Late Quaternary Aboriginal hunter-gatherer occupation of the Greater Swan Region, south-western Australia

Joe Dortch, Charles Dortch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


The Greater Swan Region is an archaeological study area on the Indian Ocean coast in south-western Australia. It covers the central Swan Coastal Plain and the adjacent part of the formerly emergent Rottnest Shelf. Assessment of Aboriginal hunter-gatherer activity throughout this late Quaternary coastal landscape is based on dated records of open-air sites within their environmental settings, informed by historical accounts of mainland subsistence activities. Artefacts flaked from Eocene fossiliferous chert and other stone, identified, in situ, in dated dune soils on the mainland and in palaeosols and Tamala Limestone successions on Rottnest Island, show that during regressive sea levels human groups were distributed across a sand plain reaching from the Darling Scarp 70 km westward across the emergent Rottnest Shelf. On the mainland, open-air site settings near freshwater sources and terrestrial and estuarine habitats give insight into adaptive strategies of Aboriginal occupiers. A similar occupation pattern is proposed for the emergent shelf. Early Holocene records of terrestrial plant species and freshwater microfauna from Barker Swamp on Rottnest Island imply that freshwater sources and terrestrial habitats were comparable to those of the mainland. Further archaeological investigations on the Rottnest Shelf should include extant and former freshwater swamps on Rottnest Island.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-29
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Archaeology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 May 2019

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