Rock art found in Australia shows human smokers

Written by Staff Writer at CNN Add tobacco to the list of past human consumer goods. A team of archeologists from the US and France discovered tobacco and tobacco products with healing properties within…

Rock art found in Australia shows human smokers

Written by Staff Writer at CNN

Add tobacco to the list of past human consumer goods.

A team of archeologists from the US and France discovered tobacco and tobacco products with healing properties within the Pangea Culture era settlement at Mount Helen, New South Wales.

CNN A search of fine structures in New South Wales’ bushland for evidence of more than 20,000 years of human occupation.

The discovery, outlined in a paper published Wednesday in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, confirms cigarette smoking was an everyday behavior across the Australian continent 12,000 years ago.

Present-day southern Australia is teeming with a multitude of thousands of rock art sites containing depictions of humans at work. Some suggest that people used what’s now Australia as a breeding ground to protect the world’s most sought-after plant, the weed tobacco.

Among the paintings were several pictorial images of people smoking tobacco — either by filling a bowl with the tobacco plant and spitting out a single-row tip of the burnt tobacco into the scene, or by lining the nose of a cigarette and letting it burn before lighting it. The team believes this helps people distinguish between the burning ends of the tobacco and the surrounding earth.

Although the artwork is relatively recent, the people who created it must have been well-established across large areas of Australia. Previously only the Dampier Peninsula, in Western Australia, was known to contain the earliest pictorial representations of humans, between 7,500 and 4,500 years ago.

Scientists searching for ancient smoking symbols, nine years in the making, at a Sydney rock art site. Credit: Shelley Neacham

Further south, in the grounds of a prawn farm north of Port Lincoln in South Australia, the team discovered evidence of the Pangea Culture era, the first time these artifacts have been found in southern Australia.

Evidence suggests that these people were well-established across the region 12,000 years ago, becoming a dominant socio-cultural force in coastal Australia. These people were probably sharing space with indigenous people.

The fine-scale rock art display depicts a diverse variety of human faces, with very few depictions of figurative figures.

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