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Assessing hunter-gatherer mobility in Australia's Western Desert using historic aerial imagery from the 1950s

Author(s): Michael Price ; Rebecca Bliege Bird ; Douglas Bird

Year: 2017

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Summary

Access to water, food, and other resources is a critical factor structuring hunter-gatherer mobility, but few landscape-level studies have examined how resource availability influences where foragers go and how long they remain at one place before moving on. Using a newly available set of aerial images from the Western Desert of Australia taken in 1953, we utilize a simple ideal-free distribution model to reconstruct forager mobility by the fire footprints they leave behind. We examine three predictors of forager mobility and population density as measured by the density and dispersion of recent fires: 1) water availability, 2) habitat diversity (access to two or more high-ranking ecological habitats), and 3) seral diversity (higher prior use by human hunters). If foragers are attracted to high quality patches, there are substantial implications for understanding the spatially heterogeneous nature of forager-landscape interactions as mediated through fire. This, in turn, has broad implications for understanding and interpreting land use and population movements from initial colonization of the continent to the present.


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Assessing hunter-gatherer mobility in Australia's Western Desert using historic aerial imagery from the 1950s. Michael Price, Rebecca Bliege Bird, Douglas Bird. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428955)


Keywords

Geographic Keywords
Oceania


Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16933

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America