Late Holocene changes in shellfishing behaviors from the Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia

Rosendahl, Daniel, Ulm, Sean, Tomkins, Helene, Wallis, Lynley, and Memmott, Paul (2014) Late Holocene changes in shellfishing behaviors from the Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, 9 (2). pp. 253-267.

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Abstract

Dramatic changes in shellfishing behaviors occur across northern Australia during the late Holocene, marked most conspicuously by the cessation of large shell mound construction in some areas, and the reorganization of shellfishing behaviors towards more intensive production in the last 1,000 years. Excavations reveal rapid and widespread changes within coastal sites, an increasing diversification in overall subsistence resources, and patterns of increase in site establishment and use. Some of these changes have been argued to be associated with increasing climate variability and a trend towards increasing aridity during the late Holocene, thought to have transformed coastal ecosystems and mollusc availability. However, when these hypotheses are tested at the local level, more nuanced patterns of human-environment interaction emerge, which call into question interpretations based on broad-scale climate records. We suggest that disjunctions in the timing of the cessation of shell mound construction noted between the west and east Gulf of Carpentaria may be related, at least in part, to the timing and intensity of external cultural contacts with Macassan seafarers, associated with reorganization of mobility and production strategies, rather than as yet undemonstrated environmental changes impacting on shellfish availability.

Item ID: 34153
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1556-1828
Keywords: Gulf of Carpentaria; shellfishing; shell mounds; Wellesley Islands
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP0663047, ARC DP120103179, AINSE AINGRA09025, AINSE AINGRA09031, ARC FT120100656
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2014 01:48
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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