Early human occupation of a maritime desert, Barrow Island, North-West Australia

Peter Veth, Ingrid Ward, Tiina Manne, Sean Ulm, Kane Ditchfield, Joe Dortch, Fiona Hook, Fiona Petchey, Alan Hogg, Daniele Questiaux, Martina Demuro, Lee Arnold, Nigel Spooner, Vladimir Levchenko, Jane Skippington, Chae Byrne, Mark Basgall, David Zeanah, David Belton, Petra Helmholz & 4 others Szilvia Bajkan, Richard Bailey, Christa Placzek, Peter Kndrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Archaeological deposits from Boodie Cave on Barrow Island, northwest Australia, reveal some of the oldest evidence for Aboriginal occupation of Australia, as well as illustrating the early use of marine resources by modern peoples outside of Africa. Barrow Island is a large (202 km2) limestone continental island located on the North-West Shelf of Australia, optimally located to sample past use of both the Pleistocene coastline and extensive arid coastal plains. An interdisciplinary team forming the Barrow Island Archaeology Project (BIAP) has addressed questions focusing on the antiquity of occupation of coastal deserts by hunter-gatherers; the use and distribution of marine resources from the coast to the interior; and the productivity of the marine zone with changing sea levels. Boodie Cave is the largest of 20 stratified deposits identified on Barrow Island with 20 m3 of cultural deposits excavated between 2013 and 2015. In this first major synthesis we focus on the dating and sedimentology of Boodie Cave to establish the framework for ongoing analysis of cultural materials. We present new data on these cultural assemblages – including charcoal, faunal remains and lithics – integrated with micromorphology, sedimentary history and dating by four independent laboratories. First occupation occurs between 51.1 and 46.2 ka, overlapping with the earliest dates for occupation of Australia. Marine resources are incorporated into dietary assemblages by 42.5 ka and continue to be transported to the cave through all periods of occupation, despite fluctuating sea levels and dramatic extensions of the coastal plain. The changing quantities of marine fauna through time reflect the varying distance of the cave from the contemporaneous shoreline. The dietary breadth of both arid zone terrestrial fauna and marine species increases after the Last Glacial Maximum and significantly so by the mid-Holocene. The cave is abandoned by 6.8 ka when the island becomes increasingly distant from the mainland coast.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-29
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume168
Early online date18 May 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2017

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barrows
desert
caves
occupation
cave
deserts
marine resources
marine resource
resources
coastal plains
coasts
coastal plain
sea level
coast
antiquity
fauna
archaeology
hunter-gatherer
micromorphology
productivity

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Veth, Peter ; Ward, Ingrid ; Manne, Tiina ; Ulm, Sean ; Ditchfield, Kane ; Dortch, Joe ; Hook, Fiona ; Petchey, Fiona ; Hogg, Alan ; Questiaux, Daniele ; Demuro, Martina ; Arnold, Lee ; Spooner, Nigel ; Levchenko, Vladimir ; Skippington, Jane ; Byrne, Chae ; Basgall, Mark ; Zeanah, David ; Belton, David ; Helmholz, Petra ; Bajkan, Szilvia ; Bailey, Richard ; Placzek, Christa ; Kndrick, Peter. / Early human occupation of a maritime desert, Barrow Island, North-West Australia. In: Quaternary Science Reviews. 2017 ; Vol. 168. pp. 19-29.
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abstract = "Archaeological deposits from Boodie Cave on Barrow Island, northwest Australia, reveal some of the oldest evidence for Aboriginal occupation of Australia, as well as illustrating the early use of marine resources by modern peoples outside of Africa. Barrow Island is a large (202 km2) limestone continental island located on the North-West Shelf of Australia, optimally located to sample past use of both the Pleistocene coastline and extensive arid coastal plains. An interdisciplinary team forming the Barrow Island Archaeology Project (BIAP) has addressed questions focusing on the antiquity of occupation of coastal deserts by hunter-gatherers; the use and distribution of marine resources from the coast to the interior; and the productivity of the marine zone with changing sea levels. Boodie Cave is the largest of 20 stratified deposits identified on Barrow Island with 20 m3 of cultural deposits excavated between 2013 and 2015. In this first major synthesis we focus on the dating and sedimentology of Boodie Cave to establish the framework for ongoing analysis of cultural materials. We present new data on these cultural assemblages – including charcoal, faunal remains and lithics – integrated with micromorphology, sedimentary history and dating by four independent laboratories. First occupation occurs between 51.1 and 46.2 ka, overlapping with the earliest dates for occupation of Australia. Marine resources are incorporated into dietary assemblages by 42.5 ka and continue to be transported to the cave through all periods of occupation, despite fluctuating sea levels and dramatic extensions of the coastal plain. The changing quantities of marine fauna through time reflect the varying distance of the cave from the contemporaneous shoreline. The dietary breadth of both arid zone terrestrial fauna and marine species increases after the Last Glacial Maximum and significantly so by the mid-Holocene. The cave is abandoned by 6.8 ka when the island becomes increasingly distant from the mainland coast.",
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Veth, P, Ward, I, Manne, T, Ulm, S, Ditchfield, K, Dortch, J, Hook, F, Petchey, F, Hogg, A, Questiaux, D, Demuro, M, Arnold, L, Spooner, N, Levchenko, V, Skippington, J, Byrne, C, Basgall, M, Zeanah, D, Belton, D, Helmholz, P, Bajkan, S, Bailey, R, Placzek, C & Kndrick, P 2017, 'Early human occupation of a maritime desert, Barrow Island, North-West Australia' Quaternary Science Reviews, vol. 168, pp. 19-29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.05.002

Early human occupation of a maritime desert, Barrow Island, North-West Australia. / Veth, Peter; Ward, Ingrid; Manne, Tiina; Ulm, Sean; Ditchfield, Kane; Dortch, Joe; Hook, Fiona; Petchey, Fiona; Hogg, Alan; Questiaux, Daniele; Demuro, Martina; Arnold, Lee; Spooner, Nigel; Levchenko, Vladimir; Skippington, Jane ; Byrne, Chae ; Basgall, Mark; Zeanah, David; Belton, David; Helmholz, Petra; Bajkan, Szilvia; Bailey, Richard; Placzek, Christa; Kndrick, Peter.

In: Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol. 168, 15.07.2017, p. 19-29.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AU - Veth, Peter

AU - Ward, Ingrid

AU - Manne, Tiina

AU - Ulm, Sean

AU - Ditchfield, Kane

AU - Dortch, Joe

AU - Hook, Fiona

AU - Petchey, Fiona

AU - Hogg, Alan

AU - Questiaux, Daniele

AU - Demuro, Martina

AU - Arnold, Lee

AU - Spooner, Nigel

AU - Levchenko, Vladimir

AU - Skippington, Jane

AU - Byrne, Chae

AU - Basgall, Mark

AU - Zeanah, David

AU - Belton, David

AU - Helmholz, Petra

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AU - Placzek, Christa

AU - Kndrick, Peter

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N2 - Archaeological deposits from Boodie Cave on Barrow Island, northwest Australia, reveal some of the oldest evidence for Aboriginal occupation of Australia, as well as illustrating the early use of marine resources by modern peoples outside of Africa. Barrow Island is a large (202 km2) limestone continental island located on the North-West Shelf of Australia, optimally located to sample past use of both the Pleistocene coastline and extensive arid coastal plains. An interdisciplinary team forming the Barrow Island Archaeology Project (BIAP) has addressed questions focusing on the antiquity of occupation of coastal deserts by hunter-gatherers; the use and distribution of marine resources from the coast to the interior; and the productivity of the marine zone with changing sea levels. Boodie Cave is the largest of 20 stratified deposits identified on Barrow Island with 20 m3 of cultural deposits excavated between 2013 and 2015. In this first major synthesis we focus on the dating and sedimentology of Boodie Cave to establish the framework for ongoing analysis of cultural materials. We present new data on these cultural assemblages – including charcoal, faunal remains and lithics – integrated with micromorphology, sedimentary history and dating by four independent laboratories. First occupation occurs between 51.1 and 46.2 ka, overlapping with the earliest dates for occupation of Australia. Marine resources are incorporated into dietary assemblages by 42.5 ka and continue to be transported to the cave through all periods of occupation, despite fluctuating sea levels and dramatic extensions of the coastal plain. The changing quantities of marine fauna through time reflect the varying distance of the cave from the contemporaneous shoreline. The dietary breadth of both arid zone terrestrial fauna and marine species increases after the Last Glacial Maximum and significantly so by the mid-Holocene. The cave is abandoned by 6.8 ka when the island becomes increasingly distant from the mainland coast.

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