Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Aboriginal Occupation of South Central Tasmania in the Pleistocene - Archaeological deposits - artefact density

The extreme richness of artefacts in the deposits at Kutikina Cave have been emphasised (Kiernan et al., 1983), especially when compared to the deposits in other Tasmanian caves from the Pleistocene, such as Cave Bay Cave and Beginners Luck Cave (Murray & Goede, 1980). The richness found in Kutikina Cave appears to have been characteristic of many Pleistocene sites in the Tasmanian southwest. In M86/2, 9500 pieces of artefactual stone and more than 30,000 pieces of bone were found in 0.25 m3 of the deposit that had been excavated. At Nunamira Cave more than 30,000 stone flakes were found at a density of 50-80 kg of soil, as well as about 30,000 bone pieces in 1.0 m3 of the deposit. In Bone Cave there was a similar amount of bone and more stone present in 0.8 m3 of the deposit. According to the authors there are a number of possible explanations such as the caves being preferred to more open sites as they provide more protection from the cold, or under the palaeoecological model of the authors the prey animals tended to congregate in certain patches, and unfortunately for the animals, there were nearby caves the hunters could occupy, with the result that these caves were used more frequently or for longer periods.

In the deposits at Nunamira Cave the richest bone deposits were in the upper layers that dated to later than 16,000 BP and increasing to 13,000 BP. M86/2 was abandoned at 18.000 BP, the last glacial maximum, a time when occupation at Kutikina Cave, 5 km away, was at the peak of its intensity. According to the authors this suggests there is no necessary correlation between the cold and the level of occupation of the caves.

The distinctly lower density of artefactual objects at OSR 7, though the species list of animals represented in the deposits of OSR 7 is similar, but with minor differences, to sites that are further west dating from the Pleistocene, there are specific variations, especially considering quantities and processing strategies. Significant differences also occur between the technology and raw materials of OSR 7 and the stone tool assemblages at the sites in the southwest. The authors suggest OSR 7 reflects an archaeological signature that is distinctly different from sites in the southwest of Tasmania dating from the Pleistocene. It also supports the proposal that the eastern border of the south-western geographic zone is also a border between regions with different human behaviour during the Pleistocene.

See Aboriginal Occupation of South Central Tasmania During the Pleistocene

Sources & Further reading 

  1. Richard Cosgrove, Jim Allen & Brendan Marshall in Murray, Tim, 1998, Archaeology of Aboriginal Australia, Allen & Unwin.

Author: M. H. Monroe
Last Updated 15/04/2013



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