Archeologists with the University of Western Australia have discovered a mysterious set of stone structures not far from the Dampier Archipelago in northwestern Australia. If current theories about the structures are confirmed, they could potentially rewrite much of Western Australia’s early history, not to mention human history.
According to a UWA press release, the structures are the oldest known structures of their kind in Australia:
Excavations on Rosemary Island, one of the outer islands, have uncovered evidence of one of the earliest known domestic structures in Australia, dated between 8000 and 9000 years ago [...] We anticipate that this extraordinary rock art estate will produce some spectacular insights into what life was really like in deep history.
The structures are a set of rooms cut into stone, some of which display evidence of early agricultural practices such as grinding seeds and storing shells. This find could change current thinking about civilizations of the time, which were previously believed to have been hunter-gatherer groups.
Lead researcher Jo McDonald, president of UWA’s Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, says that the site is important not only for the archeological history of the continent, but also for the indigenous communities of Western Australia:
This is an astounding find and has not only enormous scientific significance but will be of great benefit to Aboriginal communities in the area, enhancing their connections to their deep past and cultural heritage.
The Dampier Archipelago formed around 7,000 years ago as sea levels rose, creating isolated Aboriginal communities. Today, five distinct Aboriginal language groups are recognized in the area. Archeologists believe that the site has been occupied for around 25,000 years, pre-dating the last ice age, and a nearby site is thought to be over 50,000 years old.
Geological records show that the underlying bedrock in the region is some of the oldest on Earth, dating back some 2,400 million years; because of all of this archeological significance, there is an ongoing movement to list this area as a World Heritage Site.