40,000-yr-old site in Australia may hold world's southernmost traces of early human life

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Washington, March 11(ANI): Reports indicate that Australian archaeologists have uncovered a 40,000-year-old tribal meeting ground, which they believe is the world's southernmost site of early human life.

The site appears to have been the last place of refuge for Aboriginal tribes from the cannon fire of Australia's first white settlers, Michael Mansell of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre told Discovery News.

The find came during an archaeological survey ahead of roadwork near Tasmania's Derwent River and soil dating had established the age of the artifacts found there.

"When the archaeological report came out it showed that (life there) had gone back longer than any other recorded place anywhere else in Tasmania, dating back to 40,000 years," said Mansell.

Up to three million artifacts, including stone tools, shellfish fragments and food scraps, were believed to be buried in the area, which appeared to have been a meeting ground for three local tribes.

They died out after white settlers arrived in the late 18th century.

"They (settlers) hunted people here to this place and shot them just so they could get the land. Many others were imprisoned until they died," said Mansell.

"In terms of culture and history this region now represents Tasmania's Valley of the Kings," he added, referring to the world heritage listed Egyptian tombs on the west bank of the Nile.

The survey was finished last week and chief archaeologist Rob Paton said he had been surprised at the age of the items found.

"We haven't even done a reading on the bottom sample yet, I was expecting 17,000 (years) for the base of the trench and about four or 5,000 (years) for the top," Paton told state radio.

Paton said that luminescence readings - measuring the age of the artefacts based on how much exposure they had received to sunlight - had been "nice and statistically tight".

"That suggests to me that they're probably correct, giving us a top reading of 28,000 (years old) and certainly seeming to go back another 10,000 (years) at least beyond that," he said.

The readings indicated that "we do have the oldest, most southern site anywhere in the world," said Paton, making it "an important site for anyone and quite exciting for us".

He said the dig's findings were merely the "tip of the iceberg" and called for plans to build a bridge over the site to be scrapped.

"The Tasmanian government must immediately declare it a protected site, not just for Aboriginal people but for peoples of the world," said Mansell. (ANI)

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