Could Australia be the cradle of global culture? It seems a surprising idea, but recently a controversy has been raging about whether a sophisticated people may have lived in the remote and inaccessible Kimberley region of NW Australia as long as 60,000 years ago, before being wiped out by the aborigines. It has all been sparked off by a popular book written by Ian Wilson, author of more than twenty other books, including The Turin Shroud, Jesus: The Evidence, and Before the Flood. He emigrated to Australia in 1995. In January this year his latest opus, Lost World of the Kimberley (Allen & Unwin), was savaged by the journalist Nicolas Rothwell in The Australian, the country’s national daily. There are shades of The Da Vinci Code in the row that has developed since.
The key to this strange story is the dating of some extraordinarily beautiful prehistoric rock art which was first discovered and described in 1891 by an early settler, Joseph Bradshaw, when he became lost searching for the million-acre lease he had been granted. He came on a wall of colourful paintings, some life-size, which he likened to those of an Egyptian temple. Since then tens of thousands more sites have been found in the Kimberley with similar “Bradshaw” paintings, and it is postulated that they may predate the much better known aboriginal art, both modern and prehistoric, which is found throughout Australia.