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One Million Enigmatic Petroglyphs At Pilbara – May Be The Planet’s Most Ancient

09 Jun 2013 by admin in Ancient

The rugged and remote Pilbara region, located about 1,300 kilometres north of Perth,  Australia and covering some 500,000 square kilometres of land, is one of Australia’s most fascinating places with traces of Earth’s earliest life.

The ancient Pilbara’s 2.5 billion year old landscape keeps many prehistoric secrets.  Some of them have recently been unveiled by reseachers working in the area.

Researchers collecting rock samples in Pilbara region have discovered a mineral – ‘tranquillityite’ – previously believed to exist only on the Moon.

This Burrup petroglyph may be one of the oldest carved faces in the world. (Credit: Ken Mulvaney).
The team from the University of Western Australia (UWA) and Curtin University in Perth found the mineral in Pilbara’s dolerite rocks at six different sites in the state’s north.

The uranium-lead dating indicates that the Pilbara rocks containing tranquillityite were over 1 billion years old,  about 200 million years older than other scientific estimates, reported Australian Geographic.Worth mentioning is also discovery of traces of bacteria that lived a  record-breaking 3.49 billion years ago, a mere billion years after Earth formed.

It’s our planet’s oldest fossils ever described and are our oldest ancestors, according to researchers. Unlike dinosaur bones, the newly identified fossils are not petrified body parts. They’re textures on the surfaces of sandstone thought to be sculpted by once-living organisms.

The most famous, however, are Pilbara’s ancient Aboriginal rock petroglyphs that pre-date  Stonehenge and Egypt’s pyramids.

Archaeologists have recently been able to confirms vast collection of Aboriginal engravings in the Pilbara region that may be tens of thousands of years old.

Pilbara’s engraved rocks
Australia’s most incredible, ancient Aboriginal engravings of human-like figures, animals (even creatures which have  been extinct for about 3,000 years) and diverse human faces can be found in the Burrup Peninsula and surrounding  Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia.

Their number is estimated up to 1 million  images!

First, archaeologists estimated that some of these fascinating engravings to be up to 30,000 years old, but  Professor Brad Pillans, a geologist at the Australian National University and his team took rock samples and  measured the natural erosion rates of rock on the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia.

S
ome of the rock art on the Dampier Archipelago Image Credit: Robert Bednarik
The climate of the Dampier Archipelago is described as tropical semi-desert with low, annual rainfall and the high  evaporation rate.

The team’s results show that the area has some of the lowest erosion rates anywhere in the world, providing the  perfect environment for preserving rock art. This could be attributed to the durability of the rock itself and  the dry climate of the Burrup Peninsula.

Pilbara’s engraved rocks. Photo credits: Australian Geographic
Pilbara’s engraved rocks
“The combination of hard rock and a dry climate means that the engravings could be up to 60,000 years old. That spans  the known history of human settlement in Australia and suggests that some of the oldest rock art in Australia, and  indeed the world, could well be on open-air display in the Burrup,” Professor Brad Pillans explained.

“As it turns out, the rocks on the Burrup Peninsula are extremely hard and are therefore very resistant to natural  weathering processes,” Professor Pillans said.

Burrup Peninsula rock art showing two birds. Credit: Brad Pillans / ANU
“When I first visited the Burrup Peninsula, I was absolutely amazed by the sheer number and variety of Aboriginal rock  art engravings. It’s estimated that there are up to one million images there, many of which are spectacular works of  art. Given the extraordinary amount and diversity of the rock art and its potential antiquity, I rather hope the area  will soon be nominated for World Heritage listing,” Professor Pillans said.

The paper will be published in the June 2013 issue of Quaternary Science Reviews.

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