Off the coast of Western Australia, archaeologists working on the Damper Archipelago have found evidence of stone houses, dated to the end of the last ice age (around 9,000 years ago).
While exploring one of the Archipelago’s 42 islands, the team discovered knee-height rock walls.
"Excavations on Rosemary Island, one of the outer islands, have uncovered evidence of one of the earliest known domestic structures in Australia, dated between 8,000 and 9,000 years ago," said lead researcher Jo McDonald, from the University 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."
Jo McDonald excavating at the Murujuga rock shelter in the Pilbara [Image: UWA]
The archaeologists hope the find will help them learn more about the lives of Aboriginal groups living after the ice age
"We assume they were a way of marking out social space for groups living close together as the sea level rose after the ice age, pushing groups inland into smaller territories," says McDonald.
"While these people were hunter gatherers, these structures suggest people were developing social strategies to be more sedentary, to cope with environmental change."
According to the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife, British explorer William Dampier visited the islands in 1699, people of the Yapurrara language group occupied Murujuga (a proposed national park on the Burrup Peninsula) and Dampier Archipelago.
The Dampier Archipelago [Image: NASA]
Following European settlement, their numbers declined due to disease, being kidnapped and forced to dive for pearls and massacres. Their amazing rock engravings of turtles, fish, kangaroos and wallabies can still be seen everywhere.
Studies of rock art have implications beyond anthropology and history. For example, a recent study postulates the existence of a now-extinct Australian bat species based on extraordinarily detailed pictographs known to be at least 17,500 years old.
Petroglyphs have been used in studies of climate change, and the changing inventories of species in the Dampier Archipelago from the Pleistocene to the early Holocene periods have been reconstructed partly using petroglyph evidence.