Where Sea Was Once Land: Underwater Aboriginal Sites in Australia

James Marshall
July 4, 2020

Aboriginal sites have been unearthed off the Australian coast for the first time by archaeologists, paving the way for the discovery of former settlement areas covered by water since the end of the last ice Age. Numerous items had marine life growing on them, but the team was able to identify a number of worked stone tools, including two possible grinding stones. They provide new evidence of ways of life from when the seabed was dry land and may have supported a dense population.

"Australia is a massive continent but few people realize that more than 30 percent of its land mass was drowned by sea-level rise after the last ice age".

They found two sites outside northwestern Australia.

While the newly discovered archaeology rich underwater Aboriginal sites do not actually fall within the proposed dredging area for the new pipeline, scientists have raised concerns about the destruction of yet undiscovered underwater sites of this kind.

Cynics might think the "real" reason that the updated Australian Heritage Laws don't specifically protect archaeological underwater Aboriginal sites is because they often lie on resource rich landscapes and transport channels for these valuable resources.

"Now we finally have the first proof that at least some of this archaeological evidence survived the process", he said. At one point, dry land stretched out 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the current shoreline.

Divers record Aboriginal artefacts in the Cape Bruguieres Channel. Now the experts believe that there are many more to be discovered.

As per the experts, the Aboriginal people in Australia have a shared history of colonization and forced removal of their children. This site is estimated to be at least 8,500 years old.

"Although these sites are located in relatively shallow water, there will likely be more in deeper water offshore", she said.

Reportedly, divers were sent to explore the probable sites, and used a number of techniques, such as underwater and aerial remote sensing.

Dr Benjamin also pointed out that while Australia's Underwater Cultural Heritage Act was updated last year to automatically include sunken aircraft and shipwrecks older than 75 years, it doesn't automatically protect ancient underwater Aboriginal sites.

As per Benjamin, managing, investigating, and understanding the archaeology of the Australian continental shelf in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional owners and custodians will help the study.

"Our results represent the first step in a journey of discovery to explain the potential of archeology on continental shelves that can fill an important gap in the human history of the continent", he added.

Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Peter Jeffries said further exploration could unearth similar cultural materials.

Modern-day Aboriginals still consider these marine environments to be sacred and they are now known as "Sea Country".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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