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A high-resolution late Quaternary depositional history and chronology for the southern portion of the Lake Mungo lunette, semi-arid Australia

journal contribution
posted on 2020-11-13, 06:05 authored by NR Jankowski, Nicola SternNicola Stern, TJ Lachlan, Z Jacobs
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd The Willandra Lakes region sits on the southern margin of Australia's arid core and is one of the oldest localities on the continent known to have been occupied by Australia's First People. The archaeological traces that accumulated in the Lake Mungo lunette paint a picture of changing land use over the past ∼50 thousand years (ka) and some of these are likely to have been responses to changes in palaeoenvironmental conditions. This study set out to determine the finest temporal resolution that can be used to study the depositional and palaeoenvironmental history of the Lake Mungo lunette. The investigation focused on the depositional history documented within stratigraphy exposed in an eroding gully in the southern part of the lunette; Gully 10. A stratigraphic framework was developed using sedimentological and soil micromorphological analysis. This framework was then fixed in time by 56 single-grain optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) age estimates. These data sets were then combined into a Bayesian model that indicated three depositional phases: >100 ka (LU1), ∼65–33 ka (LU2–LU3), and from ∼30 to 16 ka (LU4–LU9), with the late Pleistocene and Holocene samples (LU10–11) not being modelled. Furthermore, the redating of thirteen Lower and Upper Mungo OSL samples from Bowler et al. (2003)’s study of the southern tip of the lunette yielded younger age estimates for twelve of these, bringing them into line with previously published independent age control as well as the ages presented in this study. This study provides an approach for future efforts to establish consistency in age estimation and palaeoenvironmental interpretation along the length of the lunette.


This work was undertaken with the permission of the Elders' Council of the Willandra Lakes RegionWorld Heritage Area and the WLRWHA Community Management and Technical and Scientific Advisory Committees. We thank the Barkindji/Paakantji, Ngyiampaa and Mutthi Mutthi Elders for their support of this research. The samples were collected in accordance with a Review of Environmental Factors granted by the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage. We would like to thank Prof. Jim Bowler for providing details for, and schematics of, the Mungo I and III transects. We would like to thank Jim, as well as Prof. Paul Goldberg for their constructive comments, discussion and suggestions in the drafting of this paper. This work was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant (DP150100487), awarded to NS and ZJ. NRJ was supported by funding from the New South Wales Department Industry, Skills and Regional Development, Research Attraction and Acceleration Program and is gratefully acknowledged.

Australian Research Council | DP150100487

New South Wales Department Industry, Skills and Regional Development, Research Attraction and Acceleration Program


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Quaternary Science Reviews



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