The discovery of a massive creature in an old human settlement in Australia may have solved a big mystery.
Scientists in Australia have just stumbled upon a massive discovery that could answer long-debated mysteries about what happened to the giant wombat. The arrival of humans in Australia is believed to have happened about 50,000 years ago, but scientists have struggled to pin down a solid answer.
Now, scientists from a number of Australian universities have pegged an archaeological site in southern Australia to 49,000 years ago, which is about 10,000 years earlier than had been previously known. The study examines the Warratyi rock shelter occupied by the indigenous Adnyamathanha people, and were amazed to not only find such an old settlement but also signs of Australia megafauna, such as the giant wombat.
It confirms that there was interaction between humans and these almost mythical beasts, answering an old mystery. Researchers found bone remains from about 16 species of mammal and one reptile out of 2,000 fragments.
“It complements the work that has been done on Australia’s coasts. It fits in with this threshold of dates… between 45,000 and 50,000 (years ago),” research archaeologist Giles Hamm from South Australia’s La Trobe University, the study’s lead researcher, told reporters according to Phys.org. “What is different about it is it’s the southern-most oldest site in the continent … it shows that people are moving very quickly around the continent and in the interior part of the continent. If people are coming in at 50,000 (years ago), it means that people are moving in a whole range of directions perhaps. And we’ve got some new genetic evidence that might be also adding data to that question.”
The paper’s abstract states: “Elucidating the material culture of early people in arid Australia and the nature of their environmental interactions is essential for understanding the adaptability of populations and the potential causes of megafaunal extinctions 50–40 thousand years ago (ka). Humans colonized the continent by 50 ka1, 2, but an apparent lack of cultural innovations compared to people in Europe and Africa3, 4 has been deemed a barrier to early settlement in the extensive arid zone2, 3. Here we present evidence from Warratyi rock shelter in the southern interior that shows that humans occupied arid Australia by around 49 ka, 10 thousand years (kyr) earlier than previously reported. The site preserves the only reliably dated, stratified evidence of extinct Australian megafauna5, 6, including the giant marsupial Diprotodon optatum, alongside artefacts more than 46 kyr old. We also report on the earliest-known use of ochre in Australia and Southeast Asia (at or before 49–46 ka), gypsum pigment (40–33 ka), bone tools (40–38 ka), hafted tools (38–35 ka), and backed artefacts (30–24 ka), each up to 10 kyr older than any other known occurrence7, 8. Thus, our evidence shows that people not only settled in the arid interior within a few millennia of entering the continent9, but also developed key technologies much earlier than previously recorded for Australia and Southeast Asia.”