Maritime Exploration of Australia: The Phoenicians

Australian Aboriginal myth and legend speaks of a race of culture-heroes  that inhabited the land before them in the long-ago Dreamtime, and who had passed on much of their culture to the Aborigines. These culture-heroes  are variously described as being pale or white-skinned; that they shaped many natural geological features and erected many, often truly monolithic rock formations, and worshipped the Sun, Moon and Stars.

They appear to have given the Aborigines laws and passed on elements of their religion, such as Sun, Earth-Mother and Sky-Father worship, and other aspects of their ceremonial life. They taught the Aboriginal warriors the use of the woomera in spear throwing and the manufacture of the boomerang. These traditions convinced Australian researcher Rex Gilroy, many years ago, that an advanced megalithic monument-building people had inhabited Australia.

"Yet, when I published my theory in the press," recalls Gilroy, "I was immediately attacked by establishment archaeologists and historians, with the familiar cries of impossible  and that I was wasting my time and money, searching for something that was nothing more than an Aboriginal myth. Nevertheless, my theory led me on a search which culminated, one January day in 1965, while exploring dense scrubland overlooking a Blue Mountains valley, in the discovery of an extensive culture centre of crumbling sandstone mounds, altar stones in the forms of serpent and eagle motifs, and other structures." Gilroy believes these and many other artifacts he and others have found over the years are evidence of a lost chapter in Australian history in which Europeans - mostly likely, Phoenicians - visited and occupied Australia many millenia ago.

The Phoenicians occupied the coastal regions of Palestine during the time of the Egyptian pharaohs, and were the greatest maritime navigators of their time. Remembered as the sea kings of ancient times, they were so powerful they were able to conquor Egypt, and are known to have established colonies in many regions that would remain unvisited by seafarers again until centuries later when the countries of western Europe began their colonisation of the continents of Africa, the Americas and Asia. The sea king trading era began with the Minos Kings out of Crete and Libya approximately 2000 BC, ending at Carthage around 400 BC. Nothing further in international sea trade after the collapse of maritime history became evident until the 14th Century AD.

Some historians claim that these ancient seafarers beat Columbus to the New World by a good 3,000 years. Others, like Australian amateur archaeologists Rex Gilroy and Val Osborn, believe that Phoenicians visited the shores of Australia and established mining colonies and trading centres, the remains of which are awaiting discovery and excavation at various sites around Australia. According to Osborn, such a site exists on the coast near the Queensland sugar town of Sarina. Osborn claims the Australian government has known about this for over 50 years but has kept the discoveries quiet for fear of upsetting Aboriginal sentiments. He states that the site contains a cemetery, a temple, the remains of port walls and stone sculptures - several of which, he says, have already ended up in private collections.

Numerous reports of artifacts, inscriptions and ruins of harbours and settlements from other localities around Australia have been privately documented and reported but the official stance has always been to reject the claims outright until more tangible evidence is forthcoming. Osborn first began examining the site at Sarina in 1990. After much research, he has concluded it may well be a typical Phoenician colonial settlement dating from around 1000BC. Similar sites to what Osborn believes he has found exist around the North African Coasts with Carthage, an old capital, and Tyre (right) and Sidon, as Mediterranean capitals of the era I500BC.

A typical Phoenician colony was located on an isthmus, with freshwater springs, twin harbours built of stone set in furnace slag cement, houses of mud brick, with adjacent fields for crops of millet and barley. The religious edifices were unique with Bel and Tanit shrines as God and Goddess, with a tophet cemetery and also small shrines of sawn granite with a crude idol. The sea people were essentially traders in exotic wares and exported and imported also supplying navigators and shipwrights with a monopoly on maps, charts and navigation.

Ezekiel 27 and first Kings 10 in the old Testament provide descriptions of the lifestyle, culture and cargoes with three year voyages utilising fleets Ivory from Africa, peacocks from India, marmosets from the Amazon etc. A mural depicting Queen Hatshepsut cargoes exists in the giant El Amarna Temple on the Nile from the same era. Australia was called Ophir or Big Java or the Aurea Chersenosis in old maps and was well documented. Black opal claimed by some to be from Lightning Ridge have been found in Nile jewelry and Ophir gold highly valued in ancient times. What their finders have described as Egyptian, Hebrew, Phoenician and Ogham scripts are documented from sites all over Australia along with what the researchers believe to be the remains of constructions, harbours and roads.

Osborn believes the Freshwater Point complex near Sarina to be uniquely Phoenician, along with other adjacent sites on the Queensland Coast. A website detailing the site describes it thus: "The two artificial harbours meticulously engineered are quite large and represent the labour of many over centuries. The East Harbour is keyed into a reef constructed of placed andesite boulders set in slag furnace cement with a back fill road of mined ore stone. The North Harbour jetty is of collapsed pylons of similar boulders set in gold slag cement, the pylons at intervals presumably once having a timber top. A quarried store chip road meets this in a triangle fashion. Adjacent to this ruined jetty is slag heaps from furnaces of gold, mercury and copper ore. Furnaces were small, of dolomite bricks of half cubit sized, reinforced. Evidence of refining exists on the Sarina Inlet area with a sluice race and air artificial reservoir of water lined with clay, some two acres overall. A similar reservoir is found on the east. A harbour complex along with a sluice and tilled fields adjacent As the culture was always of mud brick housing only retaining walls of stone are to be found to date.

"The sea has eroded beaches and foreshores up to 80 metres in places and many parts of the site are now below the tide line, proving great antiquity. The minerals mined were gold, copper and mercury with dolomite mined for the furnace bricks. Intrusive hydro-thermal dykes, sills and stress veins occur from intrusive granite reefs - especially under water at high tides. Mining was carried out by heating the rock ten quenching with water to crack the ore body, levering the ore out and then crushing and refining into ingots. Over one million tonnes of ore has been removed and processed with placer deposits carefully cleaned out. Beach boulders along with furnace slag were used to construct both jetties.

"Three roads exist for loading of cargo, constructed of quarried ore body stone fill. The main ore bodies run NE from the headland and the miners hacked deep into the headland to the bottom of the "dip". The hydro-thermal bodies still are extremely rich. A further bonanza for a colony could have been the wealth of cowries in the area, known as "money cowries", worth their weight in gold in antiquity. As well, Murex shells indigenous to Phoenicia and the Sarina area exist in abundance. From these shells, the famed tyrean purple dye was extracted. Evidence exists of ore from off-shore islands also being processed here. In Sarina Inlet a tophet cemetery along with the usual Bel temple exists wit a boat yard and stone slip. Artifacts in cast iron have come to light here on the surface."

The proponents of the Phoenician colony theory claim that the Sarina complex is one of many hydro-thermal, highly mineralised sites on the central Queensland coast. They state that the mining techniques were limited and are strikingly similar to other antique mines such as at the Zimbabwe Plateau complex.

Freshwater Point, Sarina

The website continues: "This area covers some 3 kilometres of coastline including the North Harbour refining complex. Here we have a shipyard with boat-slip, revetments, walls and gigantic stone fish taps - the latter now buried in siltation from coastal development. The cemetery site is adjacent and typical Phoenician colonisation. The Phoenicians cremated their dead, interred the bones in amphora. The boatslip shows indications of windlasses and a filled loading platform exists among mangroves. All sites are heavily overgrown.

"The main village is presently not located The entire area, representing a giant isthmus and rich farmed soils, indicate fields and gardens. Further sites nearby are being investigated. Rich soils indicating part ploughing and agriculture are found near the north reservoir and the east reservoir. These currently bog four wheel drive vehicles. A stone wail runs from the existing road terminus around to the reservoir, a sluicing site. The sluicing site exhibits collapsed stone walls running around to the mine site near the north point. Limestone pier footings are found along with rock wall that retains the silted reservoir.

"To the west of this wall, now below high tide mark, the smelting area exists with discarded ore pieces and slag heaps. The smelting area and slag heaps are presently one metre below high water mark, the erosion having eaten away the inlet beach adjacent - proof of great antiquity The jetty pylons have disintegrated out of the slag cement over centuries, yet run in a straight line some 600 metres in collapsed footings, through a stone cutting. Initially a quartz reef- gold bearing - has been removed and stone cut out adjacent to a quarried stone chip filled road at the apex of a triangle. Slag heaps now collapsed, are of mercury, copper and gold origins, greatly eroded. The harbour is of clean sand with a meticulously cleaned bottom adjacent the ancient jetty."

The website claims loose rock walls exist all over the complex with present regrowth as revetments and retainers and the two giant reservoirs originally lined with red clay from the southwest of Armstrong Beach Creek. "The sluices run across the neck of both reservoirs and are hand constructed Some stones on the jetties amount to two tonnes in weight and only can have been placed by block and tackle. It is impossible that such stones be lodged in such sites by nature. Evidence of other construction for unknown reasons is found in three circular depressions at the rear of the east jetty wall and at the boat slips back in Sarina Inlet. These may have been designed for derricks.

"The extent of labour required to construct the walls at the north harbour alone has been estimated by a marine engineer at approximately 1000 men working for one year. However, the richness of the ore bodies and gold placer deposits would have justified this outlay of labour. Subsequent removal of rocks up to a mere 50kg by aborigines to build fish traps has confused visuals somewhat, as well as scattering by cyclones resulting in slumping of many ancient walls."

The website claims the existence of evidence related to the extraction of quartz and calcite ores rich in gold, copper, along with meta cinnabar (mercury) exists in the Sarina area. "Huge veins have been mined from low tide reefs extending back under the headlands. The main deposits existed on the northeast reefs below high water mark available at low tides. At the headland, the miners burrowed under the cliff faces, like rabbits, as far as feasible, for their fire and water techniques. The discard quarried stone was utilised to create roads and fill. Obviously carts and draft animals were used, even as Java buffalo were imported in the 1900s in early Queensland history, as draft animals. These reefs have been professionally hand-mined, wails and jetties carefully engineered. The stone crushed and refined on the north harbour site in typical Phoenician historical fashion Blast furnaces constructed of refractory dolomite-slag brick were fed by wind funneling oxygen from erected sails."

Mercury veins and several gold veins are known to exist under the present headland but researchers claim much much of the mining activity activity they believe they have uncovered was done below high tide. A dolomite vein has been mined at the east of the promontory and recently in the 1920s, a tentative mine for the extraction of gold and copper was worked on the south of the promontory. A rich epidote deposit is said to exist on the south-east point. These mining operations are said to match those on the Percy Islands and other coastal islands and mainland reefs.

"A road of quarried chips exists to the south of Freshwater Point accessing a gold vein in gossan limestone," claims the website. " Microscopic analysis of the slag cements show varying batches of dolomite, gold dust, copper dust and mercury oxides mixed with furnace slag finely ground. This practice of concreting ceased around 200 BC with the introduction of Pozzoland and Portland cements. The absence of shell grits, muds of natural composition preclude any possibility of natural phenomena. Also, both jetties carefully engineered of tumbled granite boulders set in slag cement are in straight lines. Any inference of natural phenomena" is therefore contradictory to known geological intrusions. Also, portions of ore bodies from offshore islands found near the smelting site prove mining operations were broad-spectrum.

The website further claims evidence of quarried calcite ore bearing gold, copper or mercury along with quartzite were extracted from the metamorphic zone. "It was then mortared by hand to a crushed dust, put through sluices to extract the fines, then packed into small brick kilns constructed of numbered reinforced bricks of refractory dolomite and slag in the usual small refinery manner. Dolomite was mined from the east reefs and ingots of metal cast as wedges or "ox hides  were then packed in straw as ballast in Phoenician vessels according to tradition Reject quarried ore was used to surface roads and landing areas as evidenced. Slag cement from the blast furnaces on the beach was recycled in jetty construction. In the east jetty, huge andesite boulders taken from adjacent beaches were set in slag cement presumably in wooden forms. In the north jetty complex, piers were constructed at intervals in the same manner. The Phoenicians were renowned for this type of unique slag cement construction.

"A few old footings have been found of limestone concrete using shell grits. The andesite boulders used do not absorb water and are renowned for marine concrete application, unable to swell and crack the cement as the tendency is with other rock. These stones came from varying beach sites especially the north beach where they are conspicuously absent from the grading of this pebble beach. it is expected that other refining sites will turn up adjacent to other harbour walls such as at Avoid Island. Hydro-thermal zones always provide huge riches at the surface. Where the veins dip beneath headlands, it was impossible for the ancient miners to go further, requiring explosives. Brown millet has been found to the north relative to Mediterranean millet.

"The Phoenician cargo platforms are built the same way as they were at Carthage and Tyre. Beach boulders, preferably granite rounded by wave action, were set in forms and slag cement poured in. Timber was then set on top. The complex jetties at Sarina, one facing north, the other due east, were so engineered. The east jetty has stones taken from adjacent beaches as does the north jetty. The difference is that in the former, stones are set in a reef of rock and back-filled to a level top with quarried stone. A large number of yellow dolomite fragments are present as fill, mined from the forepart of the sedimentary reef and from the south point of the isthmus. It is impossible for such tumbled beach stones to migrate naturally from the beaches and to set themselves in a straight line 600 metres long in a cement that analyses microscopically as slag cement.

"The east jetty construction was of pylons of such concrete, at intervals, now collapsed and eroded down to the base of the cement. The centre pylons have vanished from a line of some 800 metres of pylons set in a previously excavated ore reef. A rock cutting runs some 20 metres at the north end to allow for the jetty extension. Some stones weigh over one and a half tonnes. It is possible for delta stones similar to this to deposit themselves in mud at river mouths but these originate in adjacent beaches and are set in varying batches of slag cement, matching pieces of slag cement nearby, showing traces of gold, copper and mercury under analysis. Also, it is obvious that the stones were fitted in places. Both jetties submerge some 1 metre at high tide at present. An eroded curved runway exists at the base of the north jetty for cart loading. A metal detector search proved futile as the entire complex is highly mineralised. The fill used on these jetties for ramps and roads is of quarried stone from the mines and readily matched."

Osborn and others who support the belief in the existence of Phoencian colonies in Australia claim that the evidence at Sarina points to the harbours in the region having been utilised at least in the last millennium, yet prior to James Cook's arrival in 1770. However, Australian history of the last 200 years shows no record whatsoever of such activity and local shipping records and news going back to Mackay s founding shows no indication of the use of this area as a harbour. Coastal packet steamers were ignorant ant of its existence.

There is a possibility that the site was visited in recent times by Europeans but no occupation indicating such recent colonisation exists prior to Cook Examination of records from the last 400 years of maritime history show no record of this site, neither was it visited by coastal steamers or fishermen in the early coastal settlements of the last century. It remained unknown and until recently was inaccessible from the mainland as an island and as isthmus. The description Freshwater Point" is recent history.

The present bitumen road access was constructed in the 1980s and Admiralty maps show the site as an island. Present mangrove and salt pan growth plus cane farm silt appear to have literally filled the neck into an isthmus, as well as filling Sarina Inlet with huge amounts of farm and clearing silts; the inlet is now inaccessible to shipping at low tides. The neck of the isthmus exhibits several freshwater springs as well as adjacent to both large reservoirs. These bubble up from cracked andesite intrusions. The southeast high knoll has been systematically cleared of vegetation. Small walls of typical tumbled granite boulders (up to 1 tonne), set in cement occur in odd places around Llewellyn Bay. They do not relate to recent fish taps.

The website states that a cast iron tool found below low water mark along with a large rudder pirate - now in the possession of the Central Queensland University - is identical to the depiction of such boat building tools chiseled in stone on a Nile facade at an ancient Egyptian shipyard, alongside adzes, saws, chisels etc.

The website also claims that sawn granite pieces were found on the east harbour wall. "Handsaw marks identical to ancient Egyptian handsaw marks in granite indicate these pieces may have been part of a Phoenician aedicule (a small shrine dedicated to Tanit). Granite pieces here show bollard marks from thimbles used in mooring vessels. Two pieces were found on east harbour wail surface. Aboriginal fish traps at minimum 150 years old exist all over sheltered water sites where local aborigines have recycled ancient stone walls. However, the huge areas of stone traps in Sarina Inlet now buried under silt would have sufficed in one day s catch approximately 500 persons. They are in much older order relative to marine encrustations. It is presumed from the enormous labour intensive constructions that approximately 500 to 1000 persons were present at any one time in these mining operations. The entire complex has suffered repeated cyclone activity and a great deal of erosion - proof of great antiquity."

The annals of ancient history associate the names of Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt and Ethiopia, King Solomon of Israel and Hiram, the Phoenician of Tyre with three year voyages to Ophir in the era of around 1000 BC. In 90 AD, Ophir was said to be owned by India. Many supporters of the theory of Phoenician colonies in Australia wonder whether the Sarina Inlet site might in fact have been Ophir.

They believe that the limited excavations carried out thus far, along with the existing artifacts they claim have been collected from the surface of the Sarina Inlet site and other sites recently discovered, point to an as-yet undocumented culture of sea trading by ancient Phoenicians. They predict that major excavation of the site - which authorities have shown an unwillingness to support or participate in - would prove once and for all if their theory is correct, and if it is, the history of the settlement of Australia would have to be re-written. However, they currently express grave concerns that such an outcome might be possible, citing considerable vandalism of the site taking place because it has not been granted heritage protection until such time as its importance as a historical site can be determined.

Proof of settlements and developments would change the Palaentological view of aboriginal origins if evidence arises here of galley slaves utilised for colonisation, for example. It is therefore expected that academic controversy will occur in any future investigation.

Aboriginal Impact
Aboriginal activity in later times around the Sarina peninsula is well documented and includes reference to aborigines demolishing walls to create fish traps etc. which Osborn believes raises the controversial question as to whether Australian aboriginees are remnants of colonies brought from Africa and India by ancient sea king expeditions.

Ethnic groups from the Central coastal region have been identified by some Anthropologists through custom and physical attributes as originating from the upper Indus (Dravidian) and the African Congo (Negrito). These include what have been referred to as Australian Pygmies. As these gene pools are diverse, controversy exists relative to migration and the accepted theory of a Borneo land bridge around 12,000 to 45,000 years ago. Today such theories are generally rejected. The Sarina Phoenician settlelent website states: "Pygmy Negritos became extinct around 1900 AD yet they were well documented by pioneers. The local Dravidian tribes have also become extinct. Both cultures were at war with each other at the tine of European settlement. The evidence presumes that the Dravidian peoples were indigenous to this area, the Negritos to the north. Large corroborees were held at Sarina as late as 1860."

The impact of aboriginal culture is self evident at the site and adjacent sites of aboriginal camps, one of which was situated on Armstrong Beach, the other at the southwest point of Petersen s Rocks where a shack was built in the early 1900s by a local. Tumbled granite rocks were recycled from adjacent walls and beach deposits to create current fish traps, quite evident at half tides. However, as a fish trap to feed a tribe of 100 persons rarely exceeds the size of a normal house block, the gigantic traps in the west portion of Sarina Inlet, the largest known in Australian history (up to 10 acres) are designed to feed a much larger community.

Researchers who have examined the Sarina site claim the giant traps in the north west are today buried in silt and only emerge after cyclonic floods. These adjoin the complex of walls, shipyard and slip-way. They claim the slip-way has a standard 15 degree slope, is heavily eroded and is backed by circular indentations indicating derricks or windlasses. The similar depressions in the front harbour wall may have been recycled as fish traps by aborigines. Circular traps are unknown elsewhere.

The website claims the difference in stone construction between aborigines and Europeans is self evident. "The aboriginal saw no need to place one flat surface against another and had no knowledge of mortars. Latter day aboriginal occupation so evident would have removed any metals left over by the earlier culture. On the southeast point of the isthmus, standard size fish taps still exist along with an ancient dolomite and mercury mine to the west some 300 metres. The site olf the 1920s gold and copper mine, a very small three-man enterprise, is identified by a silted hole and some three tonnes of quarried copper tailings. Aboriginal artifacts are fairly plentiful, scattered about the complex.

About The Phoenicians
The name derives from the purple dye of the murex shell used to create a "papal" purple. Originally sea traders from the Red Sea, they moved capitals to Tyre, Byblos and Sidon on the Canan Coast and are referred to in history as Cananites in Akkadian Scripts of 1500 BC on an Egyptian Stele at Memphis. The early mynos kings of Crete arid Lydia are also closely identified. Cargo vessels were built of Lebanon Cedar and Aleppo pine and Bashan oak. Large double ended craft with square sails and up to 200 galley slaves at the oars. The Phoenicians monopolised the sea trade and were master mariners and navigators. Cargo voyages took three years and one such fleet sailed to Ophir with Israeli overseers and Phoenician navigators as described in Old Testament, seeking a pure white timber for Solomon s Jerusalem Temple.

Ships and Colonies
The colonies of Hanno the Phoenician are recorded on a stele at Carthage, a latter day outpost . Hanno was banished with his relatives for failing to win a war. His emigration consisted of 60 vessels and 30,000 settlers, some 500 per vessel. In 425 BC, he took his settlers to the west coast of Africa to found new city states. Pharaoh Necho hired the Phoenicians to circumnavigate Africa and Darius the Mede is known to have hired their ships and mercenaries. Trade and import/export maritime activities were the monopoly of Phoenicians, especially in metals and gems. The Hanno expedition gives a glimpse of the fading Phoenician Empire in its last stages.

Sadly, Phoenician history is sparse and maritime trade collapsed with the loss of library maps and navigators. The trade did not revive until the 14th Century AD. The Libyan colonies are said to bear startling similarities to the Sarina site, however, archaeologists find typical Phoenician colonies distinct from any other.


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