Jobs Events Advertise

Campfire study reveals pharmacy, grocer in early arid Indigenous settlement

Tom Zaunmayr -

Researchers working in the Australian outback have uncovered evidence of Indigenous 'grocers and pharmacies' which are more than 50,000 years old.

A University of Western Australia team has been examining charcoal from ancient campfires in Martu country rock shelters in WA's Western Desert using a process known as archaeobotany.

That work has uncovered the use of wattle and other acacias has been prevalent in tool-making, food and medicines for more than 50,000 years.

UWA lead researcher Chae Byrne said the study proved wattle was critical to early Indigenous explorers who settled in arid parts of Australia.

Martu country where the fieldwork took place. Picture: Chae Byrne.

"I have walked in Country with Traditional Owners who have been kind enough to share their Knowledge surrounding the many uses for the vegetation which surround us," he said.

"They have taught me that there is a purpose and significance for every type of tree and bush; an ancient grocer and pharmacy which has provided and prospered for tens of thousands of years.

"Looking at plant remains is particularly useful in studying Australian Indigenous heritage, given the persistent importance of natural resources like trees and the rarity of other cultural remains in the deep time record."

Mr Byrne said charcoal held valuable information about environmental science and climate change.

The dig sites were in Karnatukul (Serpents Glen) and Katjarra (Carnarvon Ranges).

Researchers sampled trees growing in the region today, which could then be compared to ancient charcoal fragments from campfires in archaeological sites.

This is one of the first times that archaeobotany, or using plants in archaeological studies, has been used in Australia's deserts.


Manjaree ‘Bathers Beach’ Truth Telling program delves into the history of Fremantle
The city of Fremantle will hold a new truth telling program at the historic Whadjuk Noongar site of Manjaree, Bathers Beach.  M...
Rhiannon Clarke 1 Mar 2024
Inquest into the death of Cleveland Dodd confirmed for April 3
A coronial inquest into the death of 16-year-old Cleveland Dodd, who took his own life in the Unit 18 youth detention facility a...
Dechlan Brennan 1 Mar 2024
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation strikes deal for "equal footing in future decision-making" over Murujuga country
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation has "defined a new approach" to agreement-making in Australia, following the signing Thursday of...
Giovanni Torre 1 Mar 2024
Funding boost expands Junior Ranger program to 50 new sites
The Federal government announced on Thursday that it is expanding the Junior Ranger program, offering on-Country learning to Abo...
Giovanni Torre 29 Feb 2024

   Tom Zaunmayr   

Roebourne's emerging business scene recognised at annual Pilbara awards ceremony
Ieraramagardu's (Roebourne) burgeoning local economic scene has been recognised at the largest annual Pilbara business awards....
Tom Zaunmayr 9 Nov 2022
Leading news role opens up as National Indigenous Times eyes further east coast growth
A rare opportunity to play a leading editorial role in a rapidly expanding news organisation has been created at the National In...
Tom Zaunmayr 8 Nov 2022
Know an emerging leader in your community? Nominate them for WA's Young Achiever Awards
West Australians are being urged to nominate young Indigenous champions who have made a difference to their community for a majo...
Tom Zaunmayr 4 Nov 2022
A family and a team - Badu Island rugby league outfit playing for more than pride and trophies
Badu Island may be a speck on the Australian landscape, but at the Mackay Indigenous Rugby League Carnival, a Zenadth Kes (Torre...
Tom Zaunmayr 3 Nov 2022