Bone tool found near Avoca Dell could be 5300 years old, archaeologist says

Archaeologist Chris Wilson has made an unusual discovery in his investigations into the history of the ancient Ngarrindjeri people.

The discovery of an ancient bone tool near Avoca Dell has cast new light on the ancient history of the region’s traditional owners.

Archaeologist Chris Wilson recently found the bone tool – the first to be found anywhere along the Lower Murray since the 1970s – near a Ngarrindjeri burial ground.

Radiocarbon dating put its age at somewhere between about 3800 and 5300 years old.

Stone artefacts and shell middens were relatively common at ground level along the River Murray, Dr Wilson and his collaborator, Amy Roberts, said.

But opportunities to study tools such as this one, made from a kangaroo or wallaby bone, were rare.

The pair could not say for sure what the tool might have been used for – perhaps it was a pin for holding a fur cloak in place, or an arrow point.

But Dr Wilson suggested the find was significant.

“Even one find of this kind provides us with opportunities to understand the use of bone technologies in the region and how such artefacts were adapted to a riverine environment,” he said.

His research was supported by the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal Corporation, and published online by the peer-reviewed journal Australian Archaeology last week.

Dr Wilson, a Ngarrindjeri man, because the first Indigenous Australian to earn a PhD in archaeology in 2017.

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