Human occupation of northern Australia

Clarkson, Chris, Zenobia Jacobs , Ben Marwick , Richard Fullagar , Lynley Wallis , Mike Smith , Richard Roberts , Elspeth Hayes , Kelsey Lowe , Xavier Carah , S. Anna Florin , Jessica McNeil , Lee Arnold , Quan Hua , Jillian Huntley , Helen Brand , Andrew Fairbairn , Kate Connell , Kasih Norman , Tiina Manne , James Shulmeister , Tessa Murphy , Lindsey Lyle , Makiah Salinas , Gayoung Park , Mara Page , Colin Pardoe 2017 Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago. Nature 547(7663), 306.

The time of arrival of people in Australia is an unresolved question. It is relevant to debates about when modern humans first dispersed out of Africa and when their descendants incorporated genetic material from Neanderthals, Denisovans and possibly other hominins. Humans have also been implicated in the extinction of Australia’s megafauna. Here we report the results of new excavations conducted at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in northern Australia. Artefacts in primary depositional context are concentrated in three dense bands, with the stratigraphic integrity of the deposit demonstrated by artefact refits and by optical dating and other analyses of the sediments. Human occupation began around 65,000 years ago, with a distinctive stone tool assemblage including grinding stones, ground ochres, reflective additives and ground-edge hatchet heads. This evidence sets a new minimum age for the arrival of humans in Australia, the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa, and the subsequent interactions of modern humans with Neanderthals and Denisovans.

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