Forging New Understandings of Aboriginal Occupation in the South Wellesley Archipelago, Gulf of Carpentaria
Changing relationships between people and their environments result in modified patterns of land-use and occupation as populations respond to fluctuating conditions across space and through time. Broad interpretations of human responses to environmental change in northern Australia suggest far-reaching cultural and behavioural transformations across the last 10,000 years, including the increasing use of offshore islands. Occupation patterns in these contexts are often characterised as unidirectional, implying a gradual shift from ephemeral to permanent use as offshore islands are reincorporated into the foraging territories of mainland-based groups. However, regional sequences indicate multiple instances of abandonment and reoccupation as well as seasonal exploitation and visitation, suggesting complex patterns of island use. To better understand these changing occupation strategies, researchers can interpret stable oxygen and carbon isotope values derived from archaeological mollusc shell. Aspects of the environment, including temperature and water composition, imprint a chemical signal within the shell matrix allowing the timing (i.e. season) of resource consumption to be determined. This research presents a high-resolution chronology of use for the South Wellesley Islands, Gulf of Carpentaria, with a focus understanding how mid-to-late Holocene change impacted local human decision-making processes and how this is represented within the archaeological record.
About the Presenter
Robin Twaddle recently submitted his PhD within the College of Arts, Society, and Education at James Cook University. His PhD focused on exploring the impact of mid-to-late late Holocene seasonal climatic cycles on Aboriginal behaviours and decision-making processes in the South Wellesley Islands in collaboration with geologists from QUT and palaeoecologists from UQ (ARC Naïve Island Landscapes Project). Robin’s research interests span many facets of coastal and island archaeology, but he is particularly interested in variably scaled human-culture-environment interactions. Robin has extensive fieldwork experience both in Australia and overseas and is currently working on sites from the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Curtis Coast in Queensland.