40,000 Year Old Rock Art Site Depicts Extinct Bird

Imageby Ben Gunn

Editor’s Note – As my readers may remember, I wrote an article titled, “40,000 Year Old Australian Archaeology Site Reignites Debate On Origins” 2 months ago. Now, there is a new development on this story.

An archaeological team recently visited a site containing a pictograph (not to be confused with a petroglyph) at Arnhem Land plateau in north Australia. They were investigating a large, flightless bird depicted here, which was originally thought to be an Emu. Upon closer examination, it was not an Emu at all, but rather a species of bird extinct for 40,000 years.


Anthropologist/paleontologist Peter Murray, formerly of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Australia proclaimed, “Goodness, do we have a Genyornis?”

Archaeologist Ben Gunn, of the Australian Rock Art Research Association who was documenting the Niwarla Gabarnmung site for the Jawoyn Association stated, “The animal wasn’t an emu; it looked like the megafauna bird Genyornis, with thick, huge toes and short legs.”

Extinct Genyornis

Inspection of the beak area in the pictograph confirmed that the large flightless bird was indeed a Genyornis.

Here is the problem: Genyornis (Genyornis newtoni) went extinct 40,000 years ago, one of many species that fell prey to a new invasive species: homo sapiens sapiens.

In my previous article, I discussed some of the different dating techniques for rock art sites:

When certain materials are last heated or exposed to sunlight, the lattice structure traps some radioactivity. Since there is a known and constant decay rate for this radioactivity, it can consequently be measured giving an accurate time frame. ThermoLuminescence (TL) fills an important gap between the accuracy range of radiocarbon (C14) dating which generally is accurate only to around 40-60,000 years BP (Before Present) and Potassium Argon (K-Ar) dating which does not begin to be accurate until at least 100,000 BP. TL is also a valuable tool for measuring sediments and ceramics where carbon samples cannot be taken.

If Genyornis vanished from the face of the world 40k BP, that means a new measure of dating has been introduced, and that the rock art must have been created at least this far back, making it one of the oldest such sites on the planet.


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