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Ancient Cave Art May Depict Giant Bird Extinct For 40,000 Years

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the was-its-best-friend-a-wooly-mammoth dept.

Australia 137

grrlscientist writes "Recently studied Australian Aboriginal rock art may depict a giant bird that is thought to have become extinct some 40,000 years ago, thereby making it the oldest rock painting on the island continent. The red ochre drawing was first discovered two years ago, but archaeologists were only able to confirm the finding two weeks ago, when they first visited the remote site on the Arnhem Land plateau in north Australia. 'Genyornis was a giant flightless bird that was taller and heavier than either the ostrich or emu. It had powerful legs and tiny wings, and probably closely resembled ducks and geese, its closest living relatives. ... Interestingly, Genyornis bones have been excavated in association with human artifacts in Cuddie Springs in the Australian state of New South Wales. It is likely that humans lived alongside these birds, and some scientists think that humans may have contributed to their extinction." Jamie recalled that in the essay "A Lesson from the Old Masters," in the volume Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, Stephen Jay Gould thanks our ancestors who drew Irish Elk on cave walls for "providing the only possible evidence for a hump that would otherwise have disappeared into the maw of lost history."

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This just in! (0)

Xtense (1075847) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409070)

Ancient art represents ancient reality, news at 11!

Re:This just in! (1)

MokuMokuRyoushi (1701196) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409100)

In other news - apples are sticky!

This cave art is nothing (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410472)

I found a drawing of a windows 3.0 on a wall somewhere in the city,

Re:This just in! (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409134)

Hey, it's just the clueless archaeologists misinterpreting reality. What happened was that six thousand years ago, the cavemen found some faked fossils and tried to imagine how that animal might have looked like if it had actually existed.

Re:This just in! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32409148)

Indeed. 20k years from now people may believe an "Iron Man" or "Iron Men" lived among us.

Re:This just in! (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409230)

That would be pretty cool!

Re:This just in! (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409776)

Hey, lay off archeologists, they're doing the best they can.

;-)

Re:This just in! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411366)

Anybody looking at that 'painting' would think that Australian aborigines only had an IQ of 60...

Oh, wait...

Re:This just in! (3, Informative)

Forge (2456) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409264)

So dose This [discoverynews.us] mean Dinosaurs walked with man, or that Dinosaurs could draw?

Re:This just in! (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409354)

So dose This [discoverynews.us] mean Dinosaurs walked with man, or that Dinosaurs could draw?

LOL! Yes, and the fact that even better likenesses (assuming you similarly outline them for people to see, since they wouldn't seem them if you didn't, and place them next to pictures since otherwise they'll make their own associations -- like the moose in the third picture down where they didn't put a posed dinosaur next to it so it looks like a moose to me) err, what was I saying? Oh yes, and the fact that even better likenesses in the clouds demonstrate that these dinosaurs are alive today and controlling the weather.

Re:This just in! (1)

PigIronBob (885337) | more than 4 years ago | (#32412106)

fur krist sake, lurn yerself sum inglisk

Re:This just in! (2, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409452)

Ancient art represents ancient reality, news at 11!

Actually this provides proof of prior art for Big Bird [wikipedia.org] and should invalidate all of Sesame Street's copyrights :-)

Re:This just in! (1)

Guido von Guido (548827) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409542)

Ancient art represents ancient reality, news at 11!

Actually this provides proof of prior art for Big Bird [wikipedia.org] and should invalidate all of Sesame Street's copyrights :-)

The artist had no lawyers or lobbyists, so the copyright expired long before Sesame Street.

Re:This just in! (3, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409498)

I have mod points but thought I would comment instead.

To you and the clueless fucks who modded you up to +5 Insightful: Yes, you must think you are brilliant. Of course the archeologists have no idea that cave drawings represent reality. This is an absolutely new concept to them.

It could have nothing to do with verifying that, yes indeed, this animal did go extinct in the time period they thing it did. It has nothing to do with showing the relationships the people had with the bird (was it food? was it considered to be good luck?) or how accurately the drawings represented the actual bird (based on fossilized remains). Or probably a dozen other insights that I would never think of.

But yes, you oh brilliant 13 year old on Slashdot because Mom won't let you go out and play in the rain have skewered their efforts completely.

Frankly, it is the +5 Insightful that set me off. How stupid can you be?

Re:This just in! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32409764)

I have mod points but thought I would comment instead.

If you have some then clearly they are wasted on you. You could have modded that post down instead of posting your rather pissy rant.

To you and the clueless fucks who modded you up to +5 Insightful: Yes, you must think you are brilliant.

My mum's thinks I'm pretty sharp and I tend to agree.

Of course the archeologists have no idea that cave drawings represent reality. This is an absolutely new concept to them.

That was my initial presumption as well, but then I thought "Maybe these archeologists spent too much time in the lab and might need a little help."

It could have nothing to do with verifying that, yes indeed, this animal did go extinct in the time period they thing it did.

I'm glad you posted that. I'm sure those archeologists could use that bit of insight as well.

It has nothing to do with showing the relationships the people had with the bird (was it food? was it considered to be good luck?) or how accurately the drawings represented the actual bird (based on fossilized remains).

If it was food then they probably considered seeing it good luck as well. Now that should have been obvious, no?

Or probably a dozen other insights that I would never think of.

Surely that isn't the yardstick we're measuring things by these days, is it lad?

But yes, you oh brilliant 13 year old on Slashdot because Mom won't let you go out and play in the rain have skewered their efforts completely.

It's quite nice here actually. I may go out and have a tea party with Clive Frog this afternoon.

Frankly, it is the +5 Insightful that set me off. How stupid can you be?

How stupid am I? That's a tough question. Best not ask my mum because she's the one who keeps telling me I'm brilliant.

Re:This just in! (1)

alexborges (313924) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409806)

Dear AC:

I think you are my long lost brother.

Tell mom I love her.

Re:This just in! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32410144)

Maybe, just maybe; the birds drew them...

Re:This just in! (1)

Xtense (1075847) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410258)

To you and whoever modded op insightful: unicode needs some sort of character that marks jokes, like ENDOFJOKE or something. Also, I wonder if that algorithm from a newsstory couple of days ago that was supposed to detect sarcasm could be adapted here?

Re:This just in! (1)

stealth_finger (1809752) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409540)

Looks like two birds doing it to me, I wonder how they became extinct

Re:This just in! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32409612)

Then what does that say about the Egyptians?!
Was Stargate actually factual?! Oh god, Apophis is even the name of that 2029 rock that is going to be close...

Re:This just in! (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410422)

Uh.. the scientists who named it were fans of the show....

Maybe I am too skeptic (4, Interesting)

aBaldrich (1692238) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409792)

Now my question is, was this bird really extinct 40k years ago? Or is it an estimation? Because, maybe, they could have lived on longer than they thought.

Re:Maybe I am too skeptic (4, Informative)

jfengel (409917) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410694)

It's an estimation. All data points that old are estimates, and thinner on the ground than you'd like. So each new data point is potentially very handy in establishing the chronology of what happened when on the continent.

Either the people were there earlier, or the bird there later, than previously thought. They have reason to believe it's the former (20,000 year old fossils should be easier to find than 40,000 year old ones), and it fits well into a picture that humans came and helped wipe the bird out. They've found skeletons of this bird in the same caves as evidence of human habitation, but the timing is hard to sort out. This data point helps make the picture more clear, if still not perfectly clear.

Re:Maybe I am too skeptic (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411302)

One of the points is Carbon dating, something you can generally do with Fossil's but not always with cave art. When it comes to deciding whether humans are earlier or the birds are later, they have more empiracal evidence for fossils than they usually do for drawings. There are a lot of ways to gauge how old something is, especially when its buried in the ground, since you have a rough idea of how long ago each level of dirt is. I don't know if the cave art was buried or discovered in a cave, the latter which makes it harder to date actually.

So, I mean, it may seem like a lot of it is conjecture but the truth is Archaeologists have made a science out of dating items. I'm pretty sure that the date of the bird will likely remain the same, and it'll be human involvement that moves around a bit. Because neolithics and things from those era seem to be going back further and further, we have a hard time determining exactly when Man started using tools.

Re:Maybe I am too skeptic (2, Interesting)

DarkEmpath (1064992) | more than 4 years ago | (#32412960)

I was actually just watching a YouTube video on the extinctions on mega-fauna yesterday. Apparently carbon dating is particularly difficult in Australia as we have an unusually high percentage of carbonate rocks. It causes a lot of environmental contamination. I can't believe I've lived here all my life and didn't know that.

Growing up, I've heard figures about aboriginal arrival in Australia ranging from 40,000 years up to 80,000 ago. Since modern humans hadn't been human all that long 80,000 years ago, I'm leaning towards the lower end of that scale. All the evidence, however, points to mega fauna extinction within a short time after human arrival. A documentary I saw a couple of years ago indicated humans didn't hunt mega fauna to extinction, but the aboriginal practice of periodic burning of the landscape changed the flora, and the larger fauna (marsupial lions, giant goannas, giant kangaroos, and the subject of the article, the "demon duck of doom") weren't able to adapt in time.

I'm guessing, in a place like this, 40,000 years back is all you can accurately carbon date, even under ideal conditions. I don't think anyone (in the scientific community) doubted humans and demon ducks of doom co-existed, we just didn't really know how long that coexistence was.

Re:Maybe I am too skeptic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411114)

I'm confused. Why is this modded interesting? Someone questions the date a bit? So what? Maybe it is modded up just because the word skeptic is in the title...

Genyornis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32409086)

More like Ginormous!

humans may have contributed to their extinction (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409124)

Do we always have to blame man?

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (2, Informative)

ZERO1ZERO (948669) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409164)

It's OK! Some scientists think that humans may NOT have contributed to their extinction.

There tha's better.

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (4, Insightful)

maugle (1369813) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409192)

OK, you're part of some primitive tribe living in the same area as a bunch of giant, flightless, and probably very tasty birds. Wouldn't you prefer hunting those huge birds instead of smaller animals that are more difficult to catch?

Since they didn't have any concept of "sustainability", it's very easy to imagine those humans contributing to the birds' extinction.

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32409254)

tasty? these things were either predators or scavengers. They were not tasty.

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (2, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410500)

Why? Tuna and Lobster are pretty tasty.

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32412508)

You may have also noticed THEY'RE ON THE BOTTOM OF THE FUCKIN OCEAN. Not too hard for us,more of a challenge for primitive peoples. Not impossible, but when the giant flightless bird is standing a couple hundred yards away, I personally would give that a try first before climbing in a boat and fishing for shit.

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32413398)

Tuna and lobster are not warm-blooded. There is a reason we hunt bears only when its diet consists of berries and other plants. The woodcock is a game bird that is edible, but unpopular, since it feeds mainly on worms. We don't hunt any large predator birds either. The very popular game animals, and domesticated farm animals (cow, pig, sheep, chicken) are all herbivores, while carnivores taste "gamey" and unpleasant.

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (5, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409474)

and some scientists think that humans may have contributed to their extinction."

Well for starters, imagine the omlets you could get from that thing! Eggs were a primary food source for almost every hunter-gatherer society back in those times. It certainly wouldn't be the only example of man hunting a species to extinction.

Australia is an isolated continent, and as such it works almost like an island, with a very fragile, mutually-dependent ecosystem. If you want to get more abstract with this, one could even say that man was responsible for their extinction yet never hunted them or their eggs... maybe man for some reason hunted some specific lizard to extinction, which also happened to be their primary food source? Weird subtle interactions like that can occur on islands.

Man is good at causing these sorts of problems because as a species he's very organized. If Grok figures out that those eggs are easy to find and good eating, it doesn't take 25 generations of evolution to breed "nest hunting" behavior into the village. It takes a few months locally, maybe a few years across the entire area. Other species just can't adapt to something that fast. I don't think it's proper to "blame man" for this, it's just the next advancement in evolution. But it is unfortunate. And I think it's something that we just need to understand and accept at some level. Particularly for our behavior in the past when these subtle yet potent interactions weren't understood or respected.

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (0)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410046)

Australia is an isolated continent, and as such it works almost like an island

Australia is an island.

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410842)

Island: any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water.

So, antarctica, asia, japan, iceland, see, they're ALL islands by the broader definition. Technically, if you had even a small lake on the moon, everything else, all the other land, would be an "island". But then we get into "what's a continent?" Most agree that australia is a continent, so I suppose that knocks it out of the running for islandness.

By most common discussion though, japan is about the largest landmass still considered an "island". The reason australia seems to draw this debate more often is because of the distance it is from other land masses. But then the same is true for antarctica, but it just doesn't get anywhere near the press as australia.

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (1)

PigIronBob (885337) | more than 4 years ago | (#32412644)

Japan is about the largest landmass still considered an "island"


Madagascar is not talking to you as of today...

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (1)

PerformanceDude (1798324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32412840)

Actually, Greenland is the holder of the title of worlds largest island.. Just saying...

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (1)

PigIronBob (885337) | more than 4 years ago | (#32413118)

correct, my argument was that Japan is not the largest landmass considered to be an island, Madagascar springs to mind as one that is much larger, though not necessarily 'the' largest.I think that new Zealand would beat Japan for that matter

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (1)

the_womble (580291) | more than 4 years ago | (#32413946)

ABout is right: Japan is an archipelago, not a single island.

Its total land area is less than that of Greenland, New Guinea, Borneo, Madagasgar, Baffin Island, or Sumatra.

It is pretty big, with the biggest island slightly bigger than Britain (with close to twice the population)

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411630)

Modded overrated for pointing out a true fact of geology. The slashtards stike again!

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (1)

PigIronBob (885337) | more than 4 years ago | (#32412632)

as such it works almost like an island..


but..., but..., never mind!

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (1)

DarkEmpath (1064992) | more than 4 years ago | (#32413022)

A documentary I watched a few years ago suggested the most likely scenario was that the aboriginal practice of regularly burning off the countryside changed the flora to the point the mega fauna couldn't survive. Coprolites indicate a major change in the birds diet, just as they were disappearing.

So, given the current state of evidence, the most likely reason for the mega fauna extinction in Australia isn't hunting, but destruction of the environment. The more things change the more they stay the same :-/

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (2, Informative)

shermo (1284310) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411974)

We know the Maoris did the same to the Moa in New Zealand, and there seem to be a lot of similarities here.

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32413660)

Fun fact, Moa is the Polynesian word for chicken. Take from that what you will about their fate.

Re:humans may have contributed to their extinction (1)

thePig (964303) | more than 4 years ago | (#32413088)

One major reason why the blame is on man is that these species did not co-evolve with man.
By the time humans reached say Australia, they were already very intelligent and were the apex predator of all the habitats he encountered, due to organisation, fire and tools.
Since they did not co-evolve, these birds which were not afraid of humans since they have not seen humans before. Thus, they became easy prey to humans before they could evolve to learn fear for humans.
Actually, humans are blamed for mega fauna extinction in almost all the continents other than africa due to the exact same thing. And this was a detriment to their future evolution due to lack of mega fauna to domesticate too - which is a different subject altogether.

"Do we always have to blame man?", yes, this one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32413380)

"Do we always have to blame man?" - by nurb432 (527695) on Monday May 31, @02:34PM (#32409124) Homepage

Yes, this man (were I there at that time), & I will tell you WHY now, too! It's because of this quote from the intial posting of this article above:

"probably closely resembled ducks and geese, its closest living relatives."

Now, I don't know about you guys reading, but... I LOVE DUCK &/or GOOSE meat, hugely bigtime!

(Best tasting fowl meat there is, bar-none!)

So, I guess what I am saying here is, that IF others here like duck or goose as much as I do? Heh, then they'll understand...

APK

P.S.=> Now, taking that a wee bit further, if many others feel this way also, then the survival rate of those birds wouldn't be very high in my estimation, because they'd get hunted out!

(I mean, just judging by the sheer size of those things, it'd probably be hell trying to domesticate them & then support feeding a beast of that size (Chicken "mash", what I recall chickens being fed (from what I recall as a boy growing up right next to a farm) is largely grains, & grains can be used to feed people so it may not have been that "economically feasible" in those days to try to sustain a farm of these birds, as we do with chickens for food - they probably consume(d) many times what a chicken does to maintain such size!)...

So, just on a not well thought out hunch here (and, lol, hungry as heck too - time to make some chow after posting this), I'd have to say this is probably what "went down" for these birds... & especially if their meat was like duck or goose (and they were THAT big - you could eat for a LONG TIME, and good, from just one of these birds imo).

So tasty! apk

re Taste (1)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409126)

It tastes like chicken...hmm!

I knew they were real! (2, Informative)

BlackBloq (702158) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409176)

There must most defiantly refer to the venerable Chocobo!I knew it wasn't just a game! Now where did they bury the huge swords?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocobo

Golden Girls Memorial day salute! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32409178)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you through a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say thank you for being a friend.

Crayola (2, Funny)

Codename Dutchess (1782238) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409214)

I like how they claim they can use the crayon scribbles to tell the difference between an emu and this Genyomis.

From TFA:

"Initially, we thought it was another big emu," said consulting archaeologist Ben Gunn, a founding member of the Australian Rock Art Research Association who was documenting the Niwarla Gabarnmung site for the Jawoyn Association.

But then we figured, nah, its probably this big giant extinct bird instead...

Re:Crayola (5, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409308)

But then we figured, nah, its probably this big giant extinct bird instead...

Well, yes. When you find a picture that looks like a bird, but not quite like the emus you knew were around, you might think it's a badly drawn emu. But when you discover that the features that made you think it was badly drawn turn out to exactly match the features of some other species, you can (a) continue to assume it's a badly drawn emu that happens to, by remarkable coincidence, be badly drawn in just the right way to make it looks rather like some other species, or (b) you can now assume it's that other species.

Occam's razor is better satisfied by assume it is what it most resembles, not a badly drawn something else, with the coincidence that the badly drawn features happen to match the features of something else.

Re:Crayola (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409558)

Occam's razor is better satisfied by assume it is what it most resembles, not a badly drawn something else, with the coincidence that the badly drawn features happen to match the features of something else.

But what if the artist was the first Picasso?

Re:Crayola (2, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410730)

But what if the artist was the first Picasso?

Then it was probably a self-portait.

Not possible! (-1, Troll)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409262)

Everyone knows the universe was created on Oct 23, 4004 BC! This is obviously just an atheist/communist/nazi plot to mislead us.

Don't fall for it, bothers!

Using the extinction to date the painting? (3, Insightful)

Dragoniz3r (992309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409352)

So, we think the bird went extinct 40k years ago, so we're using that to date the painting as being that old? Does that seem backwards to anyone else? How about we date the painting, then maybe we can get a better estimate of exactly when these birds went extinct?

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (3, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409596)

So, we think the bird went extinct 40k years ago, so we're using that to date the painting as being that old?

Of course not. There could have been a 35000 year-old member of the tribe who painted the picture.

There has been a steady stream of evidence for human civilization much much earlier than is currently accepted. If I were a betting man, I'd bet that in my lifetime, there's going to be a revision of just how old humanity really is. Since anthropologists went way out on a limb 100 years ago and tied their estimates for the beginnings of human civilization to some notion of biblical "history" they have been working very hard to protect themselves from any challenge. Any evidence for civilization going back 25,000 or 55,000 or 150,000 years is simply ignored as being an "outlier". It must be spurious, they say, because it does not fit with our current theories. If those theories were to fall, so would the doctoral dissertations and published manuscripts of hundreds and hundreds of highly respected members of their fraternity.

Every so often, someone like, say, Michael Tellinger, or Robert Bauval, who is a member in good standing of the club, dares to present evidence suggesting that the current estimates of human origins are way off. Those people are quickly and efficiently made to not exist in the collective consciousness of anthropology. When it comes to dealing with people who challenge conventional wisdom, anthropologists can be practically Stalinist in the ruthless way they can forget formerly prestigious fellows ever existed.

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (2, Interesting)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410540)

I find your assertions interesting, and would be gratified if you could supply a few links to support both the earlier origin hypothesis and the closed ranks of anthropologists. Not criticising, I'm genuinely interested.

here's one (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32412100)

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (2, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32413718)

Well, unfortunately, if anthropologists closed ranks on someone, it's unlikely that they're still in the field. Usually the early origins model are killed in the crib, at the point of dissertation.

When I did computer work for the Oriental Institute at the Univ of Chicago some years back, I encountered a professor who very quietly and very discreetly believed that human origins went back a lot further. He'd seen grad students do some amazing work in South West China with artifacts that just should not have been where they were found. And it wasn't just a few items. The kid was denied a PhD, which is quite rare in academia and left school completely. The prof told me that this happened more than once. He told me that Egyptology especially is rife with examples of much older origins for the monuments near Giza, but they are dismissed out of hand without analysis for the most part.

Maybe he was a crank, but he had a named chair with the dept and the institute and didn't seem looney.

I'm not an anthropologist, so I prefer believing really sketchy theories like those of Graham Hancock and Michael Tellinger and Mr Cremo. Be careful of the link that the AC below has included however. It set one of my spyware blockers into spasms, so it might not be what it seems. Maybe google "Forbidden Archaeology" for some interesting reading.

Beyond that, affiant sayeth not.

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (2, Interesting)

Josef Meixner (1020161) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409694)

How about we date the painting

I don't think it is easy, if even possible. Don't forget it was scribbled on a sheet of rock. The sheet was created by natural processes, so no use to date it. The ocher also is a mixture of natural material (clay and iron oxide) and I don't think there is a way to date its use either. So only some kind of adhesive to get the paint to stick to the rock might contain carbon which could be dated. But the amount is probably very small and can be contaminated (the paintings were exposed to the surrounding for an very long time). So it seems useful to use any clue you can get to help in dating the drawings.

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411196)

Clay can be dated, but it depends on specific circumstances. Baked clay will absorb radiation at a fixed rate, which is then released on re-heating. (Thermoluminescence dating.) It also absorbs water at a deterministic rate but this relies on it being dry to start with. Sun-dried is fine.

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (5, Informative)

zerro (1820876) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409990)

of course, if we RTFA, we note that they plan on doing just that "Further studies, such as radiocarbon dating of the paint, are planned."

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (2, Funny)

Dragoniz3r (992309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410618)

You must be new here :)

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411150)

So are you saying Slashdot readers are object-oriented? Otherwise, how would they be new rather than malloc()ed?

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (1)

wkcole (644783) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410704)

So, we think the bird went extinct 40k years ago, so we're using that to date the painting as being that old? Does that seem backwards to anyone else?

Probably, but that doesn't mean that it *IS* backwards.

How about we date the painting, then maybe we can get a better estimate of exactly when these birds went extinct?

RTFA, and the sources it cites.

What is really interesting about this is the age of the rock art, which would seem to be as old as any human art anywhere and make the case for the Jawoyn Aborigines having one of the oldest cultures in the world. Dating rock art tends to be imprecise to the point of near impossibility in many cases, dating bird remains in the 40kya range is much less so. TFA states that there is a plan to attempt to 'radiocarbon' date the drawing but since the medium is red ochre and the cited sources don't mention any other dating methods being tried despite extensive skepticism of the age, that's not very credible.

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411274)

Usually, in such circumstances, there's a charcoal source that is connected to the art. But there are many forms of dating and I wouldn't trust the article to have been written with an exceptionally technical audience in mind. Creswell Crags' cave art was dated via the limestone deposited over the figures. Clay, under specific circumstances as I've listed elsewhere in the replies, can be dated. Anything exposed to cosmic rays can (in theory) be dated by the ratio of the isotopes. (Cosmic rays alter the nuclei at a deterministic rate.)

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (3, Interesting)

bwilli123 (683409) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411796)

What is really interesting about this is the age of the rock art, which would seem to be as old as any human art anywhere and make the case for the Jawoyn Aborigines having one of the oldest cultures in the world. .

from the original article

The Jawoyn people say they are excited the painting could be Australia's oldest dated rock art. The Jawoyn are a group of Indigenous peoples who are the traditional owners of the land in Australia's Northern Territory...

What leads you to believe that as successive waves of humans entered Australia that the current occupants are in any way related to the painting's creators? Were the original inhabitants pushed further south,overrun,wiped out,walked to Tasmania? http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070509161829.htm [sciencedaily.com]

"At the time of the migration, 50,000 years ago, Australia and New Guinea were joined by a land bridge and the region was also only separated from the main Eurasian land mass by narrow straits such as Wallace's Line in Indonesia. The land bridge was submerged about 8,000 years ago...

Given 30,000 years plus at the front door entrance to Australia I think the Jarwoyn are the least likely descendants of the original artists.

Re:Using the extinction to date the painting? (2, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#32413610)

Carbon dating on the implements used to mix the paint was used to get the age according to the news reports on the radio yesterday.

An Australian flightless bird with strong legs (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32409400)

It must be a surfin' bird!

A distant cousin of the Moa? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32409416)

Perhaps it's worth considering that Australia's neighbour, New Zealand, has had pretty much the largest flightless bird, at 12ft (~4m) high the Moa [wikipedia.org] , hunted to extinction by the Maori. It's considered to be a cousin of the Australian Emu. Little need for wings with no mammals around for all those thousands of years..

Relatedly NZ has had by far the world's largest eagle [wikipedia.org] , often depicted in indigenous culture carrying away small humans (think "children").

Not a very good way to date a painting... (3, Interesting)

Spykk (823586) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409428)

Who is to say that the descriptions of the bird were not passed down in legends? It seems entirely possible to me that the bird was painted after they had become extinct.

Re:Not a very good way to date a painting... (1)

joe_garage (1664999) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409876)

I drew a dinosaur - therefore they still exist Oo O Oooo O O O OO o o oo

Re:Not a very good way to date a painting... (1)

ilguido (1704434) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409904)

I think that there are better explanations for this paintings (like bad artists or bad science), however the Kafirs sculpted and engraved figurines of horses for centuries, without seeing a real horse. ( a quick reference for the sceptics: http://madamepickwickartblog.com/?p=9431 [madamepick...rtblog.com] )

Re:Not a very good way to date a painting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32412296)

wouldn't that still be good evidence of interaction between people and this bird?

Re:Not a very good way to date a painting... (3, Insightful)

wkcole (644783) | more than 4 years ago | (#32412728)

Who is to say that the descriptions of the bird were not passed down in legends? It seems entirely possible to me that the bird was painted after they had become extinct.

The answer to precisely that question is in the article, lifted directly from one of its source articles.

More generally, the surprise about the age of this rock art isn't a matter of a century or two, or even really a millennium or five. The paleontologists and archaeologists are saying 40kya, the rock art expert is saying 5-10kya. There are very few cultures in the world which are known to have postulated anything older than 10kya as the beginning of humankind, and those which have done so tell stories of old times that are far from accuracy or precision. Getting the beak, leg, and claw shapes of an extinct bird passed down correctly through 30ky+ would be an unrivaled feat of trivial fact preservation.

Whoa, no pictures! (1, Insightful)

grub (11606) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409460)


Please remove all pictures of the bird. The bird is a sacred animal to my religion. Any pictures of the bird will lead to a holy war of the Birdists again you infidels.

Re:Whoa, no pictures! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32409772)

Please require showing of the Most Holy Bird, peace be upon her and her hatchlings. If you do not show the Most Holy Bird off everywhere and on everything, in it's divine blessings, this will logically lead to a holy war of the Birdites against you infidels and your heretic Birdist allies. Bless the Most Holy Bird as she blesses the world and makes it fertile!

Midwest (3, Informative)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409516)

I've read stories of American Indian culture talking about the giant birds in the midwest states. South of me here along the Mississippi near Alton Illinois there apparently used to be a giant painting of a bird on the side of a bluff near a cave. Unfortunately the bluff was destroyed by the nearby state prison for gravel.

Re:Midwest (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410202)

Why does everybody think that really primitive people couldn't write science fiction?
Maybe that drawing is the caveman equivalent of "Land of the lost".

A cousin of the Moa? (5, Informative)

delire (809063) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409538)

Last post disappeared to /dev/null. Trying again.

It's perhaps worth considering that Australia's neighbour New Zealand had what's probably the world's largest flightless bird at 4m tall (12ft) , the Moa [wikipedia.org] . Much like the Kiwi, it simply didn't need to keep wings as their were no mammals with which to compete. It was soon hunted to extinction by Maori settlers some 500 years ago. Of note it's considered to be a relative of the Australian Emu..

While the rest of the bird kingdom in NZ devolved their wings, the world's biggest eagle, The Haast Eagle [wikipedia.org] enjoyed the easy life, often making short work of the Moa from time to time.

Re:A cousin of the Moa? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411652)

ah ha! ... now we know. *You* are anonymous coward. I read your post above.

You must feel pretty stupid.

So not only were the Maoris eating the Fijians but you were also stealing our birds. Bastards.

Re:A cousin of the Moa? (2, Informative)

bar-agent (698856) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411734)

The terror bird [wikipedia.org] predated the Moa and Haast's Eagle by eras (or epochs, not sure). It was around during the Cenozoic and wide-spread. Although moas were bigger, the terror birds were a tougher customer. Instead of wings, they apparently had short arms tipped with a claw that they used to spear and hold on to their prey, and a meat-cleaver of a beak.

Re:A cousin of the Moa? (1)

saforrest (184929) | more than 4 years ago | (#32412910)


While the rest of the bird kingdom in NZ devolved their wings, the world's biggest eagle, The Haast Eagle enjoyed the easy life, often making short work of the Moa from time to time.

I read something once where a scientist was conjecturing about what the first interaction between a human and a Haast Eagle, a raptor adapted to carry off and eviscerate 2-meter tall bipeds, must have been like.

[Proto-Maori guy stepping out of seafaring canoe]
Wow, nice island. Hey, what the hell is that?

I'm not surprised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32409590)

Chocobos are a bitch to breed.

Island or Continent. (1)

doconnor (134648) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409632)

Pick one!

Re:Island or Continent. (2, Funny)

pipedwho (1174327) | more than 4 years ago | (#32412428)

Australia, an island off the coast of New Zealand.

Looks more to me like (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409726)

a Great Leonopteryx

Re:Looks more to me like (1)

DarkEmpath (1064992) | more than 4 years ago | (#32413056)

More like a Demon Duck of Doom [wikipedia.org] .

Don't tell the religious fanatics (0)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32409852)

Actually it's a depiction of Mohammad disguised as a bird... The cave must be blown up...

Oh Crap! (2, Funny)

zerospeaks (1467571) | more than 4 years ago | (#32410470)

The young earth creationist are going to claim this one as "evidence" for a young earth.

What if the bird is fiction? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411058)

Here's a stupid question: What if the drawing(s) are fiction?

Sounds to me like circular reasoning... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411060)

First off, the scientists *somehow* come up with the magic number of 40,000 and say that is how many years ago the birds died out. Then they find a painting on a wall that *could* be one of those birds, and they assume the painting must then be 40,000 years old. Usually, the rock gets it's age from what's in it, and the fossil gets it's age from the rock. This leaves me wondering why in all the world we're still stupid enough to treat our theories like they are proven fact, when most of us don't even know where those theories (a.k.a. the dates) came from in the first place?

Re:Sounds to me like circular reasoning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32411658)

Sounds like a Texas public school education to me.

Re:Sounds to me like circular reasoning... (1)

DarkEmpath (1064992) | more than 4 years ago | (#32413074)

There there. Don't let those pesky scientists with their inconvenient "education" get you down.

Back to church for you, you'll be much happier there.

It looks like a bunyip (2, Interesting)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32411358)

Interestingly the drawing shown in the article looks remarkably like some drawings and descriptions of bunyips that I've seen and read about that the indigenous Australians described to colonial settlers (When I say some drawings I mean some of the earlier drawings post-colonisation. As time progressed after European settlement the drawings and descriptions seem to have diverged from the earlier descriptions). To me it does not seem too far fetched that remnants of this creature have been passed down through the generations eventually becoming myth or legend. So, have we found the bunyip?

fuc4. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32412686)

a su4erp-organised

The only question that matters... (1)

matunos (1587263) | more than 4 years ago | (#32413204)

Did Jesus ride a Genyornis? We don't know, but I bet he did!

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