Bathroom Break Leads to Major Prehistoric Discovery

The find changes a lot of what we know about early Australians
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 5, 2016 4:49 PM CDT
Bathroom Break Leads to Major Prehistoric Discovery
Flinders Ranges, Australia   (Getty Images/TonyFeder)

(Newser) – "A man getting out of the car to go to the toilet led to the discovery of one of the most important sites in Australian pre-history," archaeologist Giles Hamm tells ABC News. Hamm was surveying a section of Australia's Flinders Ranges when his partner, aboriginal elder Clifford Coulthard, had to go to the bathroom. "Nature called and Cliff walked up this creek bed into this gorge and found this amazing spring surrounded by rock art," Hamm says. At the time, Hamm thought the newly discovered human settlement, a site called Warratyi, was only 5,000 years old. It turns out it's closer to 49,000 years old, and that has huge ramifications for our knowledge of ancient Australian civilization, Sky News reports. Hamm and his team published a study on Warratyi this week in Nature.

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The discovery of Warratyi in the arid interior of the continent means humans either arrived in Australia up to 10,000 years earlier than previously believed—or they expanded across the continent at a much quicker rate, Science Alert reports. Researchers at the site found 4,300 objects, including tools, and 200 bone fragments from multiple animals, including a 5,500-pound marsupial. The bones help explain how early Australians interacted with megafauna, including hunting them. The tools show Australians were using bone and stone axes earlier than believed and are evidence that early Australians developed some technologies on their own rather than adopting them from other peoples as previously believed. (Ninety rocks in Australia could rank up there with Stonehenge.)

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