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.
This is a preview of subscription content
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Groube, L., Chappell, J., Muke, J. & Price, D. Nature 324, 453–455 (1986).
Allen, J. Search 20, 149–154 (1989).
Kamminga, J. & Allen, H. Alligator Rivers Environmental Fact-Finding Study: Report of the Archaeological Survey (Department of the Northern Territory, Darwin, 1973).
Schrire, C. The Alligator Rivers: Prehistory and Ecology in Western Arnhem Land (Department of Prehistory, Australian National University, Canberra, 1982).
Wintle, A. G. & Huntley, D. J. Quat. Sci. Rev. 1, 31–53 (1982).
Aitken, M. J. Thermoluminescence Dating (Academic, London, 1985).
Berger, G. W. Geol. Soc. Amer. Special Paper 227, 13–50 (1988).
Readhead, M. L. Ph.D thesis, Australian National University (1984).
Singhvi, A. K., Sharma, Y. P. & Agrawal, D. P. Nature 295, 313–315 (1982).
Huntley, D. J. Phys. Chem. Miner. 12, 122–127 (1985).
Galloway, R. W. in Lands of the Alligator Rivers Area, Northern Territory 52–70 (CSIRO Land Research Series, No. 38, 1976).
Murray, A. S., Marten, R., Johnston, A. & Martin, P. J. Radioanalyt. Nucl. Chem. Art. 115, 263–288 (1987).
Murray, A. S. D.Phil thesis, Univ. Oxford (1981).
Prescott, J. R. & Stephan, L. G. PACT 6, 17–25 (1982).
Prescott, J. R. & Hutton, J. T. Nucl. Tracks Radiat. Meas. 14, 223–227 (1988).
Wintle, A. G. Nature 245, 143–144 (1973).
About this article
Cite this article
Roberts, R., Jones, R. & Smith, M. Thermoluminescence dating of a 50,000-year-old human occupation site in northern Australia. Nature 345, 153–156 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1038/345153a0
Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change (2018)
International Journal of Historical Archaeology (2017)