Short-term late Holocene dry season occupation and sandy-mud flat focused foraging at Murdumurdu, Bentinck Island, Gulf of Carpentaria

Robin W Twaddle, Craig R Sloss, Kelsey M Lowe, Patrick Moss, Lydia L Mackenzie, Sean Ulm


Archaeological survey, excavations, and analyses of the Murdumurdu shell midden on Bentinck Island, Gulf of Carpentaria are reported. Patterns of subsistence as well as the timing and periodicity of site use are investigated through quantification of cultural materials, AMS radiocarbon dating, stable isotopic analysis of Marcia hiantina shell carbonates (δ18O and δ13C), magnetic susceptibility analysis of the deposits and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. Exploitation of shellfish focused on sandy-mud flat species (especially M. hiantina and Gafrarium pectinatum) with occupation occurring exclusively during the dry season (May-August). Radiocarbon dating reveals that the main period of occupation was short, albeit intense and occurred c.300 years ago. Initiation of occupation closely follows the establishment of freshwater conditions in the adjacent Marralda Swamp. These factors suggest that use of Murdumurdu was limited, potentially representing a single deposition event or multiple short, discrete episodes, in a landscape rich with similar archaeological deposits.

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ISSN 1839-339X (online) ISSN 0814-3021 (print)