Nav: Home

Oral traditions and volcanic eruptions in Australia

February 10, 2020

Boulder, Colo., USA: In Australia, the onset of human occupation (about 65,000 years?) and dispersion across the continent are the subjects of intense debate and are critical to understanding global human migration routes. A lack of ceramic artifacts and permanent structures has resulted in a scarcity of dateable archaeological sites older than about 10,000 years.

Existing age constraints are derived largely from radiocarbon dating of charcoal and/or optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of quartz grains in rock shelter sediments, and there is a need for independent age constraints to test more controversial ages. In southeastern Australia, only six sites (located in Tasmania, New South Wales, and South Australia) older than 30,000 years are considered definitively dated by 14C and/or OSL methods, with ages spanning 37,000-50,000 years.

The strong oral traditions of Australian Aboriginal peoples have enabled perpetuation of ecological knowledge across many generations and can likely provide additional archeological insights. Some surviving traditions allude to different geological events, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and meteorite impacts. It has been proposed that some of these traditions may have been transmitted for thousands of years.

The Newer Volcanic Province of southeastern Australia contains over 400 basaltic eruption centers, a number of which are thought to have erupted within the last 100,000 years, although precise ages remain elusive for most. Technological improvements over the last decade have firmly established applicability of the 40Ar/39Ar dating technique (which relies on the natural radioactive decay of 40K in minerals) to archeological timescales, enabling many of these younger volcanoes to be dated by this method.

Rare reported occurrences of archaeological evidence beneath volcanic ash deposits and lava flows, and the longevity of Aboriginal oral histories, presents an opportunity for novel investigation into the timing of human occupation of this region. In particular, oral traditions surrounding the Budj Bim Volcanic Complex (previously Mount Eccles) in western Victoria have been interpreted to reference volcanic activity.

This new study published in Geology presents a new 40Ar/39Ar eruption age of 36,900 ± 3,100 thousand years for the Budj Bim Volcanic Complex and an age of 36,800 ± 3,800 thousand years for the nearby Tower Hill Volcanic Complex; the latter is of archaeological significance due to the historical discovery of a stone axe from a sequence of volcanic ash deposits.

These ages fall within the range of 14C and OSL ages reported for the six earliest known occupation sites in southeastern Australia. The age of Tower Hill directly represents the minimum age for human presence in Victoria. If oral traditions surrounding Budj Bim do indeed reference volcanic activity, this could mean that these are some of the longest-lived oral traditions in the world.
-end-
FEATURED ARTICLE

Early human occupation of southeastern Australia: New insights from 40Ar/39Ar dating of young volcanoes

Erin L. Matchan, David Phillips, Fred Jourdan, and Korien Oostingh. CONTACT author: Erin Matchan, erin.matchan@unimelb.edu.au. Paper URL: https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/geology/article/doi/10.1130/G47166.1/581018/Early-human-occupation-of-southeastern-Australia

GEOLOGY articles are online at http://geology.geoscienceworld.org/content/early/recent. Representatives of the media may obtain complimentary articles by contacting Kea Giles at the e-mail address above. Please discuss articles of interest with the authors before publishing stories on their work, and please make reference to GEOLOGY in articles published. Non-media requests for articles may be directed to GSA Sales and Service, gsaservice@geosociety.org.

https://www.geosociety.org

Geological Society of America

Related Volcanic Eruptions Articles:

Volcanic eruptions reduce global rainfall
POSTECH Professor Seung-Ki Min's joint research team identifies the mechanism behind the reduction in precipitation after volcanic eruptions.
A new tool to predict volcanic eruptions
Earth's atmosphere is made up of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, a mixture that is unique in the solar system.
Oral traditions and volcanic eruptions in Australia
In Australia, the onset of human occupation (about 65,000 years?) and dispersion across the continent are the subjects of intense debate and are critical to understanding global human migration routes.
'Crystal clocks' used to time magma storage before volcanic eruptions
The molten rock that feeds volcanoes can be stored in the Earth's crust for as long as a thousand years, a result which may help with volcanic hazard management and better forecasting of when eruptions might occur.
Super volcanic eruptions interrupt ozone recovery
Strong volcanic eruptions, especially when a super volcano erupts, will have a strong impact on ozone, and might interrupt the ozone recovery processes.
Rare volcanic rocks lift lid on dangers of little-studied eruptions
Unusual rocks discovered on a remote mountainside have alerted scientists to the dangers posed by a little-studied type of volcano.
Revising the history of big, climate-altering volcanic eruptions
Researchers have developed a new isotopic method to analyze the recent history of large stratospheric volcanic eruptions, using 2,600 years' worth of records contained in ice cores from Antarctica. Stratospheric eruptions can launch sulfate particles more than 6 miles above Earth's surface, where they reflect sunlight and temporarily cool the planet.
Smaller, more frequent eruptions affect volcanic flare-ups
Eruption patterns in a New Zealand volcanic system reveal how the movement of magma rising through the crust leads to smaller, more frequent eruptions.
Using artificial intelligence to understand volcanic eruptions from tiny ash
Scientists led by Daigo Shoji from the Earth-Life Science Institute (Tokyo Institute of Technology) have shown that an artificial intelligence program called a Convolutional Neural Network can be trained to categorize volcanic ash particle shapes.
Repeating seismic events offer clues about Costa Rican volcanic eruptions
Repeating seismic events--events that have the same frequency content and waveform shapes--may offer a glimpse at the movement of magma and volcanic gases underneath Turrialba and Poas, two well-known active volcanoes in Costa Rica.
More Volcanic Eruptions News and Volcanic Eruptions Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.