Thermally modified marsupial bone: Experimental bone burning within an Australian context
Application of experimental studies to the analysis of burned archaeofaunal assemblages has proven effective at helping to unravel taphonomic and behavioural history. Currently, burned bone analyses are based largely upon the experimental burning of human and ungulate bone. This study presents the experimental burning of Eastern Grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) bones and the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and uses ethnographic data to better recreate fire construction and cooking practices. Two fleshed, complete possums were cooked in earth ovens, with one fire utilising pandanus drupes as heat retainers. Defleshed kangaroo long bones were heated in acacia and eucalyptus hearth fires, as well as a controlled kiln setting. The kangaroo bone displayed largely similar burning characteristics to those previously established; however, it exhibited a surface morphology between carbonisation and calcination not previously identified. As expected, the unique heating context of the traditional earth oven resulted in very minimal burning, whilst the hearth fires produced a high degree of burning. The marsupial bone data is compared to the burned zooarchaeological assemblages of Madjedbebe, Arnhem Land and Boodie Cave, Barrow Island. Both assemblages exhibit anthropogenic thermal modification, but to a vastly different degree, suggesting dissimilar fire and depositional histories.
About the Presenter
Kate Moody graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons I) from UQ in 2016. Her honours thesis examined the burned faunal assemblages from Madjedbebe, Arnhem Land and Boodie Cave, Barrow Island, alongside the effects of kiln, hearth and earth oven burning on marsupial bone. Currently, Kate is conducting experimental research regarding the effects of trampling on burned bone.