Oldest Pottery in Australia Unearthed, Rewriting Indigenous Maritime History

Oldest Pottery in Australia Unearthed, Rewriting Indigenous Maritime History

A groundbreaking discovery on the shores of Jiigurru (Lizard Island Group) in the Great Barrier Reef has rewritten the history books, revealing the oldest pottery ever found in Australia. Unearthed by a team of archaeologists from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) in collaboration with Traditional Owners from the Dingaal and Ngurrumungu Aboriginal communities, these pottery sherds date back an astonishing 2000 to 3000 years. Oldest Pottery in Australia Unearthed, Rewriting Indigenous Maritime History

Oldest Pottery in Australia Unearthed, Rewriting Indigenous Maritime History

Published soon in Quaternary Science Reviews, these findings challenge previous assumptions that Indigenous communities in Australia were not engaged in pottery manufacturing before European colonization. Geological analysis indicates that the pottery was locally crafted using clays and tempers sourced from Jiigurru itself.

The discovery coincides with the same period when the Lapita people of southern Papua New Guinea were known to have produced ceramics, shedding light on the sophisticated maritime capabilities of First Nations communities in North Queensland. It reveals a rich history of cultural exchange and trade networks across the Coral Sea, challenging colonial stereotypes of Indigenous isolation.

The excavation of a 2.4-meter-deep midden on Jiigurru uncovered more than pottery. Remains of shellfish and fish dating back over 6000 years were found, indicating the island’s significance as one of the earliest known offshore settlements on the northern Great Barrier Reef. Jiigurru holds immense cultural importance for First Nations people, serving as a site for ceremony, initiation, gathering, and knowledge transmission.

Traditional Owners, archaeologists, and scientists collaborated closely on this project, marking a significant milestone in Indigenous-led research. Kenneth McLean, Chairperson of the Walmbaar Aboriginal Corporation, emphasized the importance of sharing stories and scientific knowledge to better understand and care for Country.

Ngurrumungu Elder Brian Cobus echoed this sentiment, highlighting the role of research projects in deepening our understanding of Country and guiding land stewardship practices.

The findings also underscore the interconnectedness of Indigenous communities across the region, challenging outdated notions of isolation. This discovery adds a new layer to our understanding of maritime exchange and cultural interaction across the Coral Sea, revealing the complexity and innovation of Aboriginal societies.

As we delve deeper into Australia’s rich Indigenous history, Jiigurru emerges as a pivotal site in the Coral Sea Cultural Interaction Sphere, bridging communities from eastern North Queensland to southern New Guinea and the Torres Strait. This remarkable discovery reshapes our understanding of Australia’s ancient past and highlights the enduring legacy of Indigenous innovation and resilience.

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Source: https://nit.com.au/10-04-2024/10724/discovery-of-australias-oldest-pottery-rewrites-understanding-of-aboriginal-maritime-history

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