Puntutjarpa Rockshelter was the first archaeological site excavated in the Australian desert. Dug between 1967 and 1970, the archaeological sequence was originally interpreted as a continuous record spanning the last 10,000 years BP. With a new series of radiocarbon and OSL dates we show that Puntutjarpa primarily contains a mid-Holocene deposit with a veneer of last millennium material and a thin underlay of terminal Pleistocene evidence. We show that over the last 12.0 kyr, there were three discrete phases of site-use at Puntutjarpa–12.0–9.7 kyr, 8.3–6.2 kyr and ∼1.1–0 kyr–each with differences in the nature and intensity of occupation. This removes key field evidence for the ‘Australian Desert Culture’, a concept that has increasingly become an anomaly since the 1980s.
- Australian desert culture
- Holocene discontinuities in site use
- radiocarbon and OSL dating
- Western Desert