Mid-Holocene Aboriginal occupation of offshore islands in northern Australia? A reassessment of Wurdukanhan, Mornington Island, southern Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia

Rosendahl, Daniel, Ulm, Sean, Sloss, Craig, Steinberger, Lincoln, Petchey, Fiona, Jacobsen, Geraldine, Stock, Errol, and Robins, Richard (2015) Mid-Holocene Aboriginal occupation of offshore islands in northern Australia? A reassessment of Wurdukanhan, Mornington Island, southern Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. Quaternary International, 385. pp. 145-153.

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Abstract

Claims for mid-Holocene Aboriginal occupation at the shell matrix site of Wurdukanhan, Mornington Island, Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, are reassessed through an analysis of the excavated assemblage coupled with new surveys and an extensive dating program. Memmott et al. (2006, pp. 38, 39) reported basal ages of c.5000–5500 years from Wurdukanhan as 'the oldest date yet obtained for any archaeological site on the coast of the southern Gulf of Carpentaria' and used these dates to argue for 'a relatively lengthy occupation since at least the mid-Holocene'. If substantiated, with the exception of western Torres Strait, these claims make Mornington Island the only offshore island used across northern Australia in the mid-Holocene where it is conventionally thought that Aboriginal people only (re)colonised islands after sea-level maximum was achieved after the mid-Holocene. Our analysis of Wurdukanhan demonstrates high shellfish taxa diversity, high rates of natural shell predation and high densities of foraminifera throughout the deposit demonstrating a natural origin for the assemblage. Results are considered in the context of other dated shell matrix sites in the area and a geomorphological model for landscape development of the Sandalwood River catchment.

Item ID: 38401
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-4553
Keywords: Mid-Holocene island occupation; coastal archaeology; environmental archaeology; bioherms; Mornington Island; shell-matrix sites
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE)
Projects and Grants: ARC Discovery Project Number DP0663047, ARC Discovery Project Number DP120103179, AINSE AINGRA09025, AINSE AINGRA09031, ARC Future Fellowship project number FT120100656
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2015 01:24
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology @ 70%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210102 Archaeological Science @ 30%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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