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Found: Earliest Evidence of Humans Living on the Australian Coast

An island cave held artifacts from 50,000 years ago.

The excavation in the cave.
The excavation in the cave. The University of Western Australia

Fifty thousand years ago, Barrow Island, one of the largest islands in Western Australia, wasn’t an island at all. Back then, when this part of Australia was connected to the mainland by a stretch of earth that’s now underwater, hunter-gatherers found a remote cave on the coast and used it as a hunting shelter, a team of archeologists report.

In Boodie cave, the team discovered charcoal, animal remains, and artifacts that date back 50,000 years, they report in Quaternary Science Reviews. That date pushes back human occupation of this coastal three thousands years further into past and makes this some of the oldest evidence for human habitation in Australia.

The coast of Barrow island.
The coast of Barrow island. The University of Western Australia

About 10,000 years ago, the team found, humans moved into the cave more permanently. But after a few thousands years, as sea levels rose, the island was cut off from the mainland and the cave abandoned.