The Big Flood: Responding to Sea-Level Rise and the Inundated Continental Shelf

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Since the first peopling of Australia and New Guinea (the continent of Sahul) during times of lower sea level more than 60,000 years ago, approximately 2 million km of land, roughly one-third of the present continental land mass, has been drowned by sea-level rise. Landscapes encountered and settled by thousands of generations of people throughout the continent have been inundated by rising seas as polar ice and glaciers melted into the world’s oceans. While some archaeological sites formed within these landscapes were no doubt destroyed by the rising seas, many sites are likely to have survived. This submerged archaeological record represents the majority of human occupation in Sahul, spanning the period from initial peopling of the continent to 7000 years BP. As a major frontier in Australian archaeology, investigation of what is now seabed will ultimately lead to revised and enhanced understanding of the continental archaeological record. By reevaluating the coastal zone, submerged landscapes, and continental shelf, consideration for these past cultural landscapes in what is now Sea Country has the potential to profoundly reshape the archaeological discourse of Australia and New Guinea.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Indigenous Australia and New Guinea
EditorsIan J. McNiven, Bruno David
Place of Publication9780190095611
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780190095628
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Oct 2022


  • Submerged landscape archaeology
  • continental shelf
  • maritime archaeology
  • Marine geophysics
  • underwater cultural heritage


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