The human colonisation of Australia: optical dates of 53,000 and 60,000 years bracket human arrival at Deaf Adder Gorge, Northern Territory

Richard G. Roberts, Rhys Jones, Nigel A. Spooner, M. J. Head, Andrew S. Murray, M. A. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

246 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The date at which people entered Australia has important implications for the debate on modern human origins. Thermoluminescence dates of 50-60 ka, reported for initial occupation of the Malakunanja II site in northern Australia, have been used as a means of calibrating the rate of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA evolution in modern humans. Optical dating of unburnt quartzose sediments from a rock shelter site (Nauwalabila I, Lindner Site) in Deaf Adder Gorge, 70 km south of Malakunanja II, provides new evidence for the timing of the colonisation of the continent. Optical dates were determined for several stratigraphic levels within a 3 m deep excavation, in which flaked stone artefacts and ground pigments were found in primary depositional setting. The lowest human occupation levels are bracketed by dates of 53.4 ± 5.4 ka and 60.3 ± 6.7 ka, while the upper levels show good agreement between optical and calibrated 14C age estimates. High-quality haematite with ground facets and striations is associated directly with the 53 ka level and indicates the use of pigments by these early Australians. The optical dates independently confirm evidence for the colonisation of northern Australia shortly after 60 ka and should be seen in the context of this region as having been a likely entry route for the first human movements into Sahul.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-583
Number of pages9
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume13
Issue number5-7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The human colonisation of Australia: optical dates of 53,000 and 60,000 years bracket human arrival at Deaf Adder Gorge, Northern Territory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this