World's oldest axe 'found'

The discovery was made by an international team, led by Dr Bruno David of Monash University, at Nawarla Gabarnmang in Northern Australia, which is a large rock-shelter in Jawoyn Aboriginal country in southwestern Arnhem Land.

Dr David said that while there have been reports of much older axes being found in New Guinea, the implements were not ground. "This suggests that axe technology evolved into later use of grinding for the sharper, more symmetrical and maintainable edges this generates.

"The ground-axe fragment is dated to 35,000 years ago, which pre-dates the oldest examples of ground-edge implements dated to 22,000-30,000 years ago from Japan and Northern Australia," he said.

According to the archaeologists, axes fulfilled a unique position within the Aboriginal toolkit as long use life chopping tools, and were labour intensive to manufacture and highly valued.
Dr David said: "During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, axes were understood by local Aboriginal communities to carry with them the ancestral forces which characterised the particular quarry from which they came.

"Their trade across the landscape moved not just the tool itself, but more importantly the symbolic and ancestral forces of their point of origin.

The Nawarla Gabarnmang axe, found some 40km from its source, is evidence of 35,000 years of the movement of tools, technologies and ideas across the northern Australian landscape.

"This discovery will assist researchers in Australia and around the world as we examine the evolution of human behaviour and earliest technological advancements."

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