New research in Nature Communications: “The first Australian plant foods at Madjedbebe, 65,000-53,000 years ago”

Australia’s first people were skilled foragers with complex processing techniques for plant foods, according to recent research by AINSE PGRA Scholar Stephanie Anna Florin and her collaborators from The University of Queensland in partnership with the Mirarr people.

Their paper, published in Nature Communications, details analysis of charred plant remains at a site in western Arnhem Land dating back to 65,000 years ago – around the same time that the earliest Aboriginal Australians reached Sahul, the prehistoric super-continent of Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. It provides the earliest evidence for plant foods consumed by humans outside of Africa or the Middle East and has helped shed light on the diet of the earliest known Aboriginal people in Australia.

Florin and her team used high-powered light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy to analyse charred plant remains found at the Madjedbebe site in Mirarr country of western Arnhem Land. The remains were determined to contain preserved remnants of fruits, nuts, palm stems and yams, challenging previous theories that suggested early modern humans ate a less varied diet of coastal, high-ranked prey rather than a diet including lower-ranked plant foods.

For more information, please see the recent article by S. Anna Florin, Prof. Andrew Fairbairn and Prof. Chris Clarkson in The Conversation.

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