Archeologists Unearth Australia’s Oldest Piece Of Jewelry

Posted: Nov 21 2016, 12:20pm CST | by , Updated: Nov 21 2016, 12:25pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Archeologists Unearth Australia’s Oldest Piece of Jewelry
Australia's oldest known ornament. Credit: The Australian National University (ANU)

Australia's oldest known ornament dates back to more than 46,000 years ago, almost 40,000 years older the previous earliest artifact

Researchers from Australian National University have discovered an ornament made out of kangaroo bone that was worn through the nose in the Kimberley region of northern Australia.

The ornament is estimated to be more than 46,000 years old, which makes it the oldest known piece of indigenous jewelry found anywhere in Australia.

The bone was originally discovered in 1990s but its use as a jewelry was not realized until recently. Researchers believe that this is the oldest physical evidence of Australia’s early inhabitants using bones as jewelries and tools, making it more than 40,000 years older than the previous oldest known evidence.

“Until very recently the earliest bone tools we had found in Australia dated to about 20,000 years ago, so there has been a 40,000 year gap.” Dr Michelle Langley of the ANU School of Culture, History and Language said.

We know that thousands of years ago modern humans migrated out of Africa and spread to other parts of the world. And Australia is no exception to that. Humans arrived to the continent of Australia some 60,000 years ago and likely brought bone crafting skills with them. In Australia, however, Aboriginal people used kangaroo bones in place of ivory and horns, which were the prime tool-making materials in Africa.

“Some people believed that the knowledge of bone tool making was lost on the journey between Africa and Australia,” said Langley. “With this find, we now know they were making bone tools soon after arriving in Australia.”

The bone was found below a deposit dating back to 46,000 years ago. Its use was determined by analyzing the traces of red ochre at each end. While most of indigenous artifacts are found in Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales, it’s a rarity to find such ornament in the region of Kimberley in north Australia.

“Organic based items like this don’t survive in the north Australian archeological record very often, so it’s a very unusual find.” Professor Langley said.

The discovery of the kangaroo bone-made ornament in Australia is important because it provides more insight into the life of indigenous Australians who tend to use kangaroo bones for a variety of activities such as leatherwork, the craft of basket-making as well as bodily decoration.

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