“This shows you a greater diversity [of tools] and that people used organic materials, not just stone.”
Professor Balme said the oldest bone was a kangaroo fibula which looked like it had been used for weaving baskets.
There were also two 43,000-year-old bird bones with one looking like it could have been used on a spear and the other also used for weaving.
Mimbi Aboriginal Corporation chair and Gooniyandi-Walmajarri woman Rosemary Nuggett said finding out about the great age of the bones was no surprise considering how long Aboriginal people had been living in the region.
She said the knowledge of the tools age would add to the Mimbi Cave tours run by traditional owners.
“A lot of the tourists that come and visit are really fascinated about hearing these stories,” Ms Nuggett said.
“We tell them about the caves and the reef which are 350 million years old.”
The Mimbi Caves are a popular tourist stop off Great Northern Highway and part of an ancient Devonian Reef system.
But Ms Nuggett said Riwi Cave, where the bones were excavated, was not somewhere tourists would go and was a place just for traditional owner families to visit.
The new paper describing the find, published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, comes about five years after Australia’s oldest bone artifact, a nose ornament from Bunuba country near Fitzroy Crossing, was identified.
Professor Sue O’Connor, who was another co-author of the recent paper, was part of the original dig at Windjana Gorge where the nose bone was found.
Dr Langley, who specialises in bone and shell tools, had first thought the piece of nose jewellery would have been used for weaving but found traces of red ochre under a microscope which indicated it had an ornamental use.
Peter de Kruijff is a journalist with WAtoday.