Beneath the Top End: A regional assessment of submerged archaeological potential in the Northern Territory, Australia

John McCarthy, Chelsea Wiseman, Katherine Woo, David Steinberg, Michael O’Leary, Daryl Wesley, Liam M. Brady, Sean Ulm, Jonathan Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Regional-scale assessments have proven to be invaluable frameworks for research, public engagement and management of submerged archaeological landscapes. Regional-scale approaches have been implemented internationally through a variety of academic or strategic studies. Such studies represent a much-needed next step towards subregional and site-level prospection to support management, engagement and mitigation of the impacts of offshore development. However, these regional studies are largely absent in Australia. In this article, we build on the recent discovery of submerged archaeological sites in Western Australia and produce a novel regional-scale assessment of submerged archaeological and cultural landscape potential in the coastal and island regions of the Northern Territory. This area is of special significance in the peopling of Australia, containing some of the oldest dated archaeological evidence. We collate and synthesise regional data related to sea-level change, ethnography (e.g. oral traditions), geomorphology, and archaeology, also taking account of logistics and existing data availability to identify prospective areas for further study. We highlight the need for a coordinated national program of regional baseline studies to address a legacy of under-representation of submerged landscapes and provide vital baseline data for a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including researchers, policy makers, environmental and heritage managers, developers and Traditional Owners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-83
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Archaeology
Issue number1
Early online date30 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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