35,500 year old axe ― world’s oldest ― discovered in Australia
2010-11-08 0:00

By Subir Ghosh | DigitalJournal.com


Archaeologists have found a piece of a stone axe 35,500 years old on sacred Aboriginal land in Australia, the oldest object of its type ever found.


The pieces of ground-edge stone axe was found in west Arnhem Land.
Credit: Monash University/Bruno David

The shard of stone was found in Australia’s lush and remote far northern reaches in May, and has marks that prove it comes from a ground-edge stone axe. The discovery was made by a Monash University researcher and a team of international experts. The previous oldest ground-edge axes were 20,000 to 30,000 years old, and the conventional belief was that the tool first emerged in Europe when populations grew and forests flourished at the end of the last Ice Age.

While there have been reports of much older axes being found in New Guinea, the implements were not ground. "This suggests that axe technology evolved into the later use of grinding for the sharper, more symmetrical and maintainable edges this generates," Dr Bruno David of Monash University said in a statement. "The ground-axe fragment is dated to 35,000 years ago, which pre-dates the oldest examples of ground-edge implements dated to 22,000-30,000 years ago from Japan and Northern Australia."

While there has been evidence for stone tool-use among the earliest hominid ancestors 3.4 million years ago, the use of grinding to sharpen stone tool edges such as axes is associated with modern humans.

The excavations were undertaken in May this year at Nawarla Gabarnmang in Northern Australia. Nawarla Gabarnmang is a large rock-shelter in Jawoyn Aboriginal country in southwestern Arnhem Land. Ray Whear and Chris Morgan of the Jawoyn Association discovered the rock-shelter perchance while flying by helicopter in June 2006. The land is sacred to Aboriginal people.

Dr David explained the significance of the finding:

"Axes fulfilled a unique position within the Aboriginal toolkit as long use-life chopping tools, were labour intensive to manufacture and highly valued. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, axes were understood by local Aboriginal communities to carry with them the ancestral forces which characterised the particular quarry from which they came.
"Their trade across the landscape moved not just the tool itself, but more importantly the symbolic and ancestral forces of their point of origin. The Nawarla Gabarnmang axe, found some 40km from its source, is evidence of 35,000 years of the movement of tools, technologies and ideas across the northern Australian landscape. This new evidence for the earliest securely dated ground-edge implement in the world indicates that Australia was an important locale of technological innovation 35,000 years ago."


Article from: digitaljournal.com




World’s oldest stone axe

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