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Australian Aboriginal Tools Estimated at 35,000 Years Old

Russell Dawson of the Koomurri Aboriginal Dancers participates in a smoking ceremony during Australia Day ceremonies in Sydney, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Aboriginal tools discovered in a limestone cave in northern Australia are thought to be more than 35,000 years old, deepening understanding of Australia’s original residents.

Eight tools made from kangaroo bone were excavated from Riwi Cave in the southern Kimberley region of Western Australia by archaeologists in the early 1990s. The work was supported by the local Mimbi Aboriginal community.

Modern dating techniques have now estimated the carved tools are between 35,000 and 46,000 years old. It would make them the oldest artifacts of their type found in Australia.

They were crafted from kangaroo bones to make a range of implements, including spears to hunt birds and fish. The bones could also have been used to make resin as a glue to affix handles onto tools.

Academics believe it is rare for the artifacts to have survived the region's harsh climate, where summer temperatures can reach 38 degrees Celsius.

Michelle Langley from Griffith University’s Australian Research Center for Human Evolution told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the research provides new information on the lives of Australia’s original inhabitants.

“From looking at the tiny, microscopic scratches and damage on these tools we are able to identify that some were made for using as spear tips, perhaps, and others for perhaps weaving baskets or working skins,” she said. “There was a lot of talk about maybe people were not using bone tools up in the north before about 20,000 years ago, but we now know that that is not true. They were using them. We just were not finding them.”

The study also involved the Australian National University and has been published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology.

Indigenous settlement in Australia dates to 65,000 years. About 3% of Australians have Aboriginal heritage.