Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Warreen Cave 'wombat' (Originally called M82/2)

This large cave is on top of a limestone outcrop at an altitude of about 200 m above sea level above buttongrass and tea tree plains in the flat valley of the Maxwell River Valley. The oldest occupation level in this cave has been dated to about 35,000 years ago. This is such a rich deposit that it is estimated that there are up to 35,000 artefacts per cubic metre (Flood, 2004). The stone tools are still being studied. The oldest date for the site is 34,790 +/- 510 years ago. This was carried out on charcoal from a depth of 1.7 m, but the site has been excavated to 2 m and still hadn't reached a sterile layer, but the density of cultural material was declining towards the bottom of the dig.

Human occupation of the site appears to have been slight between about 35,000-30,000 years ago and sporadic. Occupation becoming intense only between 24,000 and 22,000 years ago. The earliest Darwin glass appears at 24,000 years ago, and the earliest quartz thumbnail scrapers are at 20,000 years ago. (Allen et al., 1989b; Holdaway & Porch, 1996; Porch & Allen 1995; Sheppard, 1997). Chert from this deposit was sourced from 37 km away.

Red-necked wallabies are the most common prey species, and wombat and platypus are more common here than at Kutikina Cave. Quartz is the material of nearly all the stone artefacts, 80 % being less than 1 cm long. This suggests they nay be waste chips from stone working. Ochre is present throughout the sequence, and there are some faceted lumps and ochre-stained limestone. Prior to the last glacial maximum there is a greater accumulation of archaeological debris than after it, the site being abandoned about 16,000 years ago following the collapse of part of the cave. The floor of the cave is about 15 sq m, but the cave is believed to have been much larger before the collapse of the roof of much of it.

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


The Tasmanians: Part 8b: Archaeology and the Oldest Tasmanians

Last Updated 25/02/2011


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