World History & Research Reports

(AUSTRALIA) Kangaroo-Bone tools found in a remote cave have been dated as being more than 35,000 years old, making them some of the oldest in the nation #AceHistoryDesk report

#AceHistoryReport – Apr.09: It’s only now that better dating techniques could put the tools at between 35,000 and 46,000 years old:

Australian Geographic : Kangaroo-bone tools found in Riwi cave in the Kimberley are thought to be 35,000 years old: ‘Eight tools made from kangaroo bone have been excavated from Riwi Cave in the southern Kimberley, by archaeologists in the early 1990s with support from the nearby Mimbi community’

updated 17h ago

A photo of a cave in a large grey and yellow cliff with spinifex grass in foreground
Riwi Cave in the southern Kimberley is an important archaeological site and a place were people once lived. (Supplied)

Carved from Kangaroo ulna, tibia or fibula, the pointed bone tools were used to process spinifex resin, basket weaving, working plant fibres or to hunt birds and fish.

It’s rare the tools survived northern Australia’s harsh climate for almost 46 thousand years and shows the range of skills first Australians were using.

“Bone technology in Australia tends not to survive the long periods of time that people have been here,” Michelle Langley from Griffith University said.

“Getting them at this age, especially up in the north, is extremely rare.” 

“We knew bone tools were being used but we simply weren’t finding them.

“They were decomposing before we could pick them up again.

Riwi is a limestone cave on Gooniyandi country 90 kilometres east of Fitzroy Crossing and has previously yielded shell beads, a boomerang, seeds and charcoal from cooking fires.

A cross section of tools with measurements
Bone tools analysed by archaeologists date them between 35,000 and 46,000 years old(Supplied)

Window into early technology

Archaeology Professor Jane Balme from University of Western Australia has spent many hours in Riwi cave and worked with experts across the nation to identify the tools.

Professor Balme said the tools showed the importance of organic materials in the early technologies of First Nations people.

“They provide a window into a greater diversity of activities undertaken by people than are revealed by stone artefacts alone,” Professor Balme said.

Dr Langley said the tools would have taken time and skill to make.

“Using the natural anatomy of the bone, they’ve been pointed at one or both ends depending on what they’re used for. They’ve been flaked or ground into shape.”

Dr Langley said her work allows her to make connections to the past.

“It’s always exciting, especially when you get something unexpected,” she said.

“It’s always nice thinking about who might have used that. Is it a woman’s tools, men’s tools or was it something children were playing with.”

The research, which also involved Australian National University, has been published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology.

#AceHistoryDesk report ……..Published: Apr.09: 2021:

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