World’s Oldest Axe Found In Australia

The find shows early Aboriginal technology was more advanced than previously thought.

Australian archaeologists have unearthed pieces of the world’s oldest known axe in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The fragments date back to between 46,000 to 49,000 years ago, close to the time people first arrived on the continent.

“This is the earliest evidence of hafted axes in the world. Nowhere else in the world do you get axes at this date,” says lead archaeologist Professor Sue O’Connor from the Australian National University.

“In Japan, such axes appear about 35,000 years ago. But in most countries in the world, they arrive with agriculture after 10,000 years ago.”

The axe, made of basalt that was ground into shape and polished, would have been used for a variety of tasks including chopping trees and making spears.

Fragments from the world’s oldest axe

Fragments from the world’s oldest axe, as seen under a microscope [Image: Australian Archaeology]

The discovery shows the first Australians were technological innovators, according to University of Sydney’s Professor Peter Hiscock who has examined the fragments.

Professor Sue O’Connor and Tim Maloney from Australian National University

Professor Sue O’Connor and Tim Maloney from Australian National University with similar examples to the newly-discovered world’s oldest axe [Image: ANU]

“Since there are no known axes in Southeast Asia during the Ice Age, this discovery shows us that when humans arrived in Australia, they began to experiment with new technologies, inventing ways to exploit the resources they encountered in the new Australian landscape.”

The team’s findings will be published in the journal Australian Archaeology this month.

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