X-ray computed microtomography and the identification of wood taxa selected for archaeological artefact manufacture: Rare examples from Australian contexts

R. Whitau, India Dilkes-Hall, Emilie Dotte-Sarout, M.C. Langley, Jane Balme, Sue O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Wooden artefacts are seldom recovered from Australian archaeological contexts, limiting our understanding of an important component of past Indigenous socio-economic systems. When recovered, the taxa used for construction are very rarely identified, andwhen undertaken, taxonomic identifications are generally unsubstantiated. For wood taxa to be identified, the microscopic elements of the xylem structure need to be observed and described fromthree planes. Conventional microscopy methods require physical sectioning, which is a complex, time-consuming process, whereas X-ray computed microtomography is non-invasive and expeditious. Here we describe the use of X-ray microtomography to identify the material of two wooden implements, the negative component of a fire drill and an artefact fragment, both recovered from Riwi cave in the southern Kimberley of Western Australia. By drawing on archaeobotanical analyses conducted at Riwi cave (wood charcoal and other
macrobotanical remains), we are able to illustrate that the past inhabitants of Riwi selected certain woods for specific purposes within the last 1000 years of occupation at the site.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)536-546
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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