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Human life in WA's Mid West existed 30,000 years ago, archaeologists say

Human life in WA's Mid West existed 30,000 years ago, archaeologists say
Bonnie Christian ABC News 4 June 2015

 Excavating at Yalibirri Mindi rock shelterBrendan Hamlett excavating at Yalibirri Mindi rock shelter in WA's Mid West.
(Picture: ABC/UWA)

The first proof that humans lived in Western Australia's Mid West at the same time as humans in the Pilbara and South West regions has been found in a cave 50 kilometres north-west of Cue.

Previously, archaeologists had no established evidence that humans occupied the Mid West region more than 10,000 years ago.

But charcoal associated with stone artefacts excavated in the Yalibirri Mindi rock shelter in the Weld Range have been shown to belong to ancestors of the Wajarri native title claimants living 30,000 years ago.

The discovery brings the history of human occupation in the state in line with well established evidence found in the Pilbara, Devil's Lair south of Perth and further to the east in the Western Desert.

The project was a collaboration between archaeologists from the University of Western Australia and Wajarri traditional owners.

Project coordinator Viviene Brown said it was an exciting find for both archaeologists and the Wajarri people.

"Our colleagues on the excavation, as soon as we told them they were just as excited as we are," she said.

"I think they had expected their ancestors had been there for that long but this gave them the proof, which is great.

"In the Mid West the really small number of sites that we'd excavated didn't seem to add up, they were all much younger than we expected.

"Until now we've had no evidence to say yes people were definitely in the Mid West at this very old time."

The Weld Range is home to the national heritage-listed site of Wilgi Mia Aboriginal ochre mine, which has a high cultural significance to Wajarri traditional owners and neighbouring groups who maintain cultural links to the area.

The project was funded by the Commonwealth.

Ms Brown said while there was still funding available, her team hoped to continue researching the artefacts they had found and have more opportunities to continue excavating in the Mid West.