It has been commonly thought that Aborigines most likely populated the Australian continent around 50,000 years ago, by people from the areas we now know as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Recent evidence has emerged that suggests that this may have been more like 70,000 years…
The work of Professor Stephen Oppenheimer, published in the “Journey of Mankind Genetic Map”, suggests that around seventy thousand years ago the ancestors of the Australian Aboriginal would have stood on the shores of South East Asia, and without a doubt they would have observed the smoke from distant bush fires caused by lightening on a land that had not yet been reached. With fluctuating sea levels, he shows how there was a window of opportunity to get to Australia between sixty five and seventy thousand years ago – by boat.
The painting above of a four man canoe is quite possibly the world’s oldest boat painting and is located at a site in the Kimberley near other rock drawings. Significantly, another drawing depicts a long line of twenty-six or more antlered, four legged animals standing along a simple, single base-line – deer.
Deer of any kind have never been part of Australia’s fauna. To have depicted deer, the artist would therefore have had to voyage across the Timor Strait. Very likely the species of deer depicted in the painting is the Sambar, small herds of which still exist in Borneo, but which may well have been more widespread across the then sub-continental Southeast Asia, at the time of the Ice Age.
The remote coastline of north western Australia was probably the first landing site on this continent, as small groups of Aboriginals crossed by boat from Timor up to 70,000 years ago. “The Journey of Mankind Genetic Map” puts forward a strong case to prove when this event occurred, what early settlers did on reaching the Kimberley region; at some point, they began to decorate the red sandstone rocks with exquisite and detailed rock art, now known as the Gwion Gwion or Bradshaw paintings. Wandjina paintings, rock art of a very different style, are also endemic to this area. The number of rock art sites in the Kimberley region, has been estimated to be over 100,000 in number, but only a fraction of these have been recorded.
Written by Brent Narbey