Rock steady

Published: Monday 30 November -0001

imageArchaeologists might have unearthed the earliest specimen of Australian rock art. A painting of two giant emu-like birds excavated in the Jwayon region in north Australia could date back 40,000 years.

Archaeologist Ben Gunn said genyornis, the species depicted in the painting, became extinct 40,000 years ago.

“The details on this painting indicate it was done by someone who knew that animal well,” Gunn said. “Either the painting is 40,000 years old, which is when science thinks Genyornis disappeared, or genyornis lived a lot longer than science has been able to establish,” he added.

Technical difficulties make dating Australia’s early rock art difficult, but Wes Miller, head of the Jawoyn Association, said the discovery confirmed that the tribe, which gives the region its name, had lived in the area for tens of thousands of years. “People do say that Jawoyn people have been in this country for ages. From that point of view the discovery is pretty exciting.”

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