By Hannah Kotaidis edited for online By Jacob Miley
A fragment from an edge-axe, believed to be on of the world’s oldest tools, has been discovered in the remote Kimberly region.
The axe’s age coincides with the arrival of the first people in Australia, pushing back advances in technology to more than 45 000 years ago.
More than 21-years after a fragment was found during an excavation in Australia’s far north, researchers have identified it as a part from an ancient ground-edge axes.
A thumb-nail size piece of volcanic rock is all that remains of the ground-edge-axe.
Australian National University Professor of Archaeology Sue O’Connor said the discovery was of great significance and provides insight into the way-of-life of the earliest indigenous communities.
“First Indigenous Australians their tool-kits are always characterised as very simple, but here they are making very complex hafted-axes almost 50,000 years ago – the antithesis of simple really,” she said.
Professor O’Connor first found the fragment in the early 1990s during a large-scale excavation but said they was not initially identified.
“They are only about a centimetre long, so they were overlooked at the time when we did the initial work, and it’s only going back through all the very small artefactual finds that we’ve actually found them – and recognised them.”
Using a high-powered microscope and carbon-dating, a team of researchers were able to calculate the age of the ancient tool.
Sydney University professor of Archaeology Peter Hiscock told ABC Radio the discovery was a world-first.
“We have axes in Australia that have been in excess of 34-35,000 years ago, and in Japan they have axes that are about same age as the arrival of humans – so around about 40,000 years old.
“So they are nowhere near as old as this,” he said.
The axes were made from hard volcanic rocks, which were then ground on softer sandstone with water and polished to produce the sharp blade.
Professor O’Connor said the find showed how important it was to re-look at previous discoveries, rather than conduct new or damaging excavations.
“Rather than go back and do more excavation – going back through some of the earlier excavated assemblages not just mine, but some that were excavated even early on from Arnhem Land, from the Kimberly it would be worth relooking at those assemblages in more detail,” she said.