Re-excavation of Dabangay, a mid-Holocene settlement site on Mabuyag in western Torres Strait


  • Duncan Wright School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University
  • Peter Hiscock Department of Archaeology, University of Sydney
  • Ken Aplin Division of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution



The discovery and initial excavation of Dabangay in 2006 established a 7200 year chronology for human settlement on Mabuyag (Mabuiag) in western Torres Strait. This was one of only two Torres Strait sites to pre-date 4000 years ago, providing a rare opportunity to study human activities spanning the mid-to-late Holocene. Remarkable organic preservation and a large mid-Holocene stone artefact assemblage provided insights into long-term continuity and change in lithic technologies and economic strategies; however, results remained preliminary owing to uncertainties about site disturbance. This paper presents results from a second field season of excavations at Dabangay. We suggest chronological association between emerging lithic technologies and altered subsistence practices. Large marine vertebrate bone (present in small quantities from initial settlement), increased after 4200 years ago coincident with increased preference for production of quartz bipolar flakes. A further development after 1800–1600 years ago involved a substantial increase in large and small marine vertebrates and a further increase in the ratio of quartz to igneous lithics.