Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Carpenter's Gap Rock Shelter 1, the Kimberley

This limestone rock shelter, Windjana Gorge National Park, in the Kimberley area of Western Australia, is believed to have been occupied, almost continuously, since about 40,000 BP.

Fragments of bailer shell (Melo amphora) and marine Dentalium sp. shell beads have been recovered from this site in layers of Pleistocene age. At the time the coast was more than 100 km away (O'Connor, 1995). The shell and shell artefacts indicate the possibility of  long distance exchange or transport during the late Pleistocene.

O'Connor has found evidence for the use of Chenopodiaceae and Amaranthaceae material in this rock shelter. Phytoliths found in this occupation site give clues to the vegetation type around the rockshelter, and hence the climate of the area during the time of occupation, as well as the changes that took place over the period of occupation.

A pellet of red ochre was found between layers dating to 42,800 +/- 18,50 BP and 33,600 +/- 500 BP. The composition of this pellet differed from that of the red substance found on a rock fragment from the wall that was found in the same level. (O'Connor & Fankhauser, 2001). The fragment from the wall had red pigment on it. The earlier date was from 2 cm below the slab, the later date 5 cm above the slab, giving a minimum age of 40,000 BP. The nature of the painting as it occurred on the wall prior to the fall of the slab is indeterminate. (O'Connor, 1995; Flood, 1997; O'Connor & Fankhauser, 2001; Moorwood, 2002)


Sources & Further reading

  1. Phillip J. Habgood & Natilie R. Franklin, The revolution that didn't arrive: A review of Pleistocene Sahul, Journal of Human Evolution, 55, 2008



Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated  18/11/2013

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