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Seasonal Places: A Model of Human Adaptation, Economy and Movement within late Pleistocene Southwest Tasmania

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posted on 2023-01-18, 18:11 authored by Georgia Roberts
One of the significant challenges in investigating past human behaviour is the resolution of data that can be recovered from the archaeological record, both for human populations and the environments in which they lived. This thesis presents the first longitudinal record of submonthly palaeoecological data directly linked to late Pleistocene human occupation within Australia. The exceptionally well preserved faunal assemblages from high latitude archaeological sites in southwest Tasmania show that two medium sized mammals, the Bennett’s wallaby and the Tasmanian Common wombat, were systematically hunted above all other prey species. The high-resolution nature of this study stems from the application of sequential isotopic analysis of the carbonate component of wombat teeth. The distinctive characteristic of continuous tooth growth throughout life results in the preservation of climatic and environmental data relating to the 12 to 24 months prior to death. The high-resolution stable isotopic data presented here not only supports the faunal data in showing a continuation of this strategy from c. 30,000 BP to 15,000 BP, but provides further insights into the long-term systems of seasonal economy, movement and adaptation within this subantarctic environment. The sub-monthly resolution of this data, collected from throughout the occupation deposits of the southwest, indicates notable climatic and vegetation stability between 27,000 BP to 18,000 BP. This stability decreased significantly after the Last Glacial Maximum, with amelioration into modern ranges occurring within 3,000 years. Vegetation communities responded to these changes through the apparent increase in the distribution of arid adapted C4 plant species into regions dominated solely by the cool wet climate C3 plants characteristic of modern times. Despite this climatic and environmental variation, patterns of seasonal resource use and movement within the landscape were maintained throughout the 21,500 year occupation of southwest Tasmania. Patterns reflecting different approaches to the extraction of energy from the landscape have emerged, between both the different prey species and the archaeological sites. Overall, a more nuanced system of economy and movement has developed, reflecting the underlying complexity of adaptation within the most southerly human population of the LGM.

Submission note: This thesis is submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the College of Arts, Social Science and Commerce, Department of Archaeology and History, La Trobe University, Victoria.


Center or Department

College of Arts, Social Science and Commerce. Department of Archaeology and History.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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This thesis contains third party copyright material which has been reproduced here with permission. Any further use requires permission of the copyright owner. The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over all other content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

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