Climate variability in the mid to late Holocene Arnhem Land Region, North Australia: Archaeological Archives of environmental and cultural change

Patricia Bourke, Sally Brockwell, Patrick Faulkner, Betty Meehan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    A number of archaeologists have suggested that significant climatic change with environmental and social consequences occurred between 1000 and 400 years ago in the Indo-Pacific region. We investigate this premise by examining the archaeological record of changes in hunter-gatherer economies in three geographically distinct coastal regions of tropical northern Australia. These case studies support the argument that Aboriginal mollusc exploitation reflects the altered local ecological habitats that accompanied broader coastal environmental change over the last few thousand years. Overlap between the phases and timing of climatic and behavioural changes within each region suggests that, given regional variation in the nature and of these changes, there was an associated human response to late Holocene climatic variability. These case studies establish that archaeological and environmental evidence mutually support the argument for climate change influencing cultural change in northern Australia. We suggest that, while a direct physical link between environmental change and the interpretations of significant cultural change in the archaeological record have yet to be demonstrated unambiguously in this region, the analysis of mollusc exploitation has the potential to provide the direct link that is currently missing between changes in climate, environment and human responses over the last millennium.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)91-101
    JournalArchaeology in Oceania
    Volume42
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

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