Category Archives: AUSTRALIA

Two-ton, 1,000-year-old ‘jars of the dead’ baffle archaeologists

Two-ton, 1,000-year-old ‘jars of the dead’ baffle archaeologists

The discovery of more than one hundred new stone “jars of the dead” dating more than a thousand years ago has deepened Laos’ enduring archaeological enigma. The cup-like carved stones vary in size, ranging from 10ft (3m) in height and two tons in weight. Exactly how the jars were used remains an enigma, however, it has been suggested that they served as burial urns for storing human bodies.

However local legend claims the urns were goblets once used by a drunk horde of giants.

Australian National University (ANU) researchers discovered the new jar sites in a remote forest during a survey beginning in 2015.

The jars were buried with decorated stone discs, strange small clay jars and more conventional stone age artefacts like beads and jewellery.

The latest landmark discoveries suggest the mysterious practices involving the jars were more widely performed than previously thought, and is hoped could help finally interpret their meaning.

Jars of the dead: Australian National University researchers have discovered new jar sites.
Jars of the dead: Exactly how the jars were used remains an enigma.

Laos’ jars of the dead remain one of archaeology’s most intriguing enigmas.

Archaeologists currently believe the giant stone urns were involved with disposing of the dead.

However, almost nothing is known for certain about the jars’ original function and where those who originally deposited them are now found.

Archaeologists led by Nicholas Skopal and Dr Dougald O’Reilly from ANU have now catalogued 137 new jars, found across 15 freshly-identified sites, in a remote and mountainous forest.

The discoveries show that the ancient burial practices associated with the jars “were more widespread than previously thought,” said Dr O’Reilly.

Mr Skopal added: “These new sites have really only been visited by the occasional tiger hunter.”

“Now we’ve rediscovered them, we’re hoping to build a clear picture about this culture and how it disposed of its dead.

There is no evidence that the region where the jars were found was occupied.

Jars of the dead: Were the giant jars used for burial urns?
Jars of the dead: The urns remain one of archaeology’s most intriguing enigmas

Dr O’Reilly said: “Why these sites were chosen as the final resting place for the jars is still a mystery.

“It’s apparent the jars, some weighing several tonnes, were carved in quarries, and somehow transported, often several kilometres, to their present locations.”

Another hypothesis suggests that the jars were made to capture monsoonal rainwater for later boiling and use by caravans passing through the region.

Possible Use for Australia’s Ancient Boomerangs Tested

Possible Use for Australia’s Ancient Boomerangs Tested

Possible Use for Australia’s Ancient Boomerangs Tested

A new study into the multipurpose uses of boomerangs has highlighted that hardwood objects were used to shape the edges of stone tools used by Australian Indigenous communities.  

The research, published in PLOS ONE, demonstrated how boomerangs could function as lithic (or stone) tool retouchers by investigating the use-wear generated on the boomerangs’ surfaces during retouching activities. 

It was found that these use-wear impacts on boomerangs were comparable to those observed on Paleolithic bone retouching tools, which date back to more than 200,000 years ago.  

The research adds to a previous study into boomerang uses led by the same team from Griffith University’s Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, but also highlights the broader topic of the multipurpose application of many Indigenous tools throughout Australia.  

ARCHE PhD Candidate Eva Francesca Martellotta said the study revealed a deep functional connection between bone and wooden objects – a topic rarely investigated in archaeological contexts. 

“Studying the shaping techniques applied to stone tools is crucial to understanding our past,” Martellotta said.  

“Thinking in modern terms, it is like understanding the difference between a butcher knife and a bread knife: their blades have different shapes – one straight, the other serrated – because they are used to cut different materials. That is, to perform different functions. 

 “Australian boomerangs are mainly used as hunting and fighting weapons. However, they also have many other functions, linked to the daily activities of Aboriginal communities.”  

“In our article, we put together traditional knowledge and experimental archaeology to investigate a forgotten use of boomerangs: modifying the edges of stone tools. 

“This activity is fundamental to producing a variety of stone implements, each of them with one or more functions. 

PhD candidate Eva Francesca Martellotta.

“Traditionally handcrafted experimental replicas of boomerangs proved very functional to shape stone tools.  

“Our results are the first scientific proof of the multipurpose nature of these iconic objects.” 

 “While our results for the first time scientifically quantify the multipurpose nature of daily tools like boomerangs, this is something that Aboriginal people have known for a very long time.” 

Study co-author Paul Craft, a Birrunburra / Bundjalung / Yugambeh / Yuggera / Turrbal man, contributed two of the four hardwood boomerangs used in the lithic tool knapping (shaping) experiments, which were performed in the Griffith Experimental Archaeology Research Lab located outdoors at the Nathan campus.  

The EXARC Experimental Archaeology Association partially funded the project through a 2021 Experimental Archaeology Award

The findings ‘Beyond the main function: An experimental study of the use of hardwood boomerangs in retouching activities’ have been published in PLOS ONE

9,000-Year-Old Stone Houses Found On Australian Island

9,000-Year-Old Stone Houses Found On Australian Island

Archaeologists working on the Dampier Archipelago, just off the West Australian coast, have found evidence of stone houses dated to shortly after the last ice age, between 8,000 and 9,000 years ago – making them the oldest houses in Australia.

The Dampier Archipelago is a group of 42 islands, and on one of the islands, the team uncovered knee-high rock walls.

“Excavations on Rosemary Island, one of the outer islands, have uncovered evidence of one of the earliest known domestic structures in Australia, dated between 8,000 and 9,000 years ago,” said lead researcher Jo McDonald, from the University of Western Australia.

“This is an astounding find and has not only enormous scientific significance but will be of great benefit to Aboriginal communities in the area, enhancing their connections to their deep past and cultural heritage.”

The researchers suggest that the structures’ inhabitants used branches or other plant materials to make the roofs. The houses are also quite sophisticated, with multiple ‘rooms’.

“Inside the houses, you have separate areas – it could have been a sleeping area and a working area. There is evidence of people grinding seeds on the rock floors inside the houses as well as shell food remains,” McDonald told Paige Taylor from The Australian

“We don’t really know what they were used for as these types of structures were not used in the historic periods.”

This particular structure should help researchers to investigate how Aboriginal groups lived after the ice age – a time when sea levels rose 130 metres, at a rate of 1 metre every five to 10 years. This would have eventually cut the Archipelago islands off from the mainland.

“We assume they were a way of marking out social space for groups living close together as the sea level rose after the ice age, pushing groups inland into smaller territories,” says McDonald.

“While these people were hunter-gatherers, these structures suggest people were developing social strategies to be more sedentary, to cope with environmental change.”

The team discovered the houses back in 2014, but they have only recently been dated using shells of edible mangrove gastropods found inside.

Although the researchers haven’t yet published a paper, so we can’t get too excited until then, there should be more information released as the team find it, and they will hopefully publish a paper in the next few months.

Murujuga, which includes the islands and the nearby Burrup peninsula, are also hugely culturally important to the Aboriginal people in the area, and important for researchers trying to understand the past. A number of interest groups are pushing for Murujuga to become World Heritage listed.

“As well as containing more than one million rock engravings of great scientific and cultural significance, the Archipelago is home to one of the country’s largest industrial ports,” McDonald said in a statement today.

She says that research from the last 12 months indicates that there was a human occupation in the area dating back 21,000 years, even before the last ice age.

Just 100 km west, on Barrow Island, researchers have also found evidence of human occupation dating back 50,000 years. 

According to McDonald, although there are similar structures around Australia, the houses on Rosemary Island are the oldest found.

We hope this valuable area will be protected for many years to come. 

Rare coffee beans dating back 167 years ago were found by archaeologists working on the Metro Tunnel project

Rare coffee beans dating back 167 years ago were found by archaeologists working on the Metro Tunnel project

Perfectly preserved coffee beans dating back more than 167 years have been found by archaeologists working on the Metro Tunnel project, confirming that Melbourne has always been Australia’s coffee capital.

The archaeologists were digging up the historic remains of a grocery store near the site of the Young and Jacksons pub on Swanston Street, in Melbourne’s CBD, in 2018 when they discovered the artefacts.

The John Connell general store burnt down in the Gold Rush era, which preserved more than 500 coffee beans along with English biscuits, fruit remains and other perishables that would not ordinarily have lasted the test of time.

Excavation director Meg Goulding said the items had been carbonised and preserved in a similar way to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii when it was buried under volcanic ash.

“This was just a general store that was servicing the gold fields at the time,” she said.

“He was there from the early 1850s, we know that the gold rush started in 1851.”

Artefact manager Jennifer Porter said the beans were a “rare find”.
“It’s such a rare sight to find such a rich assemblage of different types of artefacts,” she said.

Perfectly preserved coffee beans dating back more than 167 years have been found by archaeologists working on the Metro Tunnel project.

Acting Premier Jacinta Allan said the discovery of coffee beans demonstrates Melbourne’s iconic coffee culture goes way back to the 1850s.

“The discovery proving coffee has long been important to Melburnians,” she said.

“Remarkably, the coffee beans have been preserved and they are now part of the rare finds that we are uncovering as we get on and deliver the Metro Tunnel project.”

It’s now hoped all of these items, including the coffee beans, will be put on display for the public to see.

World’s oldest sperm found in Queensland cave

World’s oldest sperm found in Queensland cave

Scientists have discovered the world’s oldest and best-preserved sperm from tiny shrimps, measuring a massive 1.3 millimetres and dating back to 17 million years in Australia.

World's oldest sperm found in Queensland cave
Clockwise from the top left, a microscopic image of the Riversleigh fossil ostracod, details of the fossil Zenker organ and a virtual reconstruction of the fossil.

Preserved giant sperm from shrimps were found at the Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site in Queensland and are the oldest fossilised sperm ever found in the geological record, researchers said.

The shrimps lived in a pool in an ancient cave inhabited by thousands of bats, and the presence of bat droppings in the water could help explain the almost perfect preservation of the fossil crustaceans.

The giant sperm are thought to have been longer than the male’s entire body but are tightly coiled up inside the sexual organs of the fossilised freshwater crustaceans, which are known as ostracods.

“These are the oldest fossilised sperm ever found in the geological record,” said Professor Mike Archer, from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), who has been excavating at Riversleigh for more than 35 years.

“The discovery of fossil sperm, complete with sperm nuclei, was totally unexpected,” said Archer.

A UNSW research team led by Archer, Associate Professor Suzanne Hand and Henk Godthelp collected the fossil ostracods from the Bitesantennary Site at Riversleigh in 1988.

They were sent to John Neil, a specialist ostracod researcher at La Trobe University, who realised they contained fossilised soft tissues.

He drew this to the attention of European specialists, including the lead author of the research paper, Dr Renate Matzke-Karasz, from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, who examined the specimens with Dr Paul Tafforeau at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France.

The microscopic study revealed the fossils contain the preserved internal organs of the ostracods, including their sexual organs.

Within these are the almost perfectly preserved giant sperm cells, and within them, are the nuclei that once contained the animals’ chromosomes and DNA.

Also preserved are the Zenker organs – chitinous-muscular pumps used to transfer the giant sperm to the female. The researchers estimate the fossil sperm is about 1.3 millimetres long, about the same length or slightly longer than the ostracod itself.

“About 17 million years ago, Bitesantennary Site was a cave in the middle of a vast biologically diverse rainforest. Tiny ostracods thrived in a pool of water in the cave that was continually enriched by the droppings of thousands of bats,” said Archer.

The bats could have played a role in the extraordinary preservation of the ostracod sperm cells, UNSW’s Associate Professor Suzanne Hand said.

The steady rain of poo from thousands of bats in the cave would have led to high levels of phosphorus in the water, which could have aided the mineralisation of the soft tissues.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Australia’s first marine Aboriginal archaeological site questioned

Australia’s first marine Aboriginal archaeological site questioned

A new study from The University of Western Australia has challenged earlier claims that Aboriginal stone artefacts discovered off the Pilbara coast in Western Australia represent Australia’s first undisturbed underwater archaeological site.

Map of the Dampier Archipelago (Murujuga) showing locations of areas mentioned in the text. (Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data [2020] processed by Sentinel Hub).

The original findings were made in a study published in 2020 in PLOS ONE, by a team of archaeologists and scientists from Flinders University, UWA, James Cook University, ARA (Airborne Research Australia) and the University of York.

The team partnered with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation to locate and investigate stone scatters at two sites in the Dampier Archipelago.

The “underwater” sites at Cape Bruguieres included hundreds of stone tools found in an area that was dry land many thousands of years ago.

Co-author of the new paper, published in Geoarchaeology, geoarchaeologist Dr. Ingrid Ward from UWA’s School of Social Sciences, said it questioned two key claims made in the original paper—that the artefacts were “permanently submerged” and that they were “in situ” and had not been moved since their original deposition.

“In fact, the artefacts occur in a channel ponded well above the lowest tide, so are not permanently submerged,” Dr. Ward said.

“Further, past and present oceanographic and sediment transport processes indicate that the lithic artefact scatters have almost certainly been moved by waves and currents away from where they were first discarded.”

The new study was carried out in collaboration with UWA’s Dr. Piers Larcombe, Dr. Peter Ross of Flinders University and Dr. Chris Fandry of RPS Energy.

The multidisciplinary team examined the assumptions and claims made in the original paper, concluding that the analysis had been insufficient to justify its findings.

“It remains untested how old the artefacts are—they could be 200 years old, 2,000 years old or 20,000 years old—it is completely unknown at this stage,” Dr. Ward said.

Despite this, she said we could still learn a lot from reworked sites.

“For all archaeological sites, the scientific narrative depends on defensible interpretation, which means understanding the processes that have formed the sites we find today,” she said.

“Science progresses through repeated cycles of research, publication, challenge and correction, and papers that challenge ideas are a normal part of healthy science. Archaeological research of indigenous coastal and marine sites in Australia is still at an early stage.”

Aboriginal Artwork In The Kimberley Could Be Among Oldest In The World, Scientists Say

Aboriginal Artwork In The Kimberley Could Be Among Oldest In The World, Scientists Say

Archaeologists and Aboriginal elders are hoping the most comprehensive study of rock art in the Kimberley region will confirm the images are among the oldest made by humans anywhere in the world.  More than a dozen scientists took part in two field trips to study remote faces in Dambimangari and Balanggarra country.

Aboriginal Artwork In The Kimberley Could Be Among Oldest In The World, Scientists Say
Scientists hope they can establish the age of rock art in the Kimberley

They used pioneering techniques to collect and analyse hundreds of samples to narrow down the timeframes in which the striking images of people, animals and shells were made. Professor Peter Veth, from the University of Western Australia, said they were expecting to have the first results through by the end of the year.

“We expect some of those dates to be old, and some of them will be extremely old,” he said.

“We believe that this art will be as old, if not older, than that art in Europe, and that will make the Kimberley and all of its art, with its living, cultural connections, of world significance.”

Establishing firm dates for rock art is notoriously difficult, but dates of around 40,000 years have been recorded for images in Indonesia and Spain. In Australia, dating has been relatively limited, but dates of between 13,000 to 15,000 years old have been recorded in Queensland and up to 28,000 years in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

Given that Aboriginal people are believed to have arrived in northern Australia up to 50,000 years ago, Professor Veth said there was potential for older dates to emerge. Professor Veth said the Kimberley region had one of the most diverse and abundant collections of Indigenous rock art in Australia.

Aboriginal people are thought to have arrived in northern Australia up to 50,000 years ago

“There are probably no reliable dates for the Kimberley, and yet here is one of the largest rock art galleries in the world, and probably the earliest concentration of figurative art anywhere in the world,” he said.

“We’re literally on the cusp now of dating it properly now, with all these different techniques, for the first time, so it’s incredibly exciting … it’s a bit of a cyclonic event.

“I think there will be surprises, things we totally don’t expect.”

The team used several different dating techniques on each painting to come up with the most reliable set of dates possible.

Their focus was on analysing the tiny samples of material taken from both under and on top of the painting, to narrow down the period in which it was created. It was a painstaking process for scientists like Helen Green, from the University of Melbourne.

The geologist pioneered a technique to date tiny crusts of dirt that form over an image in the hundreds, or thousands of years since it was created.

Indigenous rangers accompanied scientists to ensure nothing was damaged during the testing phase

“We can see where a crust has formed over the squiggles of pigment, so we can use a small chisel to chip off a little piece,” she said.

“It will let us know that the art underneath that is older than the age that we get for that crust.”

She said she was now in lockdown at the university’s laboratories processing hundreds of tiny samples.

“You’re just really eager once you’ve collected all the samples to get in the lab and get the results, so yes it’s a really exciting time for us,” Ms Green said.

Watching closely are the Dambimangari and Balanggarra people.

Members of their ranger groups accompanied the researchers on their field trips to learn more about their sacred sites and ensure they were not damaged.

For young Balanggarra ranger Scott Unhango, the field trip was the first opportunity he had to visit rock art sites he had heard about in stories.

“I find it … interesting,” he said. “The powerful men, the great leaders, put these paintings on these walls and rocks.”

“When you come out here, you can sit down and listen and learn from our people and others, throughout the Kimberley … listen [to] what they got to tell you, and how important the stories are and the land and the people.”

For many elders, pinpointing creation dates for their art is of little concern. Elders like Balanggarra man Augustine Unhango have their own deeply felt understanding of how and when the images were made. But he said he recognised the value in documenting the rock art sites for posterity.

“It’s good to be teaching our kids as they’re growing up about the sacred places and the rock art, and to keep track of our sacred sites.”

An Egyptian Pyramid In Australia? Archaeologists Claim Massive Structure Dates Back 5,000 Years

An Egyptian Pyramid In Australia? Archaeologists Claim Massive Structure Dates Back 5,000 Years

An archaeologist believes that there’s a MASSIVE 900-meter tall pyramid hidden in plain sight beneath thick layers of vegetation and soil in Australia.

The structure is believed to date back some 5,000 years. Pyramids are scattered all across the globe. No matter where we look, ancient cultures built marvellous ancient structures across the planet, with the most notorious monument being the Great Pyramid of Giza, an ancient wonder of engineering still standing today after thousands of years.

Now, a group of amateur archaeologists from Australia claims that before Australia was visited by the Europeans — in fact, thousands of years before that, I might add — the ancient Egyptians visited the mainland of Australia and even built Pyramids there.

According to a set of Hieroglyphs found in Gosford, there are TWO pyramids in Australia – one at Gympie (pictured) here, which has been demolished, and another one which still stands today.

As outrageous as this may sound to many, according to a group of researchers, more than 5000 years after ancient Egyptians made their way to Australia, it is believed that a Pyramid built under a mountain in North Queensland has been discovered.

The group claims that ‘Walsh’s Pyramid’, located some 30 minutes west of the popular Australian coastal city, stands a staggering 922 meters in height.

The Pyramid is said to be the final resting place of Egyptian Royal Lord Nefer-ti-ru, according to the group. And exactly where most people see only a massive Pyramid-shaped hill is where the vivid group of archaeologists sees more than what initially meets the eye.

Evidence of their claims is supported by the curious “Gosford Glyphs,” a set of strange carvings that according to many researchers are Egyptian in nature.

Located in the vicinity of Sydney, the intricate carvings are believed to be thousands of years old and were carved by ancient Egyptian sailors when they discovered the Australian continent, some 5,000 years ago.

These are the Gosford Glyphs.

These curious sets of hieroglyphs are referred to as the Kariong Hieroglyphs due to the fact they are located in the Brisbane Water National Park, Kariong, and also called the Gosford Glyphs due to the nearby community of Gosford can be seen in New South Wales.

But countless controversies surround the alleged hieroglyphs.

Numerous archaeologists have made it clear that the Gosford Glyphs are nothing more than a modern forgery, and how it’s IMPOSSIBLE that the ancient Egyptians made their way to Australia and carved the curious set of symbols on the side of a massive rock, let alone build pyramids.

As we wrote previously, is said that amateur archaeologist Ray Johnson supposedly translated the alleged glyphs for the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo and was successful in documenting and translating the two-facing walls of Egyptian characters.

The translation of the Gosford Glyphs supposedly records the story of a tragic saga of ancient Egyptian explorers that shipwrecked in a strange and hostile land — now known as Australia.

Anyway, returning back to the Pyramid in Australia, Ray Johnson is convinced how the enigmatic set of hieroglyphs at Gosford undoubtedly points out how Lord Nefer-ti-ru, a former member of the ancient Egyptian Royal Family is buried at the site.

Furthermore, Johnson is convinced how the Gosford Glyphs tell the story of how ancient Egyptian sailors built TWO Pyramids in Australia, one of which was said to be found at Gympie, in central Queensland.

This is the alleged Pyramid in Australia, rising a staggering 900 meters in the air. The Pyramid (pictured), is located outside Cairns in north Queensland.
An Egyptian Pyramid In Australia? Archaeologists Claim Massive Structure Dates Back 5,000 Years
The alleged Gympie Pyramid

It was eventually demolished leaving the whereabouts of the other Pyramid an enigma all until now.

Mr. Johnson believes that the second Pyramid is in fact located beneath thick layers of soil, hidden away from sight, remaining unperceived for thousands of years. Despite the fact that the “hieroglyphs” point to the existence of a Pyramid located in the Area, the site in question — located at the Wooroonooran National Park — has never been researched.

This is mostly due to the fact that experts consider the location where Johnson believes the Pyramid is located a Natural granite peak.

However, archaeologists are convinced that this pyramid could be similar to the one discovered buried beneath thick layers of soil and vegetation in Visoko, Bosnia and Herzegovina (also read this update from a field geologist at Visoko).

However, mainstream scholars reject the notion there’s a Pyramid in Australia — let alone two — and that the mountain where said structure is supposedly located, only ‘appears to be the shape of a pyramidal structure’.