SYDNEY, Australia - Aborigines first populated Australia's coastal regions around 50,000 years ago, according to a study published on Friday based on evidence collected from a remote cave in the northwestern part of the country.
"We know that the earliest Australians were seafarers as they came to Australia by boat. But until now we have known very little about these first coastal peoples," said Professor Sean Ulm, in a statement from James Cook University.
The evidence was found by an international team on Barrow Island, which is made up of limestone and located 60 kilometers (37 miles) off Pilbara in Western Australia.
The cave, which provides a long sequence of dietary remains and data on how the inhabitants adapted to the arid conditions, was used as a shelter by hunters 50,000 to 30,000 years ago.
The cave became "a residential base for family groups after 10,000 years ago. It was abandoned by about 7,000 years ago when rising sea levels finally cut it off from the mainland," archaeologist Professor Peter Veth, from The University of Western Australia, said.
During the investigation, James Cook University's Christa Placzek studied the speleothems that hang from the ceiling or wall of limestone caves to reconstruct the climate history of the area.
"The stalactites provide us with a unique record of the changing climate. Over the period that people occupied the cave the climate cycled through periods of cold, that were similar to modern arid conditions, and periods that were wetter and more tropical than today," Placzek explained in the statement.
The study, in which Aboriginal communities of the area and researchers from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand participated, was published in the Australian scientific journal Quaternary Science Reviews.