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A 49,000-Year-Old Human Settlement Has Been Discovered In Australia

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A 49,000-Year-Old Human Settlement Has Been Discovered In Australia

Post by AlleyRose on Tue Nov 08, 2016 11:02 am

Who (or what) killed the giant wombat? Scientists in Australia may have finally found the long debated answer—and of course, it might be humans.
The arrival of humans in Australia is estimated to have occurred around 50,000 years ago, but firm dates on this occupation are hard to come by. This week in the journal Nature, scientists from a number of Australian universities lead by Giles Hamm at La Trobe University in Melbourne reveal they have discovered the oldest known archaeological site in the southern interior of Australia dating to 49,000 years ago, 10,000 years earlier than previously known.

A photo of Warratyi rock shelter. (Image credit: Giles Hamm)

The Warratyi rock shelter was found in the country of the indigenous Adnyamathanha people and is not only remarkable for its age, but what else was found there—Australia’s famous megafauna. Up until this point, most interactions between humans and megafauna on this continent have been lost to the ages. A debate has long raged over what caused the extinction of the behemoth kangaroos and giant wombats that roamed the outback; was it climate change or was it humans? Co-author Gavin Prideaux from Flinders University says this site can finally end part of this argument. “Humans evidently lived alongside these animals and hunted them, so the idea that there wasn’t any interaction between people and these animals is put to bed now,” Prideaux said.

A reconstruction of giant wombat Diprotodon optatum. (Image by Dmitry Bogdanov, CC BY 3.0)

Researchers found bone remains from 16 species of mammal and one reptile after sifting through over 2,000 fragments. Importantly, the bones did not display any animal tooth marks or breaks that looked like they were caused by scavengers, lending support to the hypothesis all of these bones were collected by humans. Within the animal remains researchers discovered a big clue—an arm bone fragment of a Diprotodon, or giant wombat. Archaeologist Carly Monks from the University of Western Australia, who was not involved with this study, emphasizes the importance of this find: “Sites like this are incredibly rare: only a couple of other known sites show a similar overlap of extinct megafauna and human activity.”

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