Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Bone Cave                                                                                                                                   

This is 1 of 3 caves east of Acheron Cave, with oldest occupation levels of about 30,000 years ago, on rivers flowing to the southeast. It is in the Middle Weld Valley, at 400 m altitude.

This very small cave on the Weld River is of a vertical limestone type. The floor area is now about 9 sq m with a height of 1 m. It was originally larger, but infilling has reduced the size. The oldest date, from charcoal at the base, is 29,000 BP. The cultural material in the top layer is 13,700 years old. After this time it was abandoned, the surface being covered with a layer of moon milk. In the small chamber, bone points, stone artefacts and burnt bone were found. An extremely rich deposit was excavated in a trench 2 x 0.5 x 1.5 m that contained more than 24,000 stone artefacts in the 0.8 m3 extracted.

Human use appears to have been sporadic between about 29,000 and 24,000 years ago, the period of most intensive human use occurring after the glacial maximum, between about 16,000 and 14,000 years ago. The first thumbnail scrapers are found at about 24,000 years ago, become so common at abut 18,000 BP that they make up a large proportion of the tools found from this time. Dated to some time between 16,000 and 14,000 years ago, a single piece of Darwin glass has been found. Bone Cave is the occupation site that is the greatest known distance from Darwin Crater in which Darwin glass has been found, a direct line distance of 100 km, though the actual route followed between the 2 sites is much longer. (Jones 1989; Holdaway & Porch, 1996; Holdaway, 2004)

The most common material used for the manufacture of the stone tools is quartzite from the local area. The next most common are chert and quartz, and a small number of tools made from chalcedony, silcrete and hornfels. In the upper levels, dating from about 16,000 to 15,000 years ago, the percentage of quartz tools increases, as does the use of bipolar anvilling, which is the best method for fracturing the small water-rounded quartz pebbles. Large flakes made from quartzite and chert are common in all levels of the site. Many were steep-edged scrapers.

As at Kutikina, the red-necked wallaby is the most common prey species, and wombats are the next most common, but a wider variety of other prey were taken than at Kutikina.

The distribution of artefacts through time has been found to display 3 periods of occupation separated by long gaps over the time period from 35,000-10,000 BP. See Source 3.

A wallaby tibia bone was found that showed impact flaking along the crest made to extract the marrow, that is believed to be from the Holocene, less than 12,000 BP.

see also Stone Tools 

Sources & Further reading

  1. Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J.B. Publishing, 2004
  2. Phillip J. Habgood & Natilie R. Franklin, The revolution that didn't arrive: A review of Pleistocene Sahul, Journal of Human Evolution, 55, 2008
  3. The Tasmanians: Part 8b: Archaeology and the Oldest Tasmanians  


  1. Systematic seasonal land use by late Pleistocene Tasmanian Aboriginal People
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last Updated 01/10/2013


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