This video is part of a series of 5 animated maps.

View series: Prehistory

Series: Prehistory
An example of an animated map

Settlement of Australia

This map is part of a series of 5 animated maps showing the history of Prehistory.

After emerging from Africa around 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens moved eastwards. This migration gradually led to Australia, where evidence has been found of human presence dating back 60,000 years.

At that time, which corresponds to the middle of the last ice age, sea levels were much lower than they are today. Many of the islands of present-day Indonesia were attached to mainland Asia by the Sunda Shelf.

Also at that time, Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania formed a single continental block called Sahul.

Sunda and Sahul were nonetheless separated by stretches of sea. Routes via either Timor or Sulawesi represented crossings of almost 100 kilometres, requiring some kind of boat, however rudimentary, and a certain command of open sea navigation.

Once they had made the crossing, these groups of seafarers found a favourable environment on the new continent and they dispersed along the coasts and valleys. Traces of these early inhabitants have been found in eastern New Guinea, Tasmania to the far south and Western Australia, at Carpenter’s Gap and in the Swan Valley.

The oldest fossils of Australia’s first inhabitants were found at Lake Mungo. They are 40,000 years old.

Archaeologists have unearthed many stone objects that attest to the rich history of these populations, including axes, knives, scrapers, arrowheads and grinding stones.

Numerous settlement sites full of magnificent engravings and paintings demonstrate that the ancestors of today’s Aboriginal populations had mastered various forms of artistic and symbolic expression.