In any event, human occupation in Australia has been carbon-dated to at least 53,000 BCE, and the oldest Australian human fossil has been dated to around 38,000 BCE - the difference probably being due to the drowning of the earliest coastal occupation sites by rising sea-levels: a phenomenon known to Europe through the Cosquer Cave paintings, near Marseilles.
All this means that aboriginal migrants were settled in Australia some 10,000 years before their northern counterparts arrived in Europe.
Introduction Types Characteristics Dating History/Chronology Ubirr Rock Art (Northern Australia) Burrup Peninsula Rock Art (Western Australia) Bradshaw Rock Paintings (Western Australia) Sydney Rock Engravings (NSW) Collections Hand Stencil Painting. Handprints and cupules are believed to constitute the oldest forms of aboriginal parietal art in Australia, dating perhaps to 40,000 BCE.
However, this remains unconfirmed by carbon-dating results.
Australian Aboriginal rock art may be the oldest Stone Age art on the planet.
This possibility is supported by the studies of Professor Stephen Oppenheimer, whose research combines genetic analysis with climatology, archeology, fossil analysis and modern dating methods, in order to juxtapose early migration with early rock art, (see for example his book "Out of Eden: The Real Eve").
The 2011 discovery of the Nawarla Gabarnmang charcoal drawing (dated to 26,000 BCE) in the north of the country is a step in this direction, (as is the Sulawesi Cave art - see below) but the rock paintings in the Kimberley region of Western Australia - as well as UNESCO listed sites at Uluru and Kakadu in the Northern Territory, Kimberley and the Burrup (Murujuga) Peninsula in Western Australia - are also under investigation by researchers using the latest dating methods, including thermoluminescence as well as Uranium-Thorium (U/Th) and cosmic radiation techniques.
According to Oppenheimer, modern humans first began arriving in Australia from islands across the Timor Sea during the Middle Paleolithic era, between 70,000 and 60,000 BCE.
Evidence of the ancient art (if any) of this first wave of aboriginal settlers is extremely scarce, but there are signs of pigment usage which suggest that they began painting almost immediately, although this might have been face or body painting rather than rock painting.
Other, possibly even older examples of prehistoric art (cupules) have been discovered in the granite rock shelter of Turtle Rock, Northern Queensland, and in the dark limestone caves of southern Australia.
Australian Aborigine artists have continued to practice their traditional arts and crafts into the modern era, creating in the process a unique and unbroken record of artistic expression.
NOTE: The recent dating of Sulawesi Cave art (Indonesia) to 37,900 BCE represents a major archeological discovery, with huge potential for ancient sites in Australia.