CAR Seminar series

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences and ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Exploring Late Quaternary Human-Environment Interaction in Bunuba and Gooniyandi country (Western Australia), a Synthesis of Archaeobotanical remains presented by Rose Whitau (ANU, ANH)

In north Western Australia, records of palaeoenvironmental change are scarce or under explored, particularly terrestrial archives that allow for comparison with the archaeological record and examination of human-environment interaction in the past. The extent to which these records reflect localised vegetation responses to climate fluctuations, and the manner in which people adapted to these changes in climate and vegetation, has yet to be investigated within the context of stratified archaeological inquiry. Analysis of archaeobotanical proxies excavated in association with other cultural remains provide the obvious nexus to this issue; however, archaeobotany is rarely applied in Australian archaeology due to a lack of application of appropriate field techniques, limited reference collections, and the poor preservation of organic remains. 

This research, which is part of the ARC Linkage Project: Lifeways of the First Australians, investigates human-environment interaction at two sites in the Kimberley region of Western Australia: Riwi Cave and Mount Behn rockshelter, during the late Quaternary. Located on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in Gooniyandi country, Riwi Cave has a discontinuous occupation sequence of over 45 ka, while Mount Behn rockshelter, located some 180 km northwest of Riwi Cave in Bunuba country, has an occupation sequence of ~3 ka. Anthracology (wood charcoal), palynology (pollen and spores), and wood identification using X-ray microtomography are used alongside other research from the ARC Linkage Project to reconstruct vegetation, investigate human-environment interaction, and explore the taphonomy and representativeness of the different proxy data sets. The findings from each site are then located within a regional narrative of human-environment interaction.