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Australia claims it invented cutting-edge tech before rest of world

Chopper was the sharpest tool in the box

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Australia has laid claim to being the country that first invented a quite literally game-changing piece of cutting-edge technology - to wit, the stone axe with edge ground for greater sharpness.

"This new evidence for the earliest securely dated ground-edge implement in the world indicates that Australia was an important locale of technological innovation 35,000 years ago," comments Dr Bruno David, Down Under archaeologist.

Researchers believe that humanity's primitive ancestors were using stone tools as long as 3.4 million years ago. However it seems to have taken the greater technical nous of proper Homo sapiens to achieve proper edge grinding, making for a much cuttier tool and starting us off on the road to nuclear power and spaceships.

Previously the earliest known ground-edge stone tools were assessed as dating from just 22,000 to 30,000 years ago. But then in 2006 a large rock shelter was spotted from the air in Jawoyn aboriginal territory in northern Australia's Arnhem Land. The shelter, dubbed Nawarla Gabarnmang, was subsequently investigated by archaeologists and the record-breakingly old chopper was discovered.

"The ground-axe fragment is dated to 35,000 years ago, which pre-dates the oldest examples of ground-edge implements," says Dr David, who was part of the team which found the long-lost tool.

"Axes fulfilled a unique position within the Aboriginal toolkit as long use-life chopping tools, were labour intensive to manufacture and highly valued," adds the doc. "During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, axes were understood by local Aboriginal communities to carry with them the ancestral forces which characterised the particular quarry from which they came."

The international team which confirmed Australia's pre-eminence in stone axe technology was funded by the Aussie government's Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

The research will be published in the next issue of Australian Archaeology. ®

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