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World's oldest ground-edge stone axe found in Australia

The axe fragment is about the size of a thumbnail and dates back to a Stone Age period of 45000 to 49000 years ago.

May 12, 2016 16:00 IST
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AxeAustralian archaeologists on 11 May 2016 announced that they have discovered a piece of the world's oldest axe. The axe was discovered in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The analysis of the fragment was published in the journal Australian Archaeology on 9 May 2016.

Key highlights of the axe

The axe fragment is about the size of a thumbnail and dates back to a Stone Age period of 45000 to 49000 years ago.

It is an axe with a handle attached.

Its antiquity coincides with or immediately follows the arrival of humans on the Australian landmass.

It is the earliest evidence of a ground-edge axe yet reported in the world. In Japan, such axes appear about 35000 years ago. However, in most countries in the world they arrive with agriculture after 10000 years ago.

New studies of the fragment 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.

The axe fragment was initially excavated in the early 1990s by Professor O’Connor at Carpenter’s Gap 1. The Carpenter’s Gap 1 is a large rock shelter in Windjana Gorge National Park in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

This type of axe would have been very useful for a variety of tasks including making spears and chopping down or taking the bark off trees.

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