Barrow Island in north-west Australia has revealed rich archaeological deposits from numerous rockshelter, cave and open-air sites. The most diverse record has been recovered from a large limestone cave, where repeated visits began at c. 50 ka BP and continued until 7.1 ka BP, when increasing sea levels isolated the island from the mainland. Significantly, this record provides critical insights into Pleistocene and early Holocene coastal settings -- a part of the archaeological record largely missing from northern Australia due to its extensive continental shelf. A mixed diet of arid-terrestrial and marine faunas is evident from initial colonisation (47-51.1 cal kyr BP) continuing through to island abandonment (7.1 cal kyr BP). During much of the Pleistocene, prey consisted of medium-large terrestrial game and marine gastropods, but as the coastline neared the site, an increasingly diverse range of resources was consumed. This culminated in the early Holocene, when prey included over 20 species of vertebrates and 40 species of shellfish. These patterns likely reflect the changing role of the cave within the cultural landscape, rather than any dramatic shifts in resource exploitation strategies.

About the Presenter

Dr Tiina Manne, ARC DECRA Research Fellow, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland

About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.


Level 4, Michie Building (09), St Lucia Campus, The University of Queensland

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