefacts, food resources and materials from this period of the first Australians. „must be taken into account when interpreting changes in isotope composition,” explained Kovleser, lead author of the study.

A major problem in advancing research is getting anywhere near new ground. What was once a thriving valley and river system is now locked under more than 15 meters of sediment deposited over thousands of years by the mangroves.

Computer modeling of mangrove swamp and multi-basin scenarios

Specimens from a group of ancient landscapes that are now buried. Photos: Flinders University

Don’t dig, electrocute

The technique they use to model (potential) buried resources is called Electrical resistivity tomography. In layman’s terms, it involves lightly electrifying the ground and measuring the currents as they pass to find what’s underneath.

The team combined those results with aerial mapping to create a model of the forgotten site of the ancient habitat.

One researcher was not involved in the work told ABC News He doubts there is anything substantial there. Professor Paul Tagon, an archaeologist at Griffith University, said any trace of human touch may now have been degraded beyond recognition. Calling for further investigation, he still says this is a promising application of the technology.

„Unfortunately if the rock art was created at the settlement site, not much of it survives because of the acidic soil and the length of time it was buried,” Dagan said. „There needs to be some sort of follow-up research to see if the Pleistocene habitats they’ve suggested are actually evidenced.”

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Keep digging — er, electrocution?

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