Deep dig to draw new picture of ancient human movement

University of Southern Queensland (USQ) researchers have been given rare access to a remote region of Papua New Guinea, conducting a world first archaeological investigation that could give a clearer picture of the first human migration into Australia – and the art left behind.

Archaeologists Professors Lara Lamb and Bryce Barker are currently piecing together discoveries made following an expedition to the Great Papuan Plateau late last year.

“The plateau is incredibly difficult to get to and is in the middle of really dense, remote tropical forests between the Highlands and the Gulf lowlands of PNG,” Professor Lamb said.

“It is wild and rugged and largely undeveloped, which makes it an exciting place for an archaeologist to gain access to; we feel very privileged.”

Funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant, Professor Lamb said the project was embarking on several ‘firsts’.

“We’re undertaking the first archaeological investigation into the timing of people moving across the Plateau and ultimately into Australia, which could lead us to new information about the earliest people of Sahul,” she said.

“Sahul is the name given to Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea when they were joined because of low sea levels during the Pleistocene ice ages.”

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