Warrnambool might well re-write the history of human occupation of Australia - and re-tell the global story of human evolution and migration.
And Dr Jim Bowler, the geologist most well-known for discovering "Mungo Man" in the 1970s, can't help but have a chuckle at the situation.
Nestled in a peaceful headland overlooking the Southern ocean, less than 10 minutes' drive from the city's main drag, lies Moyjil, also known as Point Ritchie.
Moyjil, which in Aboriginal language means "long drag net" or "basket", belongs to country of the Gunditjmara nation and has for the last 11 years been the site of assiduous study from a team of environmental scientists and geologists.
The result was a series of papers, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria this month, which present new evidence suggesting people may have been living in Australia more than 120,000 years ago - almost twice as old as the presently accepted age of arrival of people on the continent out of Africa.
"The implications are mind-boggling," Dr Bowler said.
"We're dealing with mind-changing attitudes to not only the arrival of people to Australia and their relationship to present-day Aboriginal people ... but also to the bigger story of human evolution and migration."
And for the University of Melbourne professor, the locale is just as astonishing as the findings.
"If somebody asked you where to go in Australia to look for the earliest human occupation, Warrnambool would just about be the last place on the list," he said.
"But there it is - the oldest potential occupation in Australia sitting there on the surface, awaiting more detailed research. And people probably just sit out there watching whales or drinking stubbies."
Deakin University's Dr John Sherwood, who moved to Warrnambool from Sydney in 1979, has been examining Moyjil since 1981.
He said Warrnambool is something of a gold mine for geologists.
"The south-west has some amazing evidence of geological and cultural history," Dr Sherwood said.
"And it's down to the fact we've got limestone sands which self-cement quite quickly with rain to create little time capsules.
"The limestone sand is able to preserve evidence in a way which the sands in Sydney wouldn't, as they are silicate sands."
But since 2008, Dr Sherwood has been working closely with a team including Dr Bowler, Professor Ian McNiven of Monash University's Indigenous Studies Centre and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage; and Dr Stephen Carey, an earth scientist from Federation University.
Dr Sherwood, an environmental scientist at Deakin's Warrnambool Campus, said Moyjil could confidently be assigned as a remnant of the last interglacial age, which was from 80,000 to 130,000 years ago, using three techniques: optically stimulated luminescence, radio carbon and amino acid racemisation dating.
This would date it well beyond the currently accepted ages of the oldest-known human sites in Australia and New Guinea.
"The site contains the remains of shellfish, crabs and fish in cemented sand, together with charcoal, blackened stones and features which resemble fireplaces," Dr Sherwood said.
Dating of the shells, burned stones and surrounding cemented sands by a variety of methods has established that the deposit was formed about 120,000 years ago.
Researchers had strived for years to rigorously test the hypothesis of a human origin for the site, Dr Sherwood said, but the findings were not yet conclusive, because the team had not discovered material such as stone artefacts or human remains which would provide absolute proof of human origin.
He conceded the shell deposit could also have been collected by a sea bird or other predator.
But Dr Sherwood said the fire evidence is a major stumbling block in terms of ruling out human activity, joking that fireplaces "aren't usually associated with seagulls".
The team also explored the possibility of the fire being a natural phenomenon, although Dr Sherwood said given the number and arrangement of stones, the research indicates it was unlikely to be a wildfire.
"It doesn't appear to be a place that would support a wildfire of sufficient intensity to create the blackening of stones," he said.
Dr Bowler said another factor weighing against the possibility of the fire being caused naturally was the lack of vegetation on the bare rock surface present at that time.
But there it is - the oldest potential occupation in Australia sitting there on the surface, awaiting more detailed research. And people probably just sit out there watching whales or drinking stubbies.Geologist Dr Jim Bowler
"This presents a bit of a problem - the fuel has to be imported," he said.
"There are lots of burned stones and evidence of lots of fire, but no fuel. So that again provides pretty convincing evidence that the fires were not a natural phenomenon, but the work of people."
And with those factors in mind, Dr Bowler said he is 90 per cent sure the fires were man-made.
"If you ask me, my mind is made up," he said. "But I'm just one member of a much larger scientific and archaeological community."
The pair said the project now requires the attention of other researchers with specialist techniques who may be able to conclusively resolve the question of whether or not humans created the deposit.
The project has been overseen by the Moyjil Project Committee comprising the region's Traditional Owners, Eastern Maar, Gunditjmirring and Kuuyang Maar, as well as government agencies and researchers.
Gunditjmara woman Keischa Day said in a Warrnambool City Council documentary Moyjil provides all Australians with a great opportunity to learn about Indigenous heritage.
"It's like a natural time capsule, which just gives us a peek into the life of Gunditjmara thousands of years ago," she said.
"We've pretty much dispelled that myth of 'blackfellas' being nomadic and roaming around not really having a way life. And I think that is what makes it special, because obviously it's a site that has recognised, tangible evidence that Gunditjmara people were very deliberate in how they live, and very deliberate in how we interact with one another and relate to country."
She said Moyjil is also simply a beautiful setting.
"It's easy for people to get enjoyment from the site, just like Gunditjmara people have been doing for tens of thousands of years," Ms Day said.
"It shows we are normal people on a deadly landscape that has provided for us for thousands of years."
An Ongoing Protection Declaration had been made for the site, which is the highest level of Aboriginal heritage protection available.
Moyjil is also listed on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register.
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