CANBERRA, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) - Archaeologists in central Australia have discovered that humans arrived in the region 10,000 years earlier than previously thought.
Researchers excavating a rock shelter site in South Australia's Flinders Ranges, 550 kilometers north of Adelaide, believe they found evidence of a human presence in the area dating back 49,000 years.
The artefacts, including burnt egg shells and stone tools, challenge the widely-held belief that the continent's first humans, which arrived in New South Wales (NSW) on the east coast 50,000 years ago, took up to 11,000 years to reach Australia's center. The latest discovery indicates that figure is more likely to be 1,000 years.
Giles Hamm, the lead researcher of the project, said the discovery would question ideas of how and when such tools came to be used in Australia.
"The old idea is that people might have come from the East, from the Levant, out of Africa, and these modern humans may have come with a package of innovative technologies," Hamm told the Guardian Australia on Thursday.
"But the development of these fine stone tools, the bone technology, we think that happened as a local innovation, due to a local cultural evolution."
Hamm said he and local indigenous elder Clifford Coulthard found the site, known as Warratyi, by accident while surveying gorges in the northern Flinders Ranges.
"Nature called and Cliff walked up this creek bed into this gorge and found this amazing spring surrounded by rock art," Hamm told the ABC.
"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."
Hamm said that while initially surveying the gorge he noticed a cave with a blackened roof 20 meters above the creek bed but admitted he thought the site would reach back 5000 years.
"Immediately when we saw that we thought 'Wow, that's people lighting fires inside that rock shelter, that's human activity'," he said.
The team spent nine years excavating the site at a depth of one meter, recovering approximately 4,300 artefacts and 200 bone fragments from 16 mammals.