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SahulTime: Rethinking Archaeological Representation in the Digital Age

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Abstract

SahulTime is an experimental development project to explore how archaeological knowledge might best be represented within a digitally native mode. The system incorporates an interactive, zoomable timeline with a changing geographic view, time-aware icons and detail-boxes that can themselves express temporal visualisations. The core knowledge domain currently represented is Australian archaeology in the context of changing sea-level, but the visualisation concepts developed are more generally applicable at a global level on all timescales, and may offer a first step towards the 'Digital Earth' vision of a top-down interface for exploring the world and its history.

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... Boca Raton, Florida, USA: CRC Press. islands over the last 3.5 Myr (Hocknull 2009;Coller 2009). The approximate extent and duration of these connections can be visualised using Monash University's "SahulTime" webpage (http://sahultime.monash.edu.au/; ...
... The approximate extent and duration of these connections can be visualised using Monash University's "SahulTime" webpage (http://sahultime.monash.edu.au/; Coller 2009). Of particular importance is that, over the last ~1 Myr, Australia and New Guinea have more often formed a single landmass than they have been separated by sea (Bintanja et al. 2005;Hocknull 2009;Coller 2009). ...
... Coller 2009). Of particular importance is that, over the last ~1 Myr, Australia and New Guinea have more often formed a single landmass than they have been separated by sea (Bintanja et al. 2005;Hocknull 2009;Coller 2009). ...
... The dashed black lines represent ecological lines in Wallacea. The dark gray areas represent current land area, with light gray areas representing estimated land area around 50,000 years ago based on paleogeological reconstructions(Coller 2009 ...
Article
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The settlement of Sahul, the lost continent of Oceania, remains one of the most ancient and debated human migrations. Modern New Guineans inherited a unique genetic diversity tracing back 50,000 years, and yet there is currently no model reconstructing their past population dynamics. We generated 58 new whole genome sequences from Papua New Guinea, filling geographical gaps in previous sampling, specifically to address alternative scenarios of the initial migration to Sahul and the settlement of New Guinea. Here, we present the first genomic models for the settlement of northeast Sahul considering one or two migrations from Wallacea. Both models fit our dataset, reinforcing the idea that ancestral groups to New Guinean and Indigenous Australians split early, potentially during their migration in Wallacea where the northern route could have been favored. The earliest period of human presence in Sahul was an era of interactions and gene flow between related but already differentiated groups, from whom all modern New Guineans, Bismarck islanders and Indigenous Australians descend. The settlement of New Guinea was probably initiated from its southeast region, where the oldest archaeological sites have been found. This was followed by two migrations into the south and north lowlands that ultimately reached the west and east highlands. We also identify ancient gene flows between populations in New Guinea, Australia, East Indonesia and the Bismarck Archipelago, emphasizing the fact that the anthropological landscape during the early period of Sahul settlement was highly dynamic rather than the traditional view of extensive isolation.
... Another part of the project is to present the radiocarbon age determinations to a more general audience, via Matthew Coller's Time Machine/Temporal Earth model-the successor to Sahul Time (Coller 2009; < https://temporalearth.org/ >). ...
Conference Paper
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For several years, staff at Aboriginal Victoria, a government agency responsible for administering the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Vic.), have been compiling a dataset of radiocarbon age determinations from Aboriginal places in the State of Victoria, southeastern Australia. The dataset currently contains nearly 1,000 radiocarbon age determinations calculated over the past 65 years, but has not yet been made more readily available due to concerns over its accuracy and completeness. A time-consuming and complex process of verifying the sample information, methods and results for each radiocarbon determination has just been completed, following a partnership between Aboriginal Victoria and researchers in the Department of Archaeology and History at La Trobe University. In this paper, we describe the data-verification process behind the Radiocarbon Dating Visualisation Project, share some of the issues we have encountered, and outline the future directions and proposed outcomes of the project. The data-verification process has highlighted the need to improve standards for building radiocarbon chronologies and publishing radiocarbon age determinations, particularly through the provision of laboratory reports and more careful consideration of the contextual integrity of samples for dating.
... Numerous studies (e.g., Birdsell, 1977;Clark, 1991;Chappell, 1993;Oppenheimer, 2009;O'Connell et al., 2010;Balme, 2013;Kealy et al., 2016;O'Connor et al., 2017b) have cited the effects of changing sea-levels on the colonization of Sahul; however, until now there has been no detailed and updated review of Birdsell's (1977) study. Additionally, while some studies (Butlin, 1993;Morwood and Van Oosterzee, 2007;Coller, 2009;Davies and Bickler, 2015;Kealy et al., 2016;Bird et al., 2018;Norman et al., 2018) have reconstructed various islands in Wallacea at differing periods of sea-level fall using bathometric data, only a very few (Langley et al., 2016;Hawkins et al., 2017;Kealy et al., 2017;O'Connor et al., 2017bO'Connor et al., , 2018a have incorporated island uplift rates into their reconstructions. ...
Article
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Archaeological records from Australia provide the earliest, indirect evidence for maritime crossings by early modern humans, as the islands to the north-west of the continent (Wallacea) have never been connected to the mainland. Suggested in 1977 by Joseph B. Birdsell, the two main routes from Sunda (mainland Southeast Asia) to Sahul (Australia-New Guinea), still in debate today, are a northern route through Sulawesi with a landing in New Guinea, or a southern route through Bali, Timor and thence landing in northern Australia. Here we construct least-cost pathway models of human dispersal from Sunda to Sahul at 65 ka and 70 ka by extending previous out-of-Africa least-cost models through the digitization of these routes. We recover overwhelming support for a northern route into Sahul, with a landing location on present-day Misool Island. Minimal support is also recovered for the southern route at 70 ka, with a possible crossing to Sahul from eastern Timor. Review of archaeological records on the Wallacean islands crossed by our northern route indicate a dearth of archaeological research in this region. Meanwhile, the comparatively better studied southern islands still lack any archaeological dates comparable to those known for initial occupation in Sunda and Sahul. Based on our model results we suggest Misool Island as the initial landing site for early modern humans on Sahul and recommend a future focus on archaeological fieldwork in the northern Wallacean islands. Open Access at: https://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S0047248418302136
... Numerous studies (e.g., Birdsell, 1977;Clark, 1991;Chappell, 1993;Oppenheimer, 2009;O'Connell et al., 2010;Balme, 2013;Kealy et al., 2016;O'Connor et al., 2017b) have cited the effects of changing sea-levels on the colonization of Sahul; however, until now there has been no detailed and updated review of Birdsell's (1977) study. Additionally, while some studies (Butlin, 1993;Morwood and Van Oosterzee, 2007;Coller, 2009;Davies and Bickler, 2015;Kealy et al., 2016;Bird et al., 2018;Norman et al., 2018) have reconstructed various islands in Wallacea at differing periods of sea-level fall using bathometric data, only a very few (Langley et al., 2016;Hawkins et al., 2017;Kealy et al., 2017;O'Connor et al., 2017bO'Connor et al., , 2018a have incorporated island uplift rates into their reconstructions. ...
Presentation
Stretching between the continental shelves of Sunda (mainland Southeast Asia) and Sahul (Australia-New Guinea) is the biogeographic region of Wallacea. Notable for their continued isolation from both continents, the islands of the Wallacean Archipelago are of significance to archaeologists as they represent the first serious sea-crossing challenges faced by early modern humans on their dispersal out of Africa. The discovery, recovery and successful dating of early modern human remnants from this region is however, particularly challenging. As dates for earliest occupation on Australia pre-date those known from Wallacea this area remains a frontier for archaeological discoveries. Until more data is recovered, modelling offers us a way to investigate how early modern humans may have first colonised and then explored the Wallacean archipelago. Here we present a series of models that reconstruct the land- and sea-scape of this region ca. 70-50 ka; based on bathometric data, climate based sea-level models and tectonic uplift rates. The reconstructions are then used to determine the variables of island connectivity, intervisibility and colonising potential, employed in modelling pathways based on least-cost algorithms. These least-cost models detect the most energy efficient and likely routes of early modern human dispersal and migration through the region. The modelled pathways and likely dates can be tested through comparisons with dated archaeological data, such as obsidian trade networks, and dated biogeographic studies, such as those of other mammals in the region whose dispersal may have been facilitated by early modern humans.
... Other projects like Sahul Time and Virtual Warrane II (formerly the Digital Songlines Project) specialize in the use of spatial and temporal data through visualisation in geolocation systems and game engines. While Sahul Time focuses on representation of scientific archaeological studies (Coller, 2009), Virtual Warrane II explores the use of its system within Indigenous heritage and knowledge management (Bradley et al, 2008;Gibbons et al, 2006;Leavy et al, 2007;Leavy, 2007;Nakata, 2012;Pumpa et al, 2006). Similar to ESS and Murkurtu little research has been conducted and there is a need for further investigation. ...
Article
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This paper examines use of multi-media in the curation, presentation and promotion of rock art. It discusses the construction of a centralised Australian rock art database and explores new technologies available for looking at rock art. In 2011, Prof. Taçon Chair in Rock Art Research and Director of PERAHU (Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit) called for a national rock art database raising awareness of the importance of preserving rock art as part of Australia's valuable Indigenous heritage (Taçon, 2011). Australia has over 100,000 rock art sites, important heritage places for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and a testament to over 10,000 years of human activity, including interactions with other peoples and the environment. Many of these sites have not been documented or recorded and are threatened by natural and cultural agents. It is becoming increasingly important to develop conservation models for the protection and preservation of sites. Indigenous cultural heritage is difficult to manage on a local government level due to complex human / time / environment relationships and the importance of intangible cultural heritage (SoE SEWPAC, 2011). Currently no centralised database system exists in Australia to curate, present and promote rock art.
... The results of these analyses are then used to infer early human movement through the seascape. The 'SahulTime' model constructed by Coller (2009) uses a similar approach, and while it provides an excellent graphic and useful interface, it lacks the resolution and therefore the greater modeling applicability of the models constructed by Robles (2013) and Robles et al. (2015). Field and Lahr (2005) used GIS and elevation data to examine an Africa to Sahul dispersal, with later refinements for the South Asian region between eastern longitudes of 60-90 • (Field, Petraglia, and Lahr 2007). ...
Article
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Wallacea is the transitional biogeographic zone between the continents of Sunda (Southeast Asia) and Sahul (Australian-New Guinea). It consists of a series of island chains unique in the region for never having been connected to either continent. Movement of early modern humans from Sunda to Sahul during the late Pleistocene required dispersal through Wallacea, and hence would have necessitated sea crossings. However, the archeological evidence for early modern humans in Wallacea is still a work in progress, and none of it pre-dates the archeological record from Sahul. While numerous models of this significant colonization event have been proposed, selecting the most likely model for first landfall in Sahul using current archeological evidence has proven difficult, if not impossible. Here the late Pleistocene archeological evidence of early modern humans from Wallacea and its neighbors are reviewed, and the key colonization models that have been proposed are explored. We consider the use of computer simulations and the input variables necessary to test the likelihood of the different colonization models. We highlight the importance of the greater than 100 additional submerged islands observed within the Wallacean archipelago following a simple analysis of bathymetric data and sea-level curves, and their potential impacts on the dispersal and ecology of early human colonizers.
... This opens a wealth of possibilities for taking research communication a step forward from the traditional format (equivalent to the printed page) to incorporating dynamic illustrations of concepts such as those important in flood risk management. The application reported here is a spin-off from a wider project called SahulTime (http://sahultime.monash.edu.au), which uses the animation capabilities of Flash to visualise Australian coastline changes through the past 100 000 years of sea-level change, and thereby give context to mapping archaeological data through time (Coller, 2009). Adobe Flash is a general-purpose authoring package, and so does not have any in-built mapping functions. ...
Article
Advances in analytical flood modelling need to be accompanied by similar advances in the means by which model results can be disseminated across a wide range of stakeholder groups. In this paper we exemplify the use of Adobe Flash as a means to design interactive flood mapping methods that can portray a wide range of potential flood levels, and place them into a context of flood frequency. We apply this methodology to a coastal flood-prone locality in Australia, integrating a range of flood-related information into a single intuitive interface. We demonstrate how a temporal dimension can be incorporated to represent future changes to inundation probability based on climate change projections of sea level rise. The resulting visualisation is accessible directly via the Web, and is designed for ease of use and understanding for all stakeholders. Such flexible methods of representing flood hazard can foster education on flood issues, support community decision-making and assist emergency response when floods eventuate. In this way such mapping methods can play a vital role in Integrated Coastal Zone Management initiatives.
... For these islands, the dominant influences were exposure to open ocean conditions and reduced impact of terrestrial run-off and sedimentation. The habitat structure of the central Indo-Pacific has been strongly influenced by geologically-recent variations in sea level, including the inundation of the Sunda shelf, resulting in the creation of vast new habitat areas (Coller, 2009;Crandall et al., 2012). This represents a recent and novel habitat for parrotfishes, although occupancy appears to be restricted to only a few species. ...
Article
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Phylogenetic reconstruction of the evolutionary relationships among 61 of the 70 species of the parrotfish genera Chlorurus and Scarus (Family Labridae) based on mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequences retrieved 15 well-supported clades with mid Pliocene/Pleistocene diversification. Twenty-two reciprocally monophyletic sisterspecies pairs were identified: 64% were allopatric, and the remainder were sympatric. Age of divergence was similar for allopatric and sympatric species pairs. Sympatric sister pairs displayed greater divergence in morphology, ecology, and sexually dimorphic colour patterns than did allopatric pairs, suggesting that both genetic drift in allopatric species pairs and ecologically adaptive divergence between members of sympatric pairs have played a role in diversification. Basal species typically have small geographical ranges and are restricted to geographically and ecologically peripheral reef habitats. We found little evidence that a single dominant process has driven diversification, nor did we detect a pattern of discrete, sequential stages of diversification in relation to habitat, ecology, and reproductive biology. The evolution of Chlorurus and Scarus has been complex, involving a number of speciation processes.
... For these islands, the dominant influences were exposure to open ocean conditions and reduced impact of terrestrial run-off and sedimentation. The habitat structure of the central Indo-Pacific has been strongly influenced by geologically-recent variations in sea level, including the inundation of the Sunda shelf, resulting in the creation of vast new habitat areas (Coller, 2009;Crandall et al., 2012). This represents a recent and novel habitat for parrotfishes, although occupancy appears to be restricted to only a few species. ...
Article
Full-text available
Phylogenetic reconstruction of the evolutionary relationships among 61 of the 70 species of the parrotfish genera Chlorurus and Scarus (Family Labridae) based on mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequences retrieved 15 well-supported clades with mid Pliocene/Pleistocene diversification. Twenty-two reciprocally monophyletic sister species pairs were identified: 64% were allopatric, and the remainder were sympatric. Age of divergence was similar for allopatric and sympatric species pairs. Sympatric sister pairs displayed greater divergence in morphology, ecology, and sexually dimorphic colour patterns than did allopatric pairs, suggesting that both genetic drift in allopatric species pairs and ecologically adaptive divergence between members of sympatric pairs have played a role in diversification. Basal species typically have small geographical ranges and are restricted to geographically and ecologically peripheral reef habitats. We found little evidence that a single dominant process has driven diversification, nor did we detect a pattern of discrete, sequential stages of diversification in relation to habitat, ecology, and reproductive biology. The evolution of Chlorurus and Scarus has been complex, involving a number of speciation processes.
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In the waters of southeast Australia, two species of sawshark—the common (Pristiophorus cirratus) and southern (Pristiophorus nudipinnis) sawshark—are frequent by-catch in commercial fisheries. While harvesting of both species is currently considered sustainable, there has been no investigation of whether P. cirratus and P. nudipinnis display genetically distinct populations throughout their ranges. Such information is necessary for effective management of these species in commercial fisheries. This study examined population structure in both sawshark species through analysis of two mitochondrial genes: cytochrome b (Cyt-b) and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 5 (ND5). Results indicated contrasting levels of population structure, with P. cirratus consisting of two, possibly three, genetically distinct populations with two mitochondrial lineages and P. nudipinnis consisting of a single population. Tests for population expansion also highlighted differences between the two species. Population expansion was detected for the entire P. nudipinnis population, whereas this was only the case for one mitochondrial lineage in P. cirratus. The entire P. cirratus population displayed signals of demographic stability. It is hypothesised that the opening and closing of Bass Strait during glacial-interglacial cycles played a major role in shaping the population structure and expansion signatures observed in this study. Mitochondrial data also suggest that patterned and uniform brown P. cirratus are the same species. Fisheries managers should consider adopting two management units in southern Australia—one along the east coast (for the eastern P. cirratus population) and one along the south coast (for the southern P. cirratus population and the single P. nudipinnis population).
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This chapter uses literature review and experiences from the author’s Australian research to discuss ethical issues raised by using digital technologies in archaeology and cultural heritage practice. Technology use adds extra dimensions to principles already enshrined in professional codes of ethics such as professional standards and how to balance intellectual, cultural property and other rights against the public right to know (e.g. through open-access data policies). Additional ethical issues raised by technology include sustainability and digital preservation; the role of commercial and corporate interests in designing, developing and promoting particular products; professional and community engagement in the digital public sphere; equity of access to technology and content; and digital literacy and philosophical and sociopolitical questions about actuality and representation associated with digital heritage. The chapter briefly outlines key principles of archaeological codes of ethics and discusses technology use and digital heritage from the perspectives of political economy, technology design, cultural information standards, digital visualisation and virtual reality.
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New dates by which modern humans reached East Timor prompts this very useful update of the colonisation of Island Southeast Asia. The author addresses all the difficult questions: why are the dates for modern humans in Australia earlier than they are in Island Southeast Asia? Which route did they use to get there? If they used the southern route, why or how did they manage to bypass Flores, where Homo floresiensis, the famous non-sapiens hominin known to the world as the 'hobbit' was already in residence? New work at the rock shelter of Jerimalai suggests some answers and new research directions.
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Exploratory time-series analysis of radiocarbon data from archaeological contexts is used to reconstruct the population history of arid Australia, allowing this to be read in concert with records of climatic variability over the last 20 000 years. Probability distribution plots of 971 radiocarbon ages from 286 sites in five dryland regions (the arid west coast, Pilbara and Murchison, Nullarbor, arid interior and the southeastern arid zone) provide a proxy record of prehistoric population fluctuations in these areas. There is regional variation, but the radiocarbon density plots suggest a step-wise pattern of population growth and expansion, with significant thresholds at 19, 8 and 1.5 cal. kyr BP. Within this, the plots suggest a saw-tooth pattern of rapid population growth and decline on a 1—3 kyr frequency, with a marked collapse of dryland hunter-gatherer populations around 3—2.5 cal. kyr BP affecting most regions. Comparison with climate data shows broad correlations with past temperature and rainfall variability, sea-level change and ENSO activity, but the interaction of prehistoric populations and these environmental changes is not well resolved. High amplitude environmental changes appear to have triggered stadial changes in population, rather than smooth transitions. Dryland populations may also have become more sensitive to small environmental changes in the late Holocene, as population density increased. A large increase in population around 1.5 cal. kyr BP is associated with small changes in regional palaeoecology, which are not otherwise represented in palaeoclimatic data sets. Spectral analysis identifies two cyclical periodicities of 1340 and 175 years within the population histories, also suggesting responses to millennial and submillennial climatic variability, a pattern most marked in the late Holocene.
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New dating confirms that people occupied the Australian continent before the earliest time inferred from conventional radiocarbon analysis. Many of the new ages were obtained by accelerator mass spectrometry 14C dating after an acid–base–acid pretreatment with bulk combustion (ABA-BC) or after a newly developed acid–base–wet oxidation pretreatment with stepped combustion (ABOX-SC). The samples (charcoal) came from the earliest occupation levels of the Devil's Lair site in southwestern Western Australia. Initial occupation of this site was previously dated 35,000 14C yr B.P. Whereas the ABA-BC ages are indistinguishable from background beyond 42,000 14C yr B.P., the ABOX-SC ages are in stratigraphic order to ∼55,000 14C yr B.P. The ABOX-SC chronology suggests that people were in the area by 48,000 cal yr B.P. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), electron spin resonance (ESR) ages, U-series dating of flowstones, and 14C dating of emu eggshell carbonate are in agreement with the ABOX-SC 14C chronology. These results, based on four independent techniques, reinforce arguments for early colonization of the Australian continent.
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This book is an introduction to the archaeology of Australia from prehistoric times to the eighteenth century AD. It is the only up-to-date textbook on the subject and is designed for undergraduate courses, based on the author's considerable experience of teaching at the Australian National University. Lucidly written, it shows the diversity and colourfulness of the history of humanity in the southern continent. The Archaeology of Ancient Australia demonstrates with an array of illustrations and clear descriptions of key archaeological evidence from Australia a thorough evaluation of Australian prehistory. Readers are shown how this human past can be reconstructed from archaeological evidence, supplemented by information from genetics, environmental sciences, anthropology, and history. The result is a challenging view about how varied human life in the ancient past has been.
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Recent developments in computer-based data visualization permit the creation of dynamic displays that incorporate several kinds of temporal variation. It is essential that the nature and role of such variations be fully understood in order to design effective dynamic visualization of geographical data. To this end, a classification of time-varying behaviour is proposed, suggestions are made on how the conventional graphic sign system may be extended into the temporal domain, and some design rules are identified for the optimal deployment of temporal variation in dynamic visualizations. -Author
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In this paper I wish to reinforce the view that there is a potential in the use of the Internet by archaeology for an important change in the organisation and institutionalisation of archaeological knowledge. As many have argued, this change involves a shift from hierarchy to networks and flows. But there are dangers that the Internet will simply translate old forms of elite knowledge into new forms, increasingly excluding the un-networked. Care needs to be taken to provide different modes of access for different groups and to find ways round the exclusive tendencies associated with the dispersal of any new technology.
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Landscape and temporality are the major unifying themes of archaeology and social‐cultural anthropology. This paper attempts to show how the temporality of the landscape may be understood by way of a ‘dwelling perspective’ that sets out from the premise of people's active, perceptual engagement in the world. The meaning of ‘landscape’ is clarified by contrast to the concepts of land, nature and space. The notion of ‘taskscape’ is introduced to denote a pattern of dwelling activities, and the intrinsic temporality of the taskscape is shown to lie in its rhythmic interrelations or patterns of resonance. By considering how taskscape relates to landscape, the distinction between them is ultimately dissolved, and the landscape itself is shown to be fundamentally temporal. Some concrete illustrations of these arguments are drawn from a painting by Bruegel, The Harvesters.
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Long‐term investigations at Devil's Lair, a small limestone cave in the Capes Leeuwin‐Naturaliste region of extreme south‐western Australia, have yielded archaeological material radiocarbon dated 6,500–33,000 B.P. Several occupation features show that people lived in the cave from 12,000 to 27,700 B.P. The cave deposit contains very rich assemblages of animal bones probably contributed by both human and animal predators; criteria are suggested to distinguish those bones and other remains representing human exploitation. A distinctive series of carbonate encrusted bones and stones present in the lower half of the deposit, including artefacts and the bones of extinct marsupials, is tentatively considered to be redeposited from unexcavated parts of the cave deposit whose minimum radiocarbon age is 37,750 ± 2,500 B.P. A wide range, though limited number, of stone and bone artefacts including debitage suggests that the cave was occasionally used as a campsite where culinary and maintenance activities took place. The repeated occupation at Devil's Lair over thousands of years suggests that caves were an established form of habitation site used periodically by late Pleistocene populations in this region.
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Typescript. Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 1989. Includes bibliographical references (p. [184]-205). Photocopy.
Western Torres Strait cultural history project: research design and initial results
  • B David
  • I J Mcniven
David, B. and I.J. McNiven 2004. Western Torres Strait cultural history project: research design and initial results. In Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, Cultural History Series 3(1):199-208. Brisbane.
In Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples
  • J Chappell
  • J. Chappell
Chappell, J. 2005. Geographic changes of coastal lowlands in the Papuan past. In Papuan pasts: cultural, linguistic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples, edited by A. Pawley, R. Attenborough, J. Golson, and R. Hide, pp. 525-539. Australian National University, Canberra.