Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Nunamira Cave (Bluff Cave)-'sleeping place' - southwestern Tasmania

1 of 3 caves east of Acheron Cave, with oldest occupation levels of about 30,000 years ago, on rivers flowing to the southeast, in the Florentine Valley, at an altitude of 400 m. It is a small limestone shelter in the wide, flat valley of the Florentine River, and is now surrounded by wet sclerophyll rainforest and scrub. It is 25 km north of Bone Cave. It is below the 1400 m high Mount Field massif. The useable floor area is about 15 m2 and it has a sharply sloping roof. Calcium carbonate flowstone had covered the cultural deposit. The deposit is shallow, at most 60 cm, but spans 20,000 years, charcoal 5 cm beneath the surface has been dated to 11,600 +/- 200 years ago. The basal layer has been dated to 30,420 +/- 690 years ago.

It is a very rich site, about 30,000 stone flakes and 200,000 bone pieces and high charcoal concentrations being recovered from 1 m3 of excavated sediment (Flood, 2004). Animals at the site include red-necked wallabies, pademelon, platypus, wombat, grey kangaroo, native hen, native cat, birds and emu eggshells. The emu eggshell indicates it was collected in late winter or early spring, and grassy expanses are indicated at the time of occupation. The emu eggshell dates from 28,000 years ago and from between 16,000 and 13,000 years ago in the richest bone deposit.

Late in the sequence, here and at Bone Cave, ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) make their first appearance, suggesting that trees were returning after the passing of the glacial conditions. At Nunamira Cave they first appear in the deposit about 12,000 to 10,000 years ago.

There is a wide variety of stone tools that are made from chert, silcrete, crystal quartz, chalcedony, agate and hornfels. The manufacture of tools from various local materials is indicated by the presence of large numbers of very small stone chips. Thumbnail scrapers are first found in layers from between 24,000 to 21,000 years ago. Of the 5 pieces of Darwin glass found, the oldest is from 27,700 years ago. The site is 75 km from Darwin Crater, and would require a journey of about 100 km. (Allen et al., 1989b; Holdaway & Porch, 1996).

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. M.A. Smith in Murray, Tim, 1998, Archaeology of Aboriginal Australia, Allen & Unwin.


  1. Systematic seasonal land use by late Pleistocene Tasmanian Aboriginal People
  2. The Tasmanians: Part 8b: Archaeology and the Oldest Tasmanians
Last Updated 24/06/2011


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                                                                                           Author: M.H.Monroe  Email:     Sources & Further reading