Early human occupation at Devil’s Lair, southwestern Australia 50, 000 years ago

Chris S.M. Turney, Michael I. Bird, L. Keith Fifield, Richard G. Roberts, Mike Smith, Charles E. Dortch, Rainer Grün, Ewan Lawson, Linda K. Ayliffe, Gifford H. Miller, Joe Dortch, Richard G. Cresswell

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226 Citations (Scopus)


New dating confirms that people occupied the Australian continent before the earliest time inferred from conventional radiocarbon analysis. Many of the new ages were obtained by accelerator mass spectrometry 14C dating after an acid-base-acid pretreatment with bulk combustion (ABA-BC) or after a newly developed acid-base-wet oxidation pretreatment with stepped combustion (ABOX-SC). The samples (charcoal) came from the earliest occupation levels of the Devil's Lair site in southwestern Western Australia. Initial occupation of this site was previously dated 35, 000 14C yr B.P. Whereas the ABA-BC ages are indistinguishable from background beyond 42, 000 14C yr B.P., the ABOX-SC ages are in stratigraphic order to ~55, 000 14C yr B.P. The ABOX-SC chronology suggests that people were in the area by 48, 000 cal yr B.P. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), electron spin resonance (ESR) ages, U-series dating of flowstones, and 14C dating of emu eggshell carbonate are in agreement with the ABOX-SC 14C chronology. These results, based on four independent techniques, reinforce arguments for early colonization of the Australian continent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-13
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Australian archaeology
  • Electron spin resonance dating
  • Luminescence dating
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • U-series dating


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