Roadworks dig finds millions of Aboriginal artifacts in Tasmania
Archaeologists say they may have found proof of the oldest and most southerly human habitation in the world at the site of a major road project in Tasmania.
Archaeologists and Aboriginal heritage officers have been removing sediment from eight trenches along the Jordan River levee at the Brighton roadworks site, north of Hobart.
Initial findings suggest the sediment is between 28,000 and 40,000 years old, making it the oldest, most southern site of human habitation in the world.
It is believed up to 3,000,000 artefacts could be buried there.
Dozens of protesters have been arrested and 19 people have been charged over protests aimed at trying to stop the roadwork in recent months.
Fiona Newson from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land and Sea Council says the Tasmanian Goverment needs to take the latest report from archaeologists seriously.
"We're talking about a worldwide significant site in regards to the scientific values and heritage values," she said.
"It would be a total waste and not a good look on Tasmania if they were going to destroy it."
With the State Government in caretaker mode, Infrastucture Minister Graeme Sturges has been cautious in his response.
"We will certainly follow the required process and we will acknowledge and respect the findings of the report," he said.
"Bear in mind we're to receive the final report in about a week and we will follow due process in regard to this matter."
World heritage push
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre's Michael Mansell says the site is tremendously significant and wants it put on the World Heritage List.
"The bottom line is that nothing must go within a bull's roar of the site," he said.
"I don't think there's any doubt that the Federal Government has to be involved anyway because there's a strong belief that this area should now be declared a world heritage listed place."
Mr Mansell says Aborigines want the Premier to apologise for the treatment of protesters at the Brighton bypass site.
"I think in the circumstances the Premier owes an apology to those Aboriginal people who always said, 'What is there is terribly significant and must be preserved at all costs'," he said.
"An apology I don't think would be astray."
Archaeologists working on the project hope the site will be protected.
Head archaeologist Robert Paton is excited by the preliminary findings.
"The dates that we've got so far, the readings, they've been nice and statistically tight, and that suggests to me they're probably correct," he said.
"To have the opportunity to work on that site with the Aboriginal community, it's been a pretty exciting time for everyone."
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