Timor cave may reveal how humans reached Australia


22 December 2006 (The Age, Sydney Morning Herald) – It’s rare to hear about archaeological information from East Timor (Timor Leste). This one reports of the Jerimalai site, which was inhabited as far back as 42,000 years ago.

Timor cave may reveal how humans reached Australia

AN AUSTRALIAN archaeologist has discovered the oldest evidence of occupation by modern humans on the islands that were the stepping stones from South-East Asia to Australia.

A cave site in East Timor where people lived more than 42,000 years ago, eating turtles, tuna and giant rats, was unearthed by Sue O’Connor, head of archaeology and natural history at the Australian National University.

Dr O’Connor also found ancient stone tools and shells used for decoration in the limestone shelter, known as Jerimalai, on the eastern tip of the island.

She said her discovery could help solve the mystery of the route ancient seafarers took to get here from South-East Asia.

It strengthens the view that they made a southern passage, via Timor, rather than travelling northwards via Borneo and Sulawesi, then down through Papua New Guinea. “The antiquity of the Jerimalai shelter makes this site significant at a world level,” said Dr O’Connor, who presented the findings at the annual conference of the Australian Archaeological Association this month.