65,000-years of continuous grinding stone use at Madjedbebe, Northern Australia
Grinding stones and ground stone implements are important technological innovations in later human evolution, allowing the exploitation and use of new plant foods, novel tools (e.g., bone points and edge ground axes) and ground pigments. Excavations at the site of Madjedbebe recovered Australia’s (if not one of the world’s) largest and longest records of Pleistocene grinding stones, which span the past 65 thousand years (ka). Microscopic and chemical analyses show that the Madjedbebe grinding stone assemblage displays the earliest known evidence for seed grinding and intensive plant use, the earliest known production and use of edge-ground stone hatchets (aka axes), and the earliest intensive use of ground ochre pigments in Sahul (the Pleistocene landmass of Australia and New Guinea). The Madjedbebe grinding stone assemblage reveals economic, technological and symbolic innovations exemplary of the phenotypic plasticity of Homo sapiens dispersing out of Africa and into Sahul.
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Australian Research Council