40,000 years ago, Australia was joined to Asia. The early Aborigines carne from south-east Asia. They crossed the land on foot, or sailed short distances in canoes or other boats. They settled near the coast and lived on fish and shellfish. Over thousands of years, their lives changed. There was often flooding on the coast, so they moved inland. They began to depend more on the land. The women fished and gathered plants and nuts. The men hunted wild birds, kangaroos and other creatures, including large lizards called goannas.
The Aborigines were a peaceful people. They were nomads, who travelled from place to place. They understood their environment. They knew where to find water and edible plants and insects, and they knew about the habits of animals. The Aborigines had many legends about the creation of the world. They believed that the spirits of their ancestors had come out of the earth and created the land. They called this time in their history the Dreamtime. They told stories and composed songs and dances about the Dreamtime. The Aborigines decorated thousands of rocks and caves with paintings and engravings. Some show animals such as kangaroos, turtles, lizards and whales. Perhaps these pictures tell Dreamtime stories of the creation of the world. Other pictures show the arrival of European ships and fighting between the Aborigines and the settlers.