History in a boat

Rock Art>> Aboriginals ÔÇó Australia

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

A rock painting discovered in June is making Australian scholars rethink the country’s history.

The painting discovered in Arnhem Land shows a sailing boat, and historians say it is the nation’s oldest dated picture showing aboriginal people’s first contact with the outside world.

Archaeologist Paul Tacon said there are telling signs it is a depiction of a Perahu—a boat popular in Indonesia and Malaysia around the 17th century. “One of the distinctive features is a tripod mast, another is a rectangular sail. And those are quite clear in this image,” he said. Tacon said beeswax pellets stuck to the painting were dated back to the 1620s.

He also said there is clear evidence Macassars from Indonesia were sailing to north Australia to fish for trepang in the 1600s, much earlier than believed.

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