Settling the west: 50 000 years in a changing land

Joe Dortch*, Jane Balme, Jo McDonald, Kate Morse, S. U.E. O’connor, Peter Veth

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Australia was first colonised more than two thousand human generations ago. In this paper we show how, over this period, ancestors of Western Australia’s Aboriginal peoples adapted to changing environments, in tropical savannahs, deserts, woodlands, forests and coastlines. Throughout this history, there is evidence for intra-regional genetic and economic continuities, and exchanges and dynamism in religion, language and art. These relationships are remarkably well-documented in Western Australia, which features many of the oldest sites on the continent. The evidence reviewed here derives from the Kimberley, Western Desert, Pilbara and South West. Each region contains at least one site first occupied c. 50 000 years ago, and numerous other sites first occupied in the late Pleistocene. We describe the archaeological evidence for the early development of a range of complex modern behaviour from each region, including symbolic behaviour, information exchange, ground-stone technology, and ecosystem engineering. We also address the apparent tension between regional continuity and inter-regional contact and exchange.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)30-44
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of the Royal Society of Western Australia
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    Dive into the research topics of 'Settling the west: 50 000 years in a changing land'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this