Tasmanian Prehistory

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What is being claimed as ‘the world’s southernmost site of early human life’, a 40,000-year-old tribal meeting ground, has been found as a result of an archaeological survey carried out ahead of roadworks near Tasmania’s Derwent River.

Up to three million artefacts have been found at the 600m by 60m riverbank site, including stone tools, shellfish fragments and food scraps. The director of the excavation, Rob Paton, said that the site appeared to have been a meeting ground for three local tribes. Optically stimulated luminescence dating was used to establish that the upper layers of the site are 28,000 years old and the base layers at least 10,000 years older.

This is almost unheard of from an open-air site, anywhere in the world,’ Paton said. ‘Most events of this kind come from cave deposits that often reflect only a very small and specialised part of the lives of people. Our work so far certainly indicates this is a scientifically important and exciting site. It will be an important place for interpreting the deep history of Tasmania, but also for archaeology on a worldwide scale’.

Aboriginal groups in Australia called for the site to be preserved: ‘The Tasmanian government must immediately declare it a protected site, not just for Aboriginal people but for peoples of the world,’ said Michael Mansell, of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.

A Government spokesman has promised ‘we will do all we can to protect this significant site’.

This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 41. Click here to subscribe

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