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|History of Australia|
The prehistory of Australia is the period between the first human habitation of the Australian continent and the colonization of Australia in 1788, which marks the start of consistent documentation of Australia. This period is estimated to have lasted between 40,000 and 60,000 years,or longer.
This era is referred as prehistory rather than history because there was no consistent written documentation of human events before 1788. As no metal technology was developed, the whole period falls into the Stone Age. Australia, in contrast to New Guinea, has generally been held not to have had a Neolithic period, with a hunter-gatherer lifestyle continuing until the arrival of Europeans. This view can be challenged in terms of the definition of agriculture, but "Neolithic" remains a rarely-used and not very useful concept in discussing Australian prehistory.
Human prehistory is the period between the use of the first stone tools c. 3.3 million years ago by hominins and the invention of writing systems. The earliest writing systems appeared c. 5,300 years ago, but it took thousands of years for writing to be widely adopted, and it was not used in some human cultures until the 19th century or even until the present. The end of prehistory therefore came at very different dates in different places, and the term is less often used in discussing societies where prehistory ended relatively recently.
The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric period during which stone was widely used to make implements with an edge, a point, or a percussion surface. The period lasted roughly 3.4 million years and ended between 8700 BCE and 2000 BCE with the advent of metalworking.
New Guinea is a large island separated by a shallow sea from the rest of the Australian continent. It is the world's second-largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 785,753 km2 (303,381 sq mi), and the largest wholly or partly within the Southern Hemisphere and Oceania.
Yuval Noah Harari has argued that "[t]he journey of the first humans to Australia is one of the most important events in history ... It was the first time any human had managed to leave the Afro-Asian ecological system."
Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian and a professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of the international bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014), Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016), and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018). His writings examine free will, consciousness, and intelligence.
The earliest evidence of humans in Australia is at least 65,000 years old.
There is considerable discussion among archeologists as to the route taken by the first migrants to Australia, widely taken to be ancestors of the modern Aborigines.Migration took place during the closing stages of the Pleistocene, when sea levels were much lower than they are today. Repeated episodes of extended glaciation during the Pleistocene epoch resulted in decreases of sea levels by more than 100 metres in Australasia. People appear to have arrived by sea during a period of glaciation, when New Guinea and Tasmania were joined to the continent of Australia.
The Pleistocene is the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archaeology.
A glacier is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight; it forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. Glaciers slowly deform and flow due to stresses induced by their weight, creating crevasses, seracs, and other distinguishing features. They also abrade rock and debris from their substrate to create landforms such as cirques and moraines. Glaciers form only on land and are distinct from the much thinner sea ice and lake ice that form on the surface of bodies of water.
In geochronology, an epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale that is longer than an age but shorter than a period. The current epoch is the Holocene Epoch of the Quaternary Period. Rock layers deposited during an epoch are called a series. Series are subdivisions of the stratigraphic column that, like epochs, are subdivisions of the geologic timescale. Like other geochronological divisions, epochs are normally separated by significant changes in the rock layers to which they correspond.
The continental coastline extended much further out into the Timor Sea, and Australia and New Guinea formed a single landmass (known as Sahul), connected by an extensive land bridge across the Arafura Sea, Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Strait. Nevertheless, the sea still presented a major obstacle so it is theorised that these ancestral people reached Australia by island hopping.Two routes have been proposed. One follows an island chain between Sulawesi and New Guinea and the other reaches North Western Australia via Timor. Rupert Gerritsen has suggested an alternative theory, involving accidental colonisation as a result of tsunamis. The journey still required sea travel however, making them amongst the world's earlier mariners.
The Timor Sea is a relatively shallow sea bounded to the north by the island of Timor, to the east by the Arafura Sea, to the south by Australia.
The continent of Australia, sometimes known in technical contexts by the names Sahul, Australinea or Meganesia to distinguish it from the country of Australia, consists of the land masses which sit on Australia's continental plate. This includes mainland Australia, Tasmania, and the island of New Guinea. Situated in the geographical region of Oceania, it is the smallest of the seven traditional continents in the English conception.
A land bridge, in biogeography, is an isthmus or wider land connection between otherwise separate areas, over which animals and plants are able to cross and colonise new lands. A land bridge can be created by marine regression, in which sea levels fall, exposing shallow, previously submerged sections of continental shelf; or when new land is created by plate tectonics; or occasionally when the sea floor rises due to post-glacial rebound after an ice age.
Scott Cane wrote in 2013 that the first wave may have been prompted by the eruption of Toba and if they arrived around 70,000 years ago could have crossed the water from Timor, when the sea level was low - but if they came later, around 50,000 years ago, a more likely route would be through the Moluccas to New Guinea. Given that the likely landfall regions have been under around 50 metres of water for the last 15,000 years, it is unlikely that the timing will ever be established with certainty.
The minimum widely accepted timeframe for the arrival of humans in Australia is placed at least 40,000 years ago.Many sites dating from this time period have been excavated. In Arnhem Land the Malakunanja II rock shelter has been dated to around 65,000 years old.
Radiocarbon dating suggests that they lived in and around Sydney for at least 30,000 years.In an archaeological dig in Parramatta, Western Sydney, it was found that the Aboriginals used charcoal, stone tools and possible ancient campfires. Near Penrith, a far western suburb of Sydney, numerous Aboriginal stone tools were found in Cranebrook Terraces gravel sediments having dates of 45,000 to 50,000 years BP. This would mean that there was human settlement in Sydney earlier than thought.
Archaeological evidence indicates human habitation at the upper Swan River, Western Australia by about 40,000 years ago.Tasmania, which was connected to the continent by a land bridge, was inhabited at least 30,000 years ago. Others have claimed that some sites are up to 60,000 years old, but these claims are not universally accepted. Palynological evidence from South Eastern Australia suggests an increase in fire activity dating from around 120,000 years ago. This has been interpreted as representing human activity, but the dating of the evidence has been strongly challenged.
Charles Dortch has identified chert and calcrete flake stone tools, found at Rottnest Island in Western Australia, as possibly dating to at least 50,000 years ago.This seems to tie in accurately with U/Th and 14C results of a flint tool found embedded in Tamala limestone (Aminozone C) as well as both mtDNA and Y chromosome studies on the genetic distance of Australian Aboriginal genomes from African and other Eurasian ones.
The sharing of animal and plant species between Australia-New Guinea and nearby Indonesian islands is another consequence of the early land bridges, which closed when sea levels rose with the end of the last glacial period. The sea level stabilised to near its present levels about 6,000 years ago, flooding the land bridge between Australia and New Guinea.[ citation needed ]
It is unknown how many populations settled in Australia prior to European colonisation. Both "trihybrid" and single-origin hypotheses have received extensive discussion.Keith Windschuttle, known for his belief that Aboriginal pre-history has become politicised, argues that the assumption of a single origin is tied into ethnic solidarity, and multiple entry was suppressed because it could be used to justify white seizure of Aboriginal lands.
Human genomic differences are being studied to find possible answers, but there is still insufficient evidence to distinguish a "wave invasion model" from a "single settlement" one. Some Y chromosomal studies indicate a recent influx of Y chromosomes from the Indian subcontinent. A 2012 paper by Alan J. Redd et al. on this topic notes that the indicated influx period corresponds to the timing of various other changes, specifically mentioning "The divergence times reported here correspond with a series of changes in the Australian anthropological record between 5,000 years ago and 3,000 years ago, including the introduction of the dingo; the spread of the Australian Small Tool tradition; the appearance of plant-processing technologies, especially complex detoxification of cycads; and the expansion of the Pama-Nyungan language over seven-eighths of Australia." Although previously linked to the pariah dogs of India, recent testing of the mitochondrial DNA of dingos shows a closer connection to the dogs of Eastern Asia and North America, suggesting an introduction as a result of the Austronesian expansion from Southern China to Timor over the last 5,000 years.The recent finding of kangaroo ticks on the pariah dogs of Thailand further suggests that this genetic expansion may have been a two-way process.
Archaeological evidence from ash deposits in the Coral Sea indicates that fire was already a significant part of the Australian landscape over 100,000 years ago.Over the last 70,000 years it became more frequent with one explanation being the use by hunter-gatherers as a tool to drive game, to produce a green flush of new growth to attract animals, and to open up impenetrable forest. Gammage claims that dense forest became more open sclerophyll forest, open forest became grassland and fire-tolerant species became more predominant: in particular, eucalyptus, acacia, banksia, casuarina and grasses.
The changes to the fauna were even more dramatic: the megafauna, species significantly larger than humans, disappeared, and many of the smaller species disappeared too. All told, about 60 different vertebrates became extinct, including the Diprotodon family (very large marsupial herbivores that looked rather like hippos), several large flightless birds, carnivorous kangaroos, Wonambi naracoortensis , a 5-metre snake, a five-metre lizard and Meiolania , a tortoise the size of a small car.
The direct cause of the mass extinctions is uncertain: it may have been fire, hunting, climate change or a combination of all or any of these factors, although the rapid decline of many species is still a matter of dispute.With no large herbivores to keep the understorey vegetation down and rapidly recycle soil nutrients with their dung, fuel build-up became more rapid and fires burned hotter, further changing the landscape. Against this theory is the evidence that in fact careful seasonal fires from Aboriginal land management practices reduced fuel loads, and prevent wildfires like those seen since European settlement.
The period from 18,000 to 15,000 years ago saw increased aridity of the continent with lower temperatures and less rainfall than currently prevails. Between 16,000 and 14,000 years BP the rate of sea level rise was most rapid rising about 15 metres in 300 years according to Peter D. Ward.At the end of the Pleistocene, roughly 13,000 years ago, the Torres Strait connection, the Bassian Plain between modern-day Victoria and Tasmania, and the link from Kangaroo Island began disappearing under the rising sea. Various Aboriginal groups seem to have preserved oral histories of the Flandrian sea level rise, in the Kimberley and Northern Australia and also in the isolation of Rottnest Island from the southwestern Western Australian coast 12,000 years ago. The finding of a chert deposit in the strait between the island and the mainland, and the use of chert as a predominate rock in the lithic industries of the region, enables the date to be fairly well established.
From that time on, the Aboriginal Tasmanians were geographically isolated. By 9,000 years ago small islands in Bass Strait, as well as Kangaroo Island were no longer inhabited.
Linguistic and genetic evidence shows that there has been long-term contact between Australians in the far north and the Austronesian people of modern-day New Guinea and the islands, but that this appears to have been mostly trade with a little intermarriage, as opposed to direct colonisation. Macassan praus are also recorded in the Aboriginal stories from Broome to the Gulf of Carpentaria, and there were some semi-permanent settlements established, and cases of Aboriginal settlers finding a home in Indonesia.
The last 5,000 years were characterised by a general amelioration of the climate and an increase in temperature and rainfall and the development of a sophisticated tribal social structure.The main items of trade were songs and dances, along with flint, precious stones, shells, seeds, spears, food items, etc.
The Pama–Nyungan language family, which extends from Cape York to the southwest, covered all of Australia except for the southeast and Arnhem Land. There was also a marked continuity of religious ideas and stories throughout the country, with some songlines crossing from one side of the continent to the other.
The initiation of young boys and girls into adult knowledge was marked by ceremony and feasting. Behaviour was governed by strict rules regarding responsibilities to and from uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters as well as in-laws. The kinship systems observed by many communities included a division into moieties, with restrictions on intermarrying dictated by the moiety an individual belonged to.
Describing prehistoric Aboriginal culture and society during her 1999 Boyer Lecture, Australian historian and anthropologist Inga Clendinnen explained:
"They [...] developed steepling thought-structures – intellectual edifices so comprehensive that every creature and plant had its place within it. They travelled light, but they were walking atlases, and walking encyclopedias of natural history. [...] Detailed observations of nature were elevated into drama by the development of multiple and multi-level narratives: narratives which made the intricate relationships between these observed phenomena memorable.
These dramatic narratives identified the recurrent and therefore the timeless and the significant within the fleeting and the idiosyncratic. They were also very human, charged with moral significance but with pathos, and with humour, too – after all, the Dreamtime creatures were not austere divinities, but fallible beings who happened to make the world and everything in it while going about their creaturely business. Traditional Aboriginal culture effortlessly fuses areas of understanding which Europeans 'naturally' keep separate: ecology, cosmology, theology, social morality, art, comedy, tragedy – the observed and the richly imagined fused into a seamless whole."
Political and religious power rested with community elders rather than hereditary chiefs. Disputes were settled communally in accordance with an elaborate system of tribal law. Vendettas and feuds were not uncommon, especially when laws and taboos were broken. Cremation of the dead was practised by 25,000 years ago, possibly before anywhere else on Earth, and early artwork in Koonalda Cave, Nullarbor Plain, has been dated back to 20,000 years ago.
It has been estimated that in 1788 there were approximately half a million Australian Aboriginal people, although other estimates have put the figure as high as a million or more.These populations formed hundreds of distinct cultural and language groups. Most were hunter-gatherers with rich oral histories and advanced land-management practices developed over thousands of years since the ecological destruction of the initial colonisation phase.
In the most fertile and populous areas, they lived in semi-permanent settlements. In the fertile Murray Basin, the gathering and hunting economies to be found elsewhere on the continent had in large part given way to fish farming. Sturt's expedition along the Murray led to a belief that the Aboriginal groups there were practicing agriculture as a result of the presence of large haystacks, used as permanent grain stores.
Little interest was shown by white settlers in the bulk of the Aboriginal people, and so little is known of their cultures and languages. Diseases decimated some indigenous populations just prior to the period where most Aborigines came into direct contact with Europeans.[ citation needed ] When Cook first claimed New South Wales for Britain in 1770, the native population may have consisted of as many as 600 distinct tribes speaking 200–250 distinct languages and over 600 distinct dialects and sub-dialects.
Aboriginal people have no cultural memory of living anywhere outside Australia. Nevertheless, the people living along the northern coastline of Australia, in the Kimberley, Arnhem Land, Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York had encounters with various visitors for many thousands of years. People and traded goods moved freely between Australia and New Guinea up to and even after the eventual flooding of the land bridge by rising sea levels, which was completed about 6,000 years ago.
However, trade and intercourse between the separated lands continued across the newly formed Torres Strait, whose 150 km-wide channel remained readily navigable with the chain of Torres Strait Islands and reefs affording intermediary stopping points. The islands were settled by different seafaring Melanesian cultures such as the Torres Strait Islanders over 2500 years ago, and cultural interactions continued via this route with the Aboriginal people of northeast Australia.
Indonesian "Bajau" fishermen from the Spice Islands (e.g. Banda) have fished off the coast of Australia for hundreds of years. Macassan traders from Sulawesi regularly visited the coast of northern Australia to fish for trepang, an edible sea cucumber to trade with the Chinese since at least the early 18th century.
There was a high degree of cultural exchange, evidenced in Aboriginal rock and bark paintings, the introduction of technologies such as dug-out canoes and items such as tobacco and tobacco pipes, Macassan words in Aboriginal languages (e.g. Balanda for white person), and descendants of Malay people in Australian Aboriginal communities and vice versa, as a result of intermarriage and migration.
The myths of the people of Arnhem Land have preserved accounts of the trepang-catching, rice-growing Baijini people, who, according to the myths, were in Australia in the earliest times, before the Macassans. The Baijini have been variously interpreted by modern researchers as a different group of presumably South East Asian people, such as Bajau visitors to Australia who may have visited Arnhem Land before the Macassans,as a mythological reflection of the experiences of some Yolŋu people who have travelled to Sulawesi with the Macassans and came back, or, in more fringe views, even as visitors from China.
In 1944, a small number of copper coins with Arabic inscriptions were discovered on a beach in Jensen Bay on Marchinbar Island, part of the Wessel Islands of the Northern Territory. These coins were later identified as from the Kilwa Sultanate of east Africa. Only one such coin had ever previously been found outside east Africa (unearthed during an excavation in Oman). The inscriptions on the Jensen Bay coins identify a ruling Sultan of Kilwa, but it is unclear whether the ruler was from the 10th century or the 14th century. This discovery has been of interest to those historians who believe it likely that people made landfall in Australia or its offshore islands before the first generally accepted such discovery, by the Dutch sailor Willem Janszoon in 1606.
Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from New Guinea island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Tonga.
Arnhem Land is one of the five regions of the Northern Territory of Australia. It is located in the north-eastern corner of the territory and is around 500 km (310 mi) from the territory capital Darwin. The region has an area of 97,000 km2 (37,000 sq mi), which also covers the area of Kakadu National Park, and a population of 16,230. In 1623, Dutch East India Company captain William van Colster sailed into the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape Arnhem is named after his ship, the Arnhem, which itself was named after the city of Arnhem in the Netherlands.
Keith Windschuttle is an Australian writer, historian, and former ABC board member.
Trepangers from the Makassar region of Sulawesi began visiting the coast of northern Australia sometime around the middle of the 1700s, first in the Kimberley region, and some decades later in Arnhem Land, to collect and process trepang, a marine invertebrate sea cucumber prized for its culinary value generally and for its medicinal properties in Chinese markets. The term Makassan is generally used to apply to all the trepangers who came to Australia, although some were from other islands in the Indonesian Archipelago, including Timor, Rote and Aru.
There are several hundred Indigenous peoples of Australia; many are groupings that existed before the British colonisation of Australia in 1788. Within each country, people lived in clan groups: extended families defined by various forms of Australian Aboriginal kinship. Inter-clan contact was common, as was inter-country contact, but there were strict protocols around this contact.
Aboriginal Australians are the various indigenous peoples of the Australian mainland, Tasmania, and often the Tiwi people. This group contains many distinct peoples that have developed across Australia for over 50,000 years. These peoples have a broadly shared, though complex, genetic history, but it is only in the last two hundred years that they have been defined and started to self identify as a single group. The definition of the term "Aboriginal" has changed over time and place, with the importance of family lineage, self identification and community acceptance all being of varying importance. In the past, Aboriginal Australians lived over large sections of the continental shelf and were isolated on many of the smaller offshore islands when the land was inundated at the start of the inter-glacial. However, they are considered distinct from the Torres Strait Islander people, despite extensive cultural exchange.
Australian archaeology is a large sub-field in the discipline of archaeology. Archaeology in Australia takes three main forms, Aboriginal archaeology, historical archaeology and maritime archaeology. Bridging these sub-disciplines is the important concept of cultural heritage management which encompasses Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sites, historical sites and maritime sites.
The History of Indigenous Australians began at least 65,000 years ago when humans first populated Australia.
Indigenous Australians are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia, descended from groups that existed in Australia and surrounding islands before British colonisation. The time of arrival of the first Indigenous Australians is a matter of debate among researchers. The earliest conclusively human remains found in Australia are those of Mungo Man LM3 and Mungo Lady, which have been dated to around 50,000 years BP. Recent archaeological evidence from the analysis of charcoal and artefacts revealing human use suggests a date as early as 65,000 BP. Luminescence dating has suggested habitation in Arnhem Land as far back as 60,000 years BP. Genetic research has inferred a date of habitation as early as 80,000 years BP. Other estimates have ranged up to 100,000 years and 125,000 years BP.
Prehistoric Asia refers to events in Asia during the period of human existence prior to the invention of writing systems or the documentation of recorded history. This includes portions of the Eurasian land mass currently or traditionally considered as the continent of Asia. The continent is commonly described as the region east of the Ural Mountains, the Caucasus Mountains, the Caspian Sea and Black Sea, bounded by the Pacific, Indian, and Arctic Oceans. This article gives an overview of the many regions of Asia during prehistoric times.
There have been several models of early human migration to the Philippines. Since H. Otley Beyer first proposed his wave migration theory, numerous scholars have approached the question of how, when and why humans first came to the Philippines.
Baijini are a race of people, mythical or historical is unknown, mentioned in the Djanggawul song cycle of the aboriginal Yolngu people of Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory. The myths regarding them have become part of a debate about pre-European presences on the Australian continent, much like the discovery of medieval Kilwa Sultanate coinage on Marchinbar Island.
The Ngaro were a seafaring Australian Aborigine group of people that inhabited the Whitsunday Islands and coastal regions of Queensland, in an area that archaeologically shows evidence of human habitation since 9000 BP. Ngaro society was destroyed by warfare with traders, colonists, and the Australian Native Police. The Native Police Corps forcibly relocated the remaining Ngaro aborigines in 1870 to a penal colony on Palm Island or to the lumber mills of Brampton Island as forced laborers.
Kartan industry is the archaeological production, probably more than 10,000 years ago, of a large quantity of exceptionally large stone tools that were found on Ramindjeri Karta also known since 1802 as Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
Aboriginal Victorians, the indigenous Australians of Victoria, Australia, occupied the land for tens of thousands of years prior to European settlement. Aboriginal people have lived a semi-nomadic existence of fishing, hunting and gathering, and farming eels in Victoria for at least 40,000 years.
Aboriginal sites of Victoria form an important record of human occupation for probably more than 40,000 years. They may be identified from archaeological remains, historical and ethnographic information or continuing oral traditions and encompass places where rituals and ceremonies were performed, occupation sites where people ate, slept and carried out their day to day chores, and ephemeral evidence of people passing through the landscape, such as a discarded axe head or isolated artefact.
The Bininj Kunwok, alternatively Bininj Gunwok, a recent term referring to speakers of a dialect cluster of several mutually intelligible languages, are an indigenous Australian people of Western Arnhem land in the Northern Territory. In 2015 a spelling change was agreed to standardise the spelling across all Bininj Kunwok languages, using the 'k' instead of 'g' form, though older documents still use the 'g' form.
Wurrwurrwuy stone arrangements is a heritage-listed indigenous site at Yirrkala, Northern Territory, Australia. It is also known as Wurrwurrwuy. It was added to the Australian National Heritage List on 9 August 2013.