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Letters to Nature
Nature 345, 153 - 156 (10 May 1990); doi:10.1038/345153a0

Thermoluminescence dating of a 50,000-year-old human occupation site in northern Australia

Richard G. Roberts*, Rhys Jones & M. A. Smith

*Department of Geography, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
Department of Prehistory, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

THE oldest secure date for human occupation in Greater Australia is 40kyr from eastern Papua New Guinea1, whereas slightly younger dates have been reported from southern Australia2. We now report thermoluminescence (TL) dates that suggest the arrival of people between 50 and 60 kyr in northern Australia. TL dates were obtained from sandy footslope deposits at two former occupation sites that yielded a range of stone artefacts in their primary depositional setting. Artefacts terminated mid-way down one profile, which had a basal age of about 100 kyr. Confidence in the TL dates is given by their close correspondence with radiocarbon dates obtained from the upper occupation levels. These TL dates are not only the oldest yet proposed for Aboriginal occupation but also may mark the time of initial human arrival on the Australian continent.

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