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

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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artifact
need structure
economic system
inhabitant
occupation
Taxon
Wood
Archaeology
Artifact
time
Charcoal
Xylem
Conventional
Physical
Microscopy
Wooden Artefacts
Archaeological Context
Economic Systems
Western Australia

Cite this

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title = "X-ray computed microtomography and the identification of wood taxa selected for archaeological artefact manufacture: Rare examples from Australian contexts",
abstract = "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 othermacrobotanical 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.",
author = "R. Whitau and India Dilkes-Hall and Emilie Dotte-Sarout and M.C. Langley and Jane Balme and Sue O'Connor",
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AU - Whitau, R.

AU - Dilkes-Hall, India

AU - Dotte-Sarout, Emilie

AU - Langley, M.C.

AU - Balme, Jane

AU - O'Connor, Sue

PY - 2016

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AB - 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 othermacrobotanical 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.

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