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Australian Aboriginal Rock Art May Depict Giant Bird Extinct for 40,000 Years

Anonymous Coward
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06/01/2010 06:18 PM
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Australian Aboriginal Rock Art May Depict Giant Bird Extinct for 40,000 Years
Australia's oldest painting?

A red ochre rock art depiction of two emu-like birds (Genyornis newtoni?) with their necks outstretched.

An Australian Aboriginal rock art may depict a giant bird that is thought to have become extinct some 40,000 years ago, thereby making it the oldest rock painting on the island continent. The red ochre drawing was first discovered two years ago, but archaeologists were only able to confirm the finding two weeks ago, when they first visited the remote site on the Arnhem Land plateau in north Australia.

"Initially, we thought it was another big emu," said consulting archaeologist Ben Gunn, a founding member of the Australian Rock Art Research Association who was documenting the Niwarla Gabarnmung site for the Jawoyn Association.

Niwarla Gabarnmung is located in southwest Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory, a region that is filled with thousands of aboriginal rock art sites.

"The animal wasn't an emu; it looked like the megafauna bird Genyornis, with thick, huge toes and short legs," stated Mr Gunn.

"When we got to the beak we knew that was no emu. We thought, 'goodness do we have a Genyornis?'," said anthropologist and paleontologist Peter Murray, who is now retired from the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

Genyornis had a big beak that it used to eat fruits and probably smaller animals that were either too stupid or too slow to escape. Genyornis fossils reveal that it had large hoof-like claws on its toes, adapting it to a cursorial life.

"If it is a Genyornis -- and it certainly does have all the features of one -- it would be the oldest dated visual painting that we've got in Australia," said Mr Gunn.

More here: [link to scienceblogs.com]
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06/01/2010 06:40 PM
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Re: Australian Aboriginal Rock Art May Depict Giant Bird Extinct for 40,000 Years
If this painting is as old as some authorities think, it will be among the oldest ever discovered. For example, the earliest known European cave paintings were created roughly 32,000 years ago.


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