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Judith H Field

Judith H Field
UNSW Sydney | UNSW · School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES)

BA (Hons) PhD UNSW

About

95
Publications
44,729
Reads
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3,480
Citations
Introduction
Australian Indigenous Archaeology New Guinea Indigenous Archaeology Ancient Starch Studies
Additional affiliations
January 2014 - November 2017
UNSW Sydney
Position
  • Research Associate
January 2011 - present
UNSW Sydney
Position
  • Honorary Senior Lecturer
January 2005 - December 2009
The University of Sydney
Position
  • Senior Research Associate

Publications

Publications (95)
Article
Full-text available
Grinding stones and ground stone implements are important technological innovations in later human evolution, allowing the exploitation and use of new plant foods, novel tools (e.g., bone points and edge ground axes) and ground pigments. Excavations at the site of Madjedbebe recovered Australia’s (if not one of the world’s) largest and longest reco...
Article
New Guinea has yielded some of the earliest evidence for a human presence in Sahul (Pleistocene Australia-New Guinea), with the north coast being one of the likely colonisation routes from Southeast Asia. Of the known pre-Last Glacial Maximum (≥30kya) archaeological sites from New Guinea, only a handful come from the Highlands. Navigable pathways l...
Article
The functional study of ground stone artefacts and the analysis of charred plant remains together demonstrate that plant foods played a significant role in the diets of Aboriginal Australians through all occupation phases at the Pleistocene-aged archaeological site of Madjedbebe. Here we report studies of three sandstone grinding stones from the Ho...
Chapter
Evidence from various climate proxies provides us with increasingly reliable proof that only in the past 10 millennia were natural systems more or less as we see them at the present (without considering human impact). Prior to 10,000 years ago, natural systems repeatedly changed under the influence of an unstable climate. This is particularly true...
Article
New Guinea was host to some of the most complex maritime interaction networks in the tropics. We take a multi-proxy approach to investigate the foodways at the heart of the extensive Madang exchange network in the last millennium before the present: 1) invertebrate zooarchaeological analysis identifies the dependence on shellfish collecting from th...
Article
Full-text available
Ground stone technology for processing starchy plant foods has its origins in the late Pleistocene, with subsequent intensification and transformation of this technology coinciding with the global emergence of agriculture in the early Holocene. On the island of New Guinea, agriculture first emerges in the highland Wahgi Valley, potentially from c....
Article
Full-text available
The emergence of agriculture was one of the most notable behavioral transformations in human history, driving innovations in technologies and settlement globally, referred to as the Neolithic. Wetland agriculture originated in the New Guinea highlands during the mid-Holocene (8000 to 4000 years ago), yet it is unclear if there was associated behavi...
Article
Full-text available
Drivers of Late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions are relevant to modern conservation policy in a world of growing human population density, climate change, and faunal decline. Traditional debates tend toward global solutions, blaming either dramatic climate change or dispersals of Homo sapiens to new regions. Inherent limitations to archaeological...
Article
Previous special relativistic calculations of gravitational redshift, light deflection and Shapiro delay are extended to include perigee advance. The three classical, order G, post-Newtonian predictions of general relativity as well as general relativistic light-speed-variation are therefore shown to be also consequences of special relativistic New...
Chapter
Starch grains are tell-tale characteristics of plants that can remain long after the decomposition of the rest of the material. The understanding of historical plant use, for sustenance and plant-based medicines, as well as agricultural practices is enhanced by the identification of residual starch remains. Classifications, however, have previously...
Article
Here we report the results of excavation and analyses of an open site on Pulau Ay, a small (ca. 4 km²) limestone island located in the Banda Islands, central Maluku, Indonesia. This report provides results of excavations at PA1 and other Pulau Ay sites conducted in 2007 and 2009. These sites reveal patterns of changes in marine resource exploitatio...
Article
Understanding the loss of the final few species of Australian megafauna is beset by a paucity of data on human arrival, well‐provenanced megafauna, human/megafauna population range and distribution (coexistence and interaction), and the range, scale and impact of environmental changes spanning the human–megafauna period. To overcome these shortcomi...
Article
Full-text available
This article presents archaeological data critical to our understanding of the pre-colonial past along the northeast coast of New Guinea. Two archaeological sites from coastal and offshore Madang, Papua New Guinea, were excavated to establish the timing of colonization by Bel (Austronesian) speakers, and the subsequent emergence of their trade and...
Article
Full-text available
Throughout the late Quaternary, the Sahul (Pleistocene Australia–New Guinea) vertebrate fauna was dominated by a diversity of large mammals, birds, and reptiles, commonly referred to as megafauna. Since ca. 450–400Ka, approximately 88 species disappeared in Sahul, including kangaroos exceeding 200kg in size, wombat-like animals the size of hippopot...
Article
Full-text available
ahul. This evidence was inconsistent with contemporary models of rapid human-driven extinctions. Instead, researchers inferred ecological tethering of fauna at Lancefield Swamp due to intense drought precipitated localised mass deaths, consistent with Late Pleistocene climatic variability. Later investigations in another part of the swamp, the Mayn...
Article
The timing and nature of hunter-gather exploitation of tropical rainforests is a topic of ongoing debate. In contrast to most other tropical regions, permanent settlement in Australian rainforests developed much later, and in the absence of adjacent agricultural economies. Here we explore how the tropical rainforests of northern Queensland were exp...
Research
Full-text available
After the 1996 Society for American Archaeology meeting in New Orleans, residues and functional analysis of stone artefacts were a specific focus of some sessions. and we offered our views on residues, on functional analysis of stone tools.
Article
Full-text available
The first human arrivals in northern Sahul (New Guinea) encountered new environments, flora and fauna, yet they appear to have rapidly adapted to the challenges of settlement in these different ecological niches. Our paper looks at these adaptations and makes a contribution in understanding the temporal and geographical diversity of rainforest envi...
Article
Full-text available
An Aboriginal man done to death on the dunes 4000 years ago was recently discovered during excavations beneath a bus shelter in Narrabeen on Sydney's northern beaches. The presence of backed microliths and the evidence for trauma in the bones showed that he had been killed with stone-tipped spears. Now we know how these backed points were used. A p...
Article
Full-text available
Large area excavation at Cuddie Springs has revealed that the Pleistocene sediments have remained undisturbed. This eliminates the possibility that stone artefacts found in association with megafauna may have been introduced by disturbance from higher levels and indicates an overlap of megafauna with humans of at least 10,000 years.
Article
Starch grain analysis has become a routine investigative approach to studies of economic plant use during prehistory. As interest in ancient starch has rapidly escalated, however, the various ways ground stone tools (and adhering residues) have been curated into museum collections and the efficacy of extraction have been largely undocumented. The s...
Article
Full-text available
Austronesian speaking peoples left Southeast Asia and entered the Western Pacific c.4000-3000 years ago, continuing on to colonise Remote Oceania for the first time, where they became the ancestral populations of Polynesians. Understanding the impact of these peoples on the mainland of New Guinea before they entered Remote Oceania has eluded archae...
Article
Full-text available
Ma, X. (2010). What did grinding stones grind? New light on early Neolithic subsistence economy in the Middle Yellow River Valley, China. Antiquity: a quarterly review of archaeology, 84 (325), 816-833.
Article
Smith's Comment on our functional analysis of grinding stone fragments from Pleistocene contexts at Lake Mungo (Fullagar et al. 2015) draws attention to the low frequency of implements, uncertainties about functional interpretations and archaeological implications. He argues that Pleistocene seed exploitation at Lake Mungo was limited and probably...
Article
Grinding stones and fragments have often been found in archaeological sites at Lake Mungo, south-western New South Wales, and their function has mostly been inferred on the basis of grindstone morphology. Of particular interest has been the antiquity of grass seed grinding, which is usually associated with deeply grooved, large sandstone dishes. Pr...
Article
Many economically important plants produce starch grains that, if distinctive in form, can be used as identifiers for particular taxa. The identification of starch to species or genera has become increasingly important in studies exploring plant use in ancient societies and also in the verification of plant origin for some plant-based medicines. Ho...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Abstract: recent research has suggested that the permanent occupation of Australian rainforests occurred c. 2000 BP in response to increasing ENSO instability that started c. 5000 years ago. The hypothesis is that people moved permanently into these environments by adopting the practice of noxious food processing as a way to exploit new and importa...
Article
Full-text available
The Cuddie Springs site in south-eastern Australia provides the first evidence of an unequivocal association of megafauna with humans for this continent. Cuddie Springs has been known as a fossil megafauna locality for over a century, but its archaeological record has only recently been identified. Cuddie Springs is an open site, with the fossil de...
Article
Full-text available
We welcome comments by Brook et al. (1), supporters of human-driven models, on our review of the role of climate in Pleistocene faunal extinctions in Sahul (Pleistocene Australia–New Guinea) (2). In response, we begin on a point of agreement: the fossil fauna record on which our respective arguments are based is sparse, although our understanding o...
Article
Full-text available
Around 88 large vertebrate taxa disappeared from Sahul sometime during the Pleistocene, with the majority of losses (54 taxa) clearly taking place within the last 400,000 years. The largest was the 2.8-ton browsing Diprotodon optatum, whereas the ∼100- to 130-kg marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, the world's most specialized mammalian carnivore,...
Article
The decline and disappearance of a range of giant marsupials, reptiles and birds from the Australian landscape during the last Glacial cycle continues to capture the imagination of both researchers and the general public. The events hinted at in the Australian fossil sequences appear to be mirrored on other continents through similar time periods,...
Article
Full-text available
The faunal extinctions of the Late Pleistocene saw the disappearance of a suite of giant marsupials, birds and reptiles from the Australian landscape. Attempts to explain these extinctions have invoked human activities and climate change as one or other of the primary drivers. Recently, the identification of some faunal species having adaptations t...
Article
Full-text available
Small mammal assemblages in the aridlands of the Southern Hemisphere often have wildly fluctuating dynamics. Previous studies have attributed these fluctuations to climate-driven pulses in food resources resulting in the switching of trophic control from bottom-up (food-limited) to top-down (predation-limited) population regulation, and vice versa....
Article
Full-text available
Australia's largest flightless bird, the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), has been an important prey animal for Indigenous people for millennia, especially in arid/semi-arid areas where, along with large kangaroos, they can provide high economic returns from single kills. Understanding modern prey selection, butchering patterns and the relative nutr...
Article
Full-text available
The processes that led to the transition from small mobile groups of hunter-gatherers in the Late Pleistocene to sedentary communities of the Early Holocene in north China are poorly understood. The Donghulin site in Beijing was occupied at the onset of the Holocene, and excavations have revealed a rich archaeological record for investigating the c...
Article
The reasons for megafaunal extinction in Australia have been hotly debated for over 30 years without any clear resolution. The proposed causes include human overkill, climate, anthropogenic induced habitat change or a combination of these. Most protagonists of the human overkill model suggest the impact was so swift, occurring within a few thousand...
Article
After their emergence by 200,000 years before the present in Africa, modern humans colonized the globe, reaching Australia and New Guinea by 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. Understanding how humans lived and adapted to the range of environments in these areas has been difficult because well-preserved settlements are scarce. Data from the New Guinea Hig...
Article
Full-text available
After their emergence by 200,000 years before the present in Africa, modern humans colonized the globe, reaching Australia and New Guinea by 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. Understanding how humans lived and adapted to the range of environments in these areas has been difficult because well-preserved settlements are scarce. Data from the New Guinea Hig...
Article
Full-text available
Human arrival in Sahul – Pleistocene Australia and New Guinea – has long been argued as the catalyst in the decline and disappearance of a suite of extinct animals referred to as megafauna. The debate concerning causality in Sahul is highly polarised, with climate change often cited as the alternative explanatory model. On continental Australia, th...
Article
Full-text available
Human arrival in Sahul – Pleistocene Australia and New Guinea – has long been argued as the catalyst in the decline and disappearance of a suite of extinct animals referred to as megafauna. The debate concerning causality in Sahul is highly polarised, with climate change often cited as the alternative explanatory model. On continental Australia, th...
Article
Full-text available
Grinding stones have provided a convenient proxy for the arrival of agriculture inNeolithic China. Not any more. Thanks to highprecision analyses of use-wear and starch residue, the authors show that early Neolithic people were mainly using these stones to process acorns. This defines a new stage in the long transition of food production from hunte...
Article
As plant foods comprise a major part of the human diet, it is perhaps not surprising that the residues from the preparation of meals are preserved in sediments and on artifacts recovered from archaeological sites. Starch has become a major archaeological research tool in recent years, as the potential for identifying genus and species from the morp...
Article
Stone tools used in the butchering of animals or the processing of animal meat, skin, or bone may accumulate blood and other associated residues on their surface. Blood is most likely to derive from prey species, though it is possible for human blood to be deposited on a tool accidentally during the knapping process. When an animal is being butcher...
Article
The Australian continent was first colonized by modern humans from Southeast Asia around 45 ka. Travel to Australia involved a minimum 90 km ocean crossing and may have occurred either through Java and Flores or further north through New Guinea and then down through the Carpentarian Plain. Most environments were occupied by about 30 ka, though rain...
Article
Full-text available
C Recent excavations at Shangshan and Xiaohuangshan l 11 400-8000 cal BP 4 in Zhejiang Province have revealed the earliest evidence for the emergence of sedentary villages in the Lower Yangzi River region. Both sites yielded abundant grinding stones but few organic remains. A pilot study of seven stone tools was undertaken to determine the potentia...
Article
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Archaeobotany is the study of plant remains from archaeological contexts. Despite Australasian research being at the forefront of several methodological innovations over the last three decades, archaeobotany is now a relatively peripheral concern to most archaeological projects in Australia and New Guinea. In this paper, many practicing archaeobota...
Article
Full-text available
Morahs are incised grinding stones from the tropical rainforests of Far North Queensland. They are made from grey slate, are roughly ovate to rectangular in shape, and have distinctive incised parallel grooves running transversely across the body of the stone. The region in which they are found is also known for the processing of toxic starchy plan...
Article
Spectroscopic indicators of bone crystallinity such as the infrared splitting factor (IRSF) are commonly used to determine the general state of preservation of ancient bone. In principle such indices might be expected to act as a proxy for alteration of bone mineral and thus could be used to screen bones (or portions of bones) for likely preservati...
Article
Full-text available
Over 60 faunal species disappeared from the Australian continent during the Middle–Late Pleistocene. Most of these animals were large to gigantic marsupials, birds and reptiles. A terminal extinction date of 46.4 kyr has been proposed for the megafauna, with all sites containing younger fossil megafauna dismissed by some researchers because of ques...
Article
Preservation of intact macromolecules and geochemical signals in fossil bones is mainly controlled by the extent of post-mortem interaction between bones and sediment pore waters. Trace elements such as lanthanum are added to bone post-mortem from pore waters, and where uptake occurs via a simple process of diffusion and adsorption, the elemental d...
Chapter
Full-text available
During the 1950s, with the electron microscope fast becoming the characterisation tool par excellence for many scientific and engineering disciplines, the University of Sydney recognised that its academic community needed access to electron microscopy to do quality research. In 1958, in a bold move, the University established a centralised facility...
Article
Archaeological research in the Australia's northeast Queensland rainforest and margins has revealed a human antiquity of at least 8000 cal year BP within the rainforest and at least 30,000 years on the western edge. Rainforest occupation before 2000 cal year BP was at generally very low levels, after which time settlement of this environment became...
Article
After 15 years of continuing investigation, analysis and publication of the sedimentary sequence at Cuddie Springs, the site and its contents continue to draw considerable attention from those investigating the timing and cause of the extinction of the megafauna. The archaeological record commences at Cuddie Springs around 36ka and overlaps with a...
Article
Arguments that megafaunal extinctions in Australia were anthropogenically mediated have focused on establishing terminal appearance ages. This approach has been underpinned by three principle tenets: (1) if megafauna disappeared before significant climate change, but after human colonisation, then it can be inferred that extinctions were human medi...
Article
Full-text available
Recent multidisciplinary investigations document an independent emergence of agriculture at Kuk Swamp in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. In this paper we report preliminary usewear analysis and details of prehistoric use of stone tools for processing starchy food and other plants at Kuk Swamp. Morphological diagnostics for starch granules are re...
Article
Scavenging is one of the primary taphonomic processes shaping the final composition of fossil faunal assemblages. The taphonomic effect of scavengers is variable and must be understood in the context of the causes of that variation. In this study, we investigated relationships between the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), variable rainfall and s...
Article
Full-text available
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Article
Arguments that megafaunal extinctions in Australia were anthropogenically mediated have focused on establishing terminal appearance ages. This approach has been underpinned by three principle tenets: (1) if megafauna disappeared before significant climate change, but after human colonisation, then it can be inferred that extinctions were human medi...
Article