An investigation of human responses to climatic fluctuations at Allen’s Cave, South Australia, from ca 40,000 to 5,000 BP, by a technological analysis of stone artefacts

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    Abstract

    Following its initial occupation ca 40,000 years ago, Aboriginal people using Allen’s Cave in South Australia’s arid zone experienced two major climatic changes. From the onset of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) at ca 30,000 cal. BP, until its peak at ca 22,000–18,000 cal. BP, aridity in Australia reached its most intense phase during the human occupation of the site. Conversely, conditions around the Allen’s Cave region during the early Holocene, 11,000–8,000 cal. BP, were the most favourable for human occupation. In this paper, we present the results of a technological and statistical re-analysis of previously excavated Allen’s Cave stone artefact assemblages, focusing on the period ca 40,000–5,000 cal. BP, to examine whether people made adjustments to stone tool manufacture in response to these climatic fluctuations. Our results and interpretations are consistent with some of the conclusions of previous scholars, primarily that the site was used for infrequent visitation rather than long-term occupation, and that little change occurred in the production of stone artefacts (despite changing environmental conditions). We also concur that lithic evidence exists for trade/exchange and/or a change in foraging range or stone curation practices at the start of the early Holocene. However, we do not support all prior claims for significant cultural and demographic changes at this time and we argue that Allen’s Cave was probably abandoned from ca 30,000 to 26,000 cal. BP. The ca 4,000 year hiatus, combined with probable increased visitation after the LGM, suggests that whilst stone tool technology remained largely consistent during the period of focus, Aboriginal people did alter their occupation patterns in response to environmental changes. On the basis of these new interpretations about the site’s occupation history, we provide updated observations in order to contribute to desert occupation modelling.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)67-83
    Number of pages17
    JournalAustralian Archaeology
    Volume84
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018

    Keywords

    • Allen’s Cave
    • Australian arid zone
    • climatic fluctuations
    • desert archaeology
    • early Holocene
    • Last Glacial Maximum
    • stone artefacts
    • technological lithic analysis

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