ANCIENT ABORIGINAL HISTORY
200,000 years ago

A genomic history of Aboriginal Australia published in Nature in 2016 found that the population that gave rise to all present-day humans began to diversify at least 200,000 years ago within Africa.

72,000 years ago

Aboriginal ancestors left Africa around 72,000 years ago, in now what is believed to be a single major exit from Africa.  This was discovered by a Cambridge University team who sequenced the genome of 83 Aboriginal Australians from the Pama-Nyungan-speaking language group, which covers 90 per cent of the continent.

65,000 years ago
50-68,000 years ago

This is the much disputed estimated time of the arrival of Aboriginal people in Australia. At this time Australia was part of a supercontinent called 'Sahul'. Aborigines undertook the first major maritime migration in the world - they had to sail a minimum of 90 kilometres across open sea to reach their destination whatever route they took.

Estimated age of the artefacts found at the Madjedbebe rock shelter, Kakadu National Park. The find could prove Indigenous people have been in Australia for far longer - some of the artefacts were potentially as old as 80,000 years - if confirmed, this will rewrite Aboriginal history.

52,000 years ago

A conservative estimate of the age of two north Australian sites (Nauwalabila and Malakunanja, about 300 kms east of Darwin). They used stone tools included those made from silcrete, quartzite, white quartz and pieces of dolerite. Red and yellow ochre was also discovered. The red was probably used to prepare pigments for rock painting or body decoration, one of the earliest-known use of ochre in Australia


49,000 years ago

The age of the earliest rock shelter. The site, known as Warratyi, in the Flinders Ranges, shows Aboriginal Australians settled the arid interior of the country around 49,000 years ago. 

45,000 years ago

The Flinders Ranges are the largest mountain range in South Australia, stretching discontinually for 265 miles

Evidence of cohabitation with megafauna. The discovery of bones from the extinct giant wombat-like Diprotodon optatum and eggs from an ancient giant bird as important evidence of interaction with ancient humans which would have an impact on the debate over the extinction of megafauna on the continent.

40,000 years ago

Age of ‘Mungo Man’ (or LM3), a Aboriginal hunter gatherer who lived in western NSW. His skeleton is the oldest known remains in Australia. Named after Lake Mungo National Park, NSW, where his remains were found. 

38,000 years ago

A Rock shelter in the Flinders Ranges, known as Warratyi, provided reliably dated evidence of hafted axe technology about 38,000 years ago, pointing to the fact that the Aborigines are a technologically advanced race.

37,000 years ago

Papuans and Aboriginals who left Africa together in the great migration split around 37,000 years ago, long before the continents were finally cut off .

35,000 years ago

In a rock shelter in the Pilbara region, Western Australia,  fireplaces and dateable charcoal as well as plant remains such as seeds and bark are discovered dating from this time.

30,700 years ago

Remains of an underground oven dated to this time discoved at Lake Mungo National Park, NSW.

30,000 years ago

A site at Cuddie Springs contains grinding stones dated to about 30,000 years. These stones were used to grind wild seeds into flour which in turn was baked as bread.

28,000 years ago

Age of a charcoal drawing found at Narwala Gabarnmung, in the Northern Territory, assumed to be Australia’s oldest known rock art specimen and one of the earliest examples of human art on the planet.

26,000 years ago

The body of a woman from Lake Mungo ( LM1) provides the earliest evidence in the world of ritual cremation showing  that complicated burial rituals existed in early human societies. The bones of LM1 are thought to imply that after she died, the corpse was burned, then smashed, then burned a second time before being liberally covered with ochre. One suggested explanation for this behaviour is that the process was perhaps a ritual where the descendants tried to ensure that the dead did not return to haunt them.
 

24,000 years ago

Koonalda Cave, in the Nullarbor Plain is the oldest dated stone quarry known in Australia. This cave was being mined between about 24,000 and 14,000 years ago. It was used as a flint mine, quarrying being carried out underground, often in places with no natural light, the resulting flint was then transported elsewhere for manufacture of tools.

21,000 years ago

The 1000 km Nullarbor Plain was considered by Europeans to be uninhabitable, but was used by the semi-nomadic Aborigines

The Journal of Archaeological Science suggests that about 21,000 years ago, almost all people in 'modern-day' Australia migrated into smaller areas as the ice age struck. They abandoned as much as 80 per cent of the continent. Aboriginal people were dispersed across the entire continent, occupying places as remote as rock shelters on the Franklin River in south-west Tasmania and at Birrigai in the ranges of the Australian Capital Territory.

Land bridges between mainland Australia and Tasmania are flooded. Tasmanian Aboriginal people become isolated for the next 12,000 - 13,000 years.  This isolation compromised their resistance to disease introduced by European settlers. This, and fierce conflict with the settlers devastated their population throughout the 19th Century,

13,000 years ago
10,000 years ago

Present day Australian climate establishes.  By 10,000 years ago, sea levels were visibly rising, sometimes on a daily basis. 

9,000 years ago
8,000 years ago

The Dampier Archipelago is a group of 42 islands off the coast of W.A. On Rosemary Island researchers from the University of Western Australia found evidence of stone houses making them the oldest houses in Australia. 

The Torres Strait Islands were formed when the land bridge between Australia and New Guinea was submerged by rising seas. The Torres Strait itself was previously a land bridge which connected the present-day Australian continent with New Guinea (in a single landmass called Sahul). This land bridge was most recently submerged by rising sea levels at the termination of the last ice-age glaciation.

6,000 years ago

Ancient paintings of the Rainbow Serpent have been preserved in caves across Australia. The earliest paintings appear in Arnhem land more than 6000 years ago. This becomes the longest continuing belief in the world.

The 'shape' of Australia's coastline is defined by present sea level.

ABORIGINAL ART UK

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© Nadia Phillips 2019