First undersea traces of the Aborigines discovered

First undersea traces of the Aborigines discovered

The hundreds of Aboriginal artifacts found are among the oldest archaeological artifacts ever found in Australian waters.

Scientists believe Australia’s first inhabitants arrived on the continent about 50,000 years ago. Exactly how they made that crossing has long been a mystery. Research indicates that it is likely to include well-planned and organized trips. One may have had good techniques and knowledge to build real ‘boats’. Probably the ancestors of the Aborigines arrived in small groups on the Australian land, consisting of only 130 people who set foot on land over the course of 700 years.

A remarkable discovery off the coast of the Western Australian region of Pilbara. Here, researchers found hundreds of stone tools – including grinding stones – made by Aborigines in two different flooded areas. The sites can therefore rightly be called the Atlantis of the Aborigines.

“Today we announce the discovery of two flooded archaeological sites that once lie dry,” said researcher Jonathan Benjamin. The dive team found 269 Aboriginal artifacts in shallow water – up to about 2.4 meters deep – near Cape Bruguieres. These are among the oldest archaeological objects ever found in Australian waters. Moreover, after dating and analysis, the site appears to be more than 7000 years old. The second archaeological site is located in the so-called Flying Foam Passage and is located at about 14 meters depth. This site is estimated to be at least 8,500 years old.

The finds are very exciting. Because they represent the first undersea traces of the Aborigines ever discovered. “Australia is a huge continent, but few people realise that more than 30 percent of the land mass has been swallowed up by sea level rise since the last ice age,” benjamin says. “This means that much of the archaeological evidence of Aborigines is currently underwater. But now, for the first time, we have shown that at least some of this archaeological evidence has survived sea level rise.”

Although the sites are now underwater, this must have been dry in the past and extended up to 100 miles from the current coastline. The land was owned by the Aborigines who lived there for generations. And now researchers have the opportunity to learn more about this period in Australian history. “It’s an exciting step in Australian archaeology,” Benjamin said. “We can now make connections between land and sea.”

Although the former habitat of these ancient Aborigines has been swallowed by the ocean, the discovery of the sites including artifacts implies that history is not lost forever. Moreover, it could well be that there is more hidden underwater. Because in the past there was at least two million square kilometers of land above the Australian sea level. It means that these may also yield important new insights into human history. “The locations discovered are in relatively shallow water,” explains Chelsea Wiseman. “But it is quite possible that there is, even more, to be found in deeper water farther from the coast.”

Locations of the discovered former habitats of Aboriginal people. 
(1) Cape Bruguieres Island (3) Flying Foam Passage. 
Image: PLOS ONE

The results are the first step in an exciting journey of discovery into the past. Because thanks to the finds, we can learn more about the people who used to populate these Australian territories. “This could potentially fill a major gap in the continent’s human history,” Benjamin concludes.

Reference and citations:

” Aboriginal artifacts reveal first ancient underwater cultural sites in Australia ” – Flinders University