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calendar   Thursday - February 13, 2020

A&R Thursday Part 2

World’s Oldest Story And Least Mobile People

More than 37,000 years ago a volcano erupted in Australia. The lava flow buried some of the people who had been living there for tens of thousands of years, buried their homes as well, along with an axe, a tool that they may have invented. Their culture had a strong oral tradition, passing along stories word for word across the generations.

Their descendants still live there, and still tell the story of when the fire gods got angry. However, since that event they no longer build stone houses, because it’s just not worth it if the gods are going to come mess with them anyway.

And somewhere along the way, call it 6,600 years ago, they learned an easy way to keep fresh meat at hand, so they didn’t have to hunt much and nobody starved. They caught and raised eels. And they still do that today.

In Australia, the onset of human occupation (≥65 ka?) and dispersion across the continent are the subjects of intense debate and are critical to understanding global human migration routes. New-generation multi-collector mass spectrometers capable of high-precision 40Ar/39Ar dating of young (<500 ka) samples provide unprecedented opportunities to improve temporal constraints of archaeological events. In southeastern Australia, a novel approach to improving understanding of occupation involves dating key volcanic eruptions in the region, referenced to stone artifacts and Aboriginal oral traditions. The current study focuses on two monogenetic volcanoes in the Newer Volcanic Province of southeastern Australia: Budj Bim (previously Mount Eccles) and Tower Hill. Budj Bim and its surrounding lava landforms are of great cultural significance and feature prominently in the oral traditions of the Gunditjmara people. Tower Hill is of archaeological significance due to the occurrence of a stone tool beneath tephra. 40Ar/39Ar eruption ages of 36.9 ± 3.1 ka (95% confidence interval) and 36.8 ± 3.8 ka (2σ) were determined for the Budj Bim and Tower Hill volcanic complexes, respectively. The Tower Hill eruption age is a minimum age constraint for human presence in Victoria, consistent with published optically stimulated luminescence and 14C age constraints for the earliest known occupation sites in Tasmania, New South Wales, and South Australia. If aspects of oral traditions pertaining to Budj Bim or its surrounding lava landforms reflect volcanic activity, this could be interpreted as evidence for these being some of the oldest oral traditions in existence.

This was during the last Ice Age, tens of thousands of years before it ended. Sea levels were at their lowest ebb ever, and possibly plate tectonics were slightly different. It was almost possible to walk the thousands of miles from Thailand to Australia, only needing some kind of boat or raft for a few short journeys island to island. This trek probably took many generations, but once these folks arrived they put down roots and never went elsewhere ever again. Well, mostly.

Australian archaeologists have discovered a piece of the world’s oldest axe in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The axe fragment is about the size of a thumbnail and dates back to a Stone Age period of 45,000 to 49,000 years ago—at, or very soon after, the time humans arrived on the continent, and more than ten millennia earlier than any previous ground-edge axe discoveries.

The University of Sydney’s Professor Peter Hiscock is the lead and corresponding author of a new analysis of the fragment published in the journal Australian Archaeology. He said the axe revealed that the first Australians were technological innovators.

The axe fragment was initially excavated in the early 1990s by lead archaeologist Professor Sue O’Connor from the Australian National University (ANU) among a sequence of food scraps, tools, artwork and other artifacts from Carpenter’s Gap, a large rock shelter known to be one of the first sites occupied by modern humans.

“Nowhere else in the world do you get axes at this date. 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,” Professor O’Connor said.

In 2014, as further study was being carried out on the objects dug out of the site, Professor Hiscock’s team discovered a small fragment of a polished axe, recovered from the oldest levels of the site.

New studies of the fragment have revealed that it comes from an axe that had been shaped from basalt then polished by grinding it on another rock until it was very smooth.



Ok, inventing the axe - a sharp rock on a stick - is great. And not getting buried by a lava flow is great too. But sooner or later you want to eat something, and have a place to stay in that’s out of the weather. And she wants sushi. So what’re you gonna do?

How about aquaculture? Dig a few miles of canals, connect them to the local river, figure out how to build weirs, catch a bunch of migrating eels, and let them live in the canals until you’re hungry. Which is what they did, at least 6,600 years ago. And then sit back and enjoy the easy picking protein for the next 6,400 years. Sweet. Let’s build some houses; we’re staying.

An Aboriginal aquaculture farm that is older than the pyramids, the Acropolis and Stonehenge has been awarded World Heritage Status by the United Nations.

A complex system of weirs, channels and dams at Budj Bim, in southwest Victoria has become the first World Heritage site in Australia to receive the coveted UNESCO protection solely for its Aboriginal cultural importance.

The Gunditjmara people began to engineer the land around Lake Condah, which lies on a long-extinct volcano, about 6600 years ago in order to catch kooyang eels.

The eel farm was given World Heritage Status at a meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan on Saturday.

The area was still in use when those white devils showed up around 1840; journal entries of the time showed that they knew these water works were for eel farming. But they drained the lake and damned the streams anyway, because ...pphht, natives, who cares, amIright?

The sophisticated system supplied the settlement with enough food to sustain them year-round and also to undertake trade.

The site features the remnants of about 300 round stone huts that are the only remaining permanent houses built by an indigenous community in Australia - busting the myth that all Aboriginal people were nomadic.

Gunditjmara brought water and young kooyang eels from the creek to low-lying areas through hundreds of metres of excavated channels

The C-shaped basalt block structures up to 4 metres across appear to be house foundations and are clustered in the same area as the fish traps. 

Monash University indigenous archaeology professor Ian Niven wrote in The Conversation of the 1841 visit to the site by Australia’s Chief Protector of Aborigines, George Augustus Robinson.

Robinson described Budj Bim as: ‘an immense piece of ground trenched and banked, resembling the work of civilized man but which on inspection I found to be the work of the Aboriginal natives, purposefully constructed for catching eels.’

European settlers then altered the flow of Lake Condah’s waters by installing drainage channels in the 1880s and 1950s, obscuring its cultural history until heavy winter rains in 1977 revealed how some Aboriginal-made channels fed water and eels into natural depressions. 


and the eel farm still works today

Pretty cool. But wait, there’s more! The recent brush fires all over Australia have revealed other canals, showing that the eel farm was a good bit bigger than thought.

Australian bushfires destroyed a large area of land and vegetation, but that has revealed extensive water channels built by indigenous Australians thousands of years ago, to trap and harvest eels for food, in the state of Victoria. 

According to UNESCO, the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape is considered to be one of the world’s most extensive and oldest aquaculture systems, consisting of dams, channels and weirs.
...
The existence of the aquatic system has been known to the archaeologists and it was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, in July last year. More sections of the water channels were revealed when the fires ravaged the state in December 2019.
...
Gunditjmara representative Denis Rose, project manager at non-profit group Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, told CNN that the system was significantly bigger than what was previously recorded.

“When we returned to the area, we found a channel hidden in the grass and other vegetation. It was about 25 meters (82 feet) in length, which was a fairly substantial size,” CNN quoted Rose as saying.

New structures appeared when the landscape burned. According to the Aboriginal Corporation’s website, the aquaculture system, which is part of the Budj Bim National Park, was built by the indigenous population using the abundant volcanic rocks from a now-dormant volcano in the area.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 02/13/2020 at 01:27 PM   
Filed Under: • Archeology / Anthropology •  
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