Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Nurrabullgin Cave (The spelling of Ngarrabullgan has changed over time (Nurrabullgin, Ngarrabullgin) as a result of instructions from   elders of the local Aboriginals)                                                                                                                                                                                

A large sandstone rock shelter, high enough through for people to walk around in, and close to deep permanent water holes. It is on Nurrabullgin, or Mount Mulligan, a steep-sided mountain 18 km long and 6 km wide, formed of a sandstone cap on a volcanic base. It is a tabletop mountain rising 400 m above the surrounding savanna woodlands and plains, about 100 km west of Cairns. 

In this region water sources were important during the winter dry season when there was not much surface water available. The wide roof would have provided shelter from the monsoon rain in summer, as well a cool shelter from the sun.

Excavations began in the early 1990s. The site is well stratified and contains stone and bone artefacts, and large quantities of charcoal. It demonstrates a number of occupation phases separated by hiatuses. Ochre fragment, some showing striations from use, occur only in the mid-Holocene levels. There is considerable cultural continuity, the same raw materials, mostly basalt, chert and quartz, being used throughout the sequence.

The dating on the charcoal in the deposit shows that it had been occupied from more than 37,170 BP. It is the oldest occupation site found so far in north Queensland. It has been suggested that hunters had already penetrated as far as the Atherton Tablelands just south of Chillagoe by about 38,000 years ago. A long pollen sequence from Lynch's Crater, which shows a huge increase in the amount of charcoal as the vegetation changed from rainforest to fire-adapted Eucalyptus. Some suggest this rapid change in vegetation can only be explained by the arrival of the fire-stick.

Also at Ngarrabullgan Cave, a Pleistocene Archaeological Site, Australia - New Optical and Radiocarbon Dates, Implications for Comparability of date and Human Colonisation of Australia 

Sources & Further reading

  1. Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J. B. Publishing
  2. 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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