The article's title is totally misleading since the 'painting' is not the oldest found in Australia - it dates only to the 17th century CE and the claim that it is Australia's oldest painting is therefore utterly ridiculous! But it is important because it demonstrates that contact between Australian natives and southeast Asian fishermen and sailors most likely happened long before acceted history says it did. Actually, I do not see any reason why this contact would not have been going on from the time people from southeast Asia first navigated their way to Australia what - some 50,000 years ago - and settled there. I mean, why not?
Australia's oldest painting prompts history rethink
Posted Sat Jul 17, 2010 8:23am AEST
Archaeologists say a rock painting in Arnhem Land is the nation's oldest dated picture showing Aboriginal people's first contact with the outside world.
The rock painting is a picture of a sailing boat and it is located at a remote shelter in north-west Arnhem Land.
Archaeologist Paul Tacon says there are telling signs it is a depiction of a Perahu - a boat popular in Indonesia and Malaysia around the 17th century.
"One of the distinctive features is a tripod mast, another is a rectangular sail. And those are quite clear in this image," he said.
He says beeswax pellets stuck to the painting have been dated back to the 1620s, making it the oldest dated picture of early contact in Australia.
He also says there is clear evidence Macassars from Indonesia were sailing to north Australia to fish for trepang in the 1700s.
The painting is forcing archaeologists to rethink when outsiders first arrived on Australian shores.
"This find is extremely significant because it is our oldest reliably dated contact rock art image," Mr Tacon said.
"It's also important because it hints that Aboriginal people of northern Australia were interacting with peoples from South-East Asia on a more frequent basis and over a longer period of the past than what we've realised."
Archaeologists are also finding rock art showing early Indigenous contact with other cultures, including boats, knives, cups and even a monkey.