Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Allen's Cave

Allen's Cave is near Eucla, about 80 km west of Koonalda Cave, in South Australia. After the first occupation of the cave there was a break when the cave was apparently abandoned, between 17,500 and 15,000 years ago. This coincided with a period of increased aridity and the accompanying sea level fall that caused the coast to retreat about 160 km further south. The Eucla-Koonalda region became a treeless plain. The estimated average annual rainfall at this time was about 160-180 mm. Allen's Cave was mostly abandoned during this time. Between 22,000 and 15,000 BP there was intermittent use of Koonalda Cave. It assumed the people of the area moved south to follow the coastline, probably living on the exposed plain. The sea rose again about 12,000 years ago.  


About 50,000-60,000 BP the roof of a bigger cave collapsed to form Allen's Cave. Over the following 10,000-20,000 years 1 m of deposit had accumulated by the time of the first signs of occupation. The evidence of occupation is irrefutable, though minimal, consisting of small unmodified flakes of chalcedony and 3 flaked limestone pieces, that were found wedged between rocks and sealed beneath a thin layer of gravel, that was then capped by a band of laminated silts that was 7 cm deep. A date of 39,850 BP (calibrated deviation of 36,750-42,950 BP) has been obtained for these silts, and the artefacts are obviously older, as the silts are above them. An ancient hearth, a thin ash layer and 2 burnt rocks, overlies these silts. The Cane suggests the antiquity of the occupation is secure, based on the closed, compact association of the artefacts, the laminated silts and the adjacent rocks.

Sources & Further reading

  1. Cane, Scott, 2013, First Footprints: The epic story of the first Australians, Allen & Unwin 

Scott Cane has included in his book, written as a companion to the ABC TV series of the same name, a number of stories from his days living among Aboriginal people in the desert and moving around with them.

Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 21/11/2013

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