Humans arrived in the arid interior of Australia 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, archaeologists working at a site in South Australia have discovered.
Researchers excavating a rock shelter site in Flinders Ranges, 550 km north of Adelaide, believe that they found evidence of a human presence in the area dating back 49,000 years, Xinhua news agency reported.
The artefacts, including burnt egg shells and stone tools, challenge the widely-held belief that the continent's first humans, which arrived in New South Wales (NSW) on the east coast 50,000 years ago, took up to 11,000 years to reach Australia's centre. The latest discovery indicates that figure is more likely to be 10,000 years.
Giles Hamm, the lead researcher of the project, said the discovery would question ideas of how and when such tools came to be used in Australia.
"The old idea is that people might have come from the East, from the Levant, out of Africa, and these modern humans may have come with a package of innovative technologies," Hamm said on Thursday.
"But the development of these fine stone tools, the bone technology, we think that happened as a local innovation, due to a local cultural evolution."
Hamm along with local indigenous elder Clifford Coulthard found the site, known as Warratyi, by accident while surveying gorges in the northern Flinders Ranges.
Hamm said that while initially surveying the gorge he noticed a cave with a blackened roof 20 metres above the creek bed but admitted he thought the site would reach back 5,000 years.
The team spent nine years excavating the site at a depth of one metre, recovering approximately 4,300 artefacts and 200 bone fragments from 16 mammals.
(With agency inputs)