Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Darwin Glass                                                                                                                               

This is a natural glass that if found on the west coast of Tasmanian south of Queenstown. It is named for the place it was first found, Mount Darwin in the West Coast Range. The meteorite impact crater that is believed to have been the source of the glass was given the name Darwin Crater. Small, contorted impactites of glass formed in the high-energy collision from melted rocks, occurring in small seams around the impact crater, about 25 km northwest of Kutikina Cave. The Aboriginal People carried bags of this glass from the crater to Kutikina Cave where they worked it into tools

Darwin Glass fragments occur over a strewn field (area covered by the material from the impact) that covers an area of about 419 km2. It is found at an elevation of 250 to 500 m, where it occurs beneath soil and peat together with fragments of quartz. Above 500 m the bedrock is exposed so the only glass found there is the occasional fragment. It is buried at elevations less than about 220 m.

It can be white, black, and dark or light green. It is found in twisted masses up to 10 cm. Type 1 is white or light green, and type 2 is black or dark green. In the interior of the chunks the texture can be flowing, defined by lines of gas bubbles.

Darwin glass was used to make implements for at least 12,000 years in southwest Tasmania. The earliest known instance of its use was at Nunamira Cave 27,770 BP. At some sites the use of Darwin glass appears to have increased immediately following the glacial maximum, that is believed to  possibly be because of easier access when the glacial conditions ameliorated to leave a treeless expanse along the track to Darwin Crater. Darwin glass was transported to a number of caves of varying distances from Darwin Crater. 75 km to Nunamira Cave and 100 km to Bone Cave. These distances are the direct line distances, the actual tracks could have been as much as double these distances. As with thumbnail scrapers, there was no Darwin glass found at the ORS 7 site, 10 km further than Bone Cave from Darwin Crater. The track between both occupation sites and Darwin Crater would have been very similar, probably along the easiest line that is followed by the Lyell Highway at the present.



Sources & Further reading

  1. Flood, Josephine, 2004, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, JB Publications.
  2. The Tasmanians: Part 8b: Archaeology and the Oldest Tasmanians  


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last Updated 03/10/2009


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