Understanding Pleistocene and Early Holocene faunal exploitation at Barrow Island, North-west Australia


Barrow Island, located 50km off the modern Pilbara coast, contains the longest and richest archaeological record of Pleistocene coastal settlement in northern Australia. During lowered sea levels of the Pleistocene, the island was part of the greater Australian continent. Archaeological survey has revealed an array of sites in cave, rockshelter and open air-settings. The most diverse record has been recovered from a large limestone cave, where repeated visits began at c. 50 ka BP and continued until 7.5 ka BP, when increasing sea levels isolated the island from the mainland. Archaeofaunal records demonstrate that throughout this time, people visiting Boodie Cave exploited a combination of marine and terrestrial resources. Although medium and large-sized macropods are staple foods throughout occupation, various marine resources are found from the oldest deposits onward. During much of the Pleistocene, prey consisted of medium-large terrestrial game and marine gastropods, but as the coastline neared the site, an increasingly diverse range of resources was consumed. This culminated in the early Holocene, when prey included over 25 species of vertebrates and 40 species of shellfish. These patterns likely reflect the changing role of the cave within the cultural landscape, rather than any dramatic shifts in resource exploitation strategies.

Cite this Record

Understanding Pleistocene and Early Holocene faunal exploitation at Barrow Island, North-west Australia. Tiina Manne, Peter Veth, Fiona Hook, Kane Ditchfield, Ingrid Ward. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429174)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15736