Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Rock Shelter ORS 7 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. Situated in the Shannon River Valley, on the edge of the Central Plateau of Tasmania, at an altitude of 440 m, it is a large sandstone rock shelter facing northeast. A hearth was found at a depth of 60 cm at the base of the occupational material was dated to 30,840 +/- 480 years ago. There were 179 artefacts associated with the hearth. 2,000 artefacts were found in 3 m3 of excavated material. The artefacts in the lowest layer are mostly unretouched flakes of quartzite and grey, fine-grained hornfels. In this layer there were also the bones of red-necked wallaby, which was the main prey species throughout the entire sequence, and native cat, broad-toothed rat, and emu eggshells. The variety of raw material used in the tools increased after 17,660 years ago, but the density of tools is much less than in other sites in the southwest of Tasmania.

It was occupied in the Holocene, with the youngest date for occupation being 2,500 years ago. There are a number of features in which this site differed from all other known sites in the southwest. It is the only known site in the area where no Darwin glass or thumbnail scrapers have been found. It is thought the lack of these tools is because they were not used there, rather than the result of a small sample size. It has been suggested that this indicates that there was an eastern boundary beyond which Darwin glass wasn't used. This cave is more central in location than those in the southwest, being the most southeasterly cave so far excavated.

Together with other differences, the lack of Darwin glass at ORS 7 Rock Shelter suggests a difference between it and the other occupation sites of the southwest. Among the differences that are regarded as significant, are no Darwin glass, no thumbnail scrapers, a much lower number of artefacts, and differences in technology, material used, the numbers of animals and strategies used for processing.

According to Cosgrove, who excavated ORS 7, 'In short, site ORS 7 reflects a distinctly different archaeological signature from the Southwestern Pleistocene sites and supports the idea that the eastern border of the Southwestern geographic zone also marked a human behavioural boundary in the Late Pleistocene'.

Sources & Further reading

Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J.B. Publishing, 2004


  1. The Tasmanians: Part 8b: Archaeology and the Oldest Tasmanians
Last updated: 10/10/2009


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