Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Continuity and Antiquity

Evidence for the continuity and great antiquity of Aboriginal culture has been found at Lake Mungo and Malakunanja II rock shelter, 2 of the oldest known archaeological sites in Australia to contain evidence of Aboriginal occupation. The skeleton of a man buried at Lake Mungo (LM3 or WLH 3) (either 40,000 or 60,000 years ago, depending whose numbers you believe) had his hands on his groin and had been covered with red ochre. Both the sprinkling of red ochre over the body as part of a mortuary ritual, and the apparent clasping of the penis at burial, were still being practiced at various places around Australia at the time of first European contact. The use of red ochre at both Lake Mungo and Malakunanja II, thousands of kilometres apart, though possibly of similar antiquity, indicate that long-distance trade routs were operating even at that remote time. At both sites the nearest deposits of red ochre was some distance away.

Another indication of the antiquity of the Aboriginal material culture was the presence of osteoarthritis in the right elbow of LM3 (WLH 3), a condition called woomera elbow or atlatl elbow, found only in the elbow of the spear-throwing arm of men using spear throwers. Their implements evolved over time, but the spear thrower was one tool that stood the test of time, still being used up to the present, though even it evolved. In parts of the interior where desert oak, a very hard wood, was used to make implements, the woomera became a multipurpose tool, a stone flake being fastened to the end so it doubled-up as a wood-working tool.

Sources & Further reading

  1. R.M. & C.H.Berndt, 1964, The world of the First Australians, Ure Smith, Sydney
  2. Josephine Flood, 2004, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J. B. Publishing
  3. 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: 30/09/2011



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