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The World’s Oldest Axe Has Been Discovered, Where May Surprise You!

The fragments came from a ground-edge axe with a handle similar to these examples.
(Image: AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY)
The fragments came from a ground-edge axe with a handle similar to these examples. (Image: AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY)

The oldest axe in the world has been discovered in an unlikely place. The thumbnail-sized axe piece was found in the Kimberley region in Western Australia (W.A), and dates back 45,000 to 49,000 years ago during the Stone Age period, when humans first arrived in Australia.

Map of northern Australia in its regional setting, showing the location of Carpenter’s Gap 1 and other sites with Pleistocene axes. (Image: AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY)

Map of northern Australia in its regional setting, showing the location of Carpenter’s Gap 1 and other sites with Pleistocene axes. (Image: AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY)

The discovery shows that the first Aborigines of Australia were the technological innovators of their era. The axe is about 15,000 years older than any other axe found to date. Lead archaeologist Professor Sue O’Connor from The Australian National University (ANU) who unearthed the fragments, said in a statement:

The discovery is a hafted axe — which is an axe with a handle attached — tells how Aboriginal technology was not as simple as what has been previously suggested.

(A) Dorsal face. (B) Ventral face. (C) Close up of the ground bevel at the junction of platform and dorsal surfaces. (A) and (B) to the same scale, (C) to a different scale. (Image: AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY)

(A) Dorsal face. (B) Ventral face. (C) Close up of the ground bevel at the junction of platform and dorsal surfaces. (A) and (B) to the same scale, (C) to a different scale. (Image: AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY)

According to their study published in the journal Australian Archaeology, the evidence suggests that the technology was developed in Australia after people arrived around 50,000 years ago, with O’Connor stating:

Professor Peter Hiscock from the University of Sydney, who analyzed the unearthed flakes, said in a statement:

Professor O’Connor excavated the axe fragment in early 1990 at Carpenter’s Gap 1, which is a large rock shelter in Windjana Gorge National Park in the Kimberley region of W.A. After analysis it was found to be made of basalt that had been shaped and polished by grinding it against a softer rock like sandstone.

This axe may have been used for a variety of jobs including making spears and chopping down or taking the bark off trees. However, although Aborigines spread across Australia, the axe technology did not spread with them. Professor Hiscock said.

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