Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Tasmanian colonisation - Chronology

Warreen Cave and Parmerpar Meethaner Rock Shelter are the oldest known sites at the present, having basal ages of 34,790 510 BP (39,906 879 cal BP for Warreen Cave (Allen, 1996a, 154), and 33,850 450 (39,310 879 cal BP) for Parmerpar Meethaner Rock Shelter (Cosgrove et al., 2010).

Bone Cave the lowest occupation levels have been dated to 29,000 520 BP (31,435 554 cal BP and 28,330 630 BP (30,939 638 cal BP) respectively (Allen, 1996a, 113).

Pallawa Cave has been dated to 29,800 720 (32,021 637 cal BP).

Nunamira Cave has a basal age of  30,840 480 BP (33,064 475 cal BP).

ORS 7 Rock Shelter has a basal age of 30,750 1,340 BP (33,410 1,580 cal BP) (Allen, 1996a).

Archaeological sites on Bass Strait islands are younger, such as Cave Bay Cave, which dates to about 23,000 BP (Bowdler, 1984),

 Prime Seal Island, Mannalargenna Cave has a basal layer dated to 23,015 210 BP (25,630 457 cal BP)

 Badger Island, the basal layer of Beaton Shelter dates to 23,180 1,280 BP (25,747 1,583 cal BP) (Sim, 1998, 258).

As Bass Plain was the initial point of entry of humans into peninsula Tasmania, equivalent ages are believed likely, though these are about 12,000 radiocarbon years younger than Warreen Cave which has been dated to 35,000 radiocarbon years.

It has been argued that spikes in radiocarbon dates indicate a possible fluctuating population (Holdaway & Porch, 1995), and a relationship between changing climatic and occupation intensities is suggested (Cosgrove, 1995b). Between about 35,000-23,000 BP and 18,000-13,000 BP the discard rates of bones and lithics were increasing with a hiatus around 20,000-18,000 BP. It suggests that at the height of the glacial occupation rates were lower, though at some sites, such as Kutikina that were at lower elevations evidence has been uncovered of it being used at this time (Kiernan et al., 1983; Garvey, 2006). Sites at high elevations were occupied over longer periods of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), and it has been suggested that this was possibly because from the time of the initial human settlement they continued to be more open. Sites at lower elevations were more prone to be affected by the  influence of the unproductive rainforests that tended to expand and contract, and the restrictions that resulted on the expanses of patches of grassland. All the cave sites had been abandoned by 13,000 BP and it has been suggested that this was because of the encroachment of the rainforest and the reduction in numbers of prey animals (Cosgrove, 1999).

Sources & Further reading

  1. Richard Cosgrove, Anne Pike-Tay & Wil Roebroeks in Dennell, Robin & Porr, Martin, eds., 2014, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Search for Human Origins, Cambridge University Press.


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 01/09/2015
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