Optical dating at Deaf Adder Gorge, Northern Territory, indicates human occupation between 53,000 and 60,000 years ago

22nd May 2014

Bert Roberts, Rhys Jones and Mike A. Smith

Introduction*

Excavations in 198 1 at the Nauwalabila I (Lindner Site) rockshelter in Deaf Adder Gorge revealed a 2.5 m sequence of sands resting on 0.4 m of compacted sand and heavily weathered sandstone rubble (Jones and Johnson 1985:172–183). Within this profile, all of 80 superimposed excavation units, each 3–4 cm thick, contained stone artefacts. Of a total of ~30,200 artefacts, 230 came from the basal layer of sand and interlocked rubble into which post-depositional movement of artefacts can be discounted. The density of charcoal declined exponentially with depth, with only tiny specks at depths of 1.75 m and none at all in the lowest metre. Radiocarbon dates obtained during the 1981 project, together with those from Kamminga and Allen (1973). provide a consistent age-depth curve back to ~27 kyr (calibrated to calendar years) at a depth of 1.78 m. Beyond this is a substantial time period which cannot be dated by 14C. One of us (RJ) wrote that this was a site ‘which must be tested to see whether or not we can obtain direct evidence for the occupation of Australia greater than the ca 35–40 kyr limits on conventional radiocarbon dating methods’, and suggested that ‘one potential area of enquiry might be via new developments in the thermoluminescence method’ (Jones and Johnson 1985:182–183).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Roberts, R.G., R. Jones and M.A. Smith
Optical dating at Deaf Adder Gorge, Northern Territory, indicates human occupation between 53,000 and 60,000 years ago
December 1993
37
58–59
Short Report
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