A biography of the Australian continent Aboriginal History of Australia Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for at least 60, yearsarriving by boat from south Asia by about that time.
These dates have been strongly disputed, 60, BP being the date generally accepted as the most likely time of the first arrival. The site has been re-dated using TL and the results suggest the site is actually no older than about 10, years. It has been suggested that the first arrivals were coastal people, basing their economies on the sea and river mouths, originally spreading around the coast then up the rivers.
If this is the case, the mouths of the rivers they would have been entering for the first time could have been hundreds of kilometres seawards of the present coastline.
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If this is the case, how long did they spend on the coast and river mouths before spreading to the earliest known sites on present-day dry land?
The dates that have the first arrival in Australia around 60, years ago from occupation sites on present day land. Presumably the first landing would have been on part of the continental shelf that is now submerged, an unknown number of years earlier than the known dated sites. If the ancestral Aboriginal People were indeed coastal dwellers, what was the incentive to expand inland?
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In southwestern Tasmania the people lived almost exclusively on the coast for 30, years, based on the dating of the known sites, apparently rarely venturing into the thick rainforest. At the time of first European contact they were still living in a narrow coastal belt between the horizontal rainforest and the sea.
While they lived well on the coast, with plentiful and easily available food, why would they want to move to a habitat that was more difficult and where food was less plentiful and required more time and energy to collect? When the continental shelf was exposed there would have been rivers, possibly with deltas, lakes and swamps, as well as the nearby sea, where they could get all the food they needed, and with very little effort.
The evidence of the possible occupation of the area around Lake George in New South Wales, a long way from the points of entry into Australia in the north, prior toyears ago has been rejected.
At the time of the arrival of Europeans in Australia it was declared an unoccupied land, as the Aboriginal People didn't practice agriculture, so the colonists could take over without even consulting the locals. The Aboriginal People were believed by some of those Europeans to be at best, like children, who needed to be protected from themselves as well as everyone else. Others regarded them as sub-human, so there was no problem treating them as though they were animals, especially when colonisation got under way and colonists wanted to take over their hunting territory for raising cattle and sheep, or farming.
They were mostly tolerated as long as they didn't try to stop pastoralists taking their land, when they got in the way, they were often treated like animals that ate the colonists' crops or killed their cattle for food. It has since been realised that they did indeed farm the land, even the parts that were unusable by the colonists, and for a very long time. It has been called fire-stick farming.
During their long period of occupation they developed a system of burning off limited areas at certain times of the year, that encouraged the grass growth that supported the animals they hunted. So while they lived by hunting, over large parts of the continent it was in effect managed hunting.
In fact, they were possibly the first farmers. It has been said of the Aboriginal People that 'they are unchanging people in an unchanging land', implying that they didn't adapt so were somehow less worthy than the very adaptable people who took over their country.
One of the world's best known, and highest regarded anthropologists, Claude Levi-Strauss, called them 'intellectual aristocrats' among early peoples.
Aboriginal History of Australia
Once overlooked features of Aboriginal culture include sophisticated religion, art and social organisation, an egalitarian system of justice and decision-making, complex far-reaching trading networks.
Another way the Aboriginal People, especially in the driest areas of the inland, adapted to the very arid conditions was neighbouring groups often allowed each other to hunt in their territory when their neighbour's territory was more affected by drought, which occurs at unpredictable times and for varying lengths of time.
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