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Asia Minute: Dating Australians

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Archeologists in Australia say they’ve found evidence that people were on the land there much earlier than previously believed. In fact, the difference is nearly 20,000 years. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

An excavation in Australia’s Northern Territory pushes back the date of human arrival to the continent to about 65,000 years ago.

That’s according to archeologists working about 200 miles east of Darwin who also say they’ve found the world’s oldest stone axes, and a grinding stone used to sharpen them.

Scientists were surprised by the sophistication of some of the artifacts—including ax blades with finely ground edges—and grooves at one end where a handle could be attached with resin.

Another focus of the early indigenous people: artistic expression.

Archeologists base that on the discovery of ground ochre, a natural earth pigment, along with sheets of mica—a mineral used to highlight and enhance paintings on rocks and stone walls.

A team member told the BBC the discovery “really tells us that people were heavily into artistic activity.”

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports more than 11,000 artifacts were found in three bands of sediment.

The dating estimates come from a combination of carbon dating of charred material and an analysis of grains of sand.

A process called optically stimulated luminescence can determine when the sand was last touched by sunlight.

The peer-reviewed research was published in the journal Nature.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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