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Methods dating artefacts

One small isolated hearth, dated to about 15,000 years ago, indicates that humans were still present then, but otherwise the main occupants of the cave were owls and carnivorous predators.

Large quantities of tiny intact rodent bones are indicative of the regurgitated pellets of owls, and masses of macropod and possum bones chewed into small fragments suggest the presence of the Tasmanian devil.

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Signs of both Aboriginal and European visits were found when the site was visited by Bowdler in 1973 at the suggestion of local residents.None of these are extinct animals, but the wombat, native cat and bandicoot are not found in more recent sites and were absent from Hunter Island in historic times.This early occupation was sporadic and fleeting, and it was followed by a phase of heavy rock-fall, which may represent the peak of the last glacial episode about 18 000 years ago.One or two tracks through rainforest were also kept open by fire - for example, from Port Davey across to the south coast, a short cut across the southwest corner of Tasmania - but there was little or no occupation throughout the rest of the southwest wilderness.As well as the notorious horizontal scrub, which is very difficult to talk through, the rivers of the southwest are extremely swift-flowing and hard to cross.When the first Europeans settled in Tasmania in the early 1880s, Aboriginal occupation was largely coastal, confined to a narrow coastal strip only a few hundred metres wide that was kept open by the use of fire.The people lived mainly off the resources of the sea, and travelled up and down the coast.Archaeological work during the last decade has proved Jones's first prediction correct, but his second wrong.Due to his work and the work of others, a great deal more is now known about Tasmanian prehistory, although many questions still remain to be answered.In the Pleistocene from at least 60 000 to 10 000 years ago the most southerly part of the Australian continent was the southeast Cape region of Tasmania.A drop in sea level of only about 55 metres exposed the floor of what is now Bass Strait, producing a land bridge of 15 million hectares (figure 9.1).

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