Setting the Scene: Preliminary Archaeological Investigations into the Submerged Continental Shelf of South Australia – Geomorphology, Context and Significance

Author: Adeena Fowke

Fowke, Adeena, 2018 Setting the Scene: Preliminary Archaeological Investigations into the Submerged Continental Shelf of South Australia – Geomorphology, Context and Significance, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Over the last 50,000 years, changes in sea levels due to Quaternary glacial processes saw the Australian continent vary in the configuration of its extent and topography. During this time, this dynamic environment provided the context to the arrival and subsequent occupation of its terrestrial landscape by Indigenous peoples. Through the process of this colonisation, in relation to lowered sea levels, Indigenous peoples may have interacted with the then terrestrial landscape of the now submerged continental shelf. Numerous interdisciplinary archaeological investigations around the world have demonstrated the significance of understanding past environmental landscapes in relation to investigating past human activities; the extent to which includes the potential for material evidence relating to past human/environmental interactions to exist underwater on shelf areas. Simultaneously, a great deal of information is known about the submerged continental shelves of Australia from a multitude of disciplines. However, the combining of these two areas of research has been explored to a limited extent in the Australian context. The focus of this study is therefore centred on understanding the topographical changes of South Australia, over the last 50,000 years, in relation to the Australian Indigenous archaeological discourse. Specifically, it establishes a generalised environmental context for South Australia; determines that South Australia’s terrestrial landscape extent in the past was simultaneously highly mobile and unchanging until the Mid Holocene leaving it open to human interactions; calibrates radiocarbon dates for archaeological sites in South Australia, as well as displaying these against the appropriate contemporaneous context (dispersal of sites throughout space and time); and develops a dialogue of significance surrounding the aforementioned South Australian landscape and its changes, and its continued investigation within archaeology; as a means of both adding interpretations to terrestrial investigations, and beginning the investigation of the underwater environment to gleam new information about past human activity.

Keywords: Archaeology, South Australia, Australian Archaeology, Submerged Continental Shelf Archaeology, Submerged Landscapes, Submerged Continental Shelf, Topography, Geomorphology, Context, Sea-Level Change, Landscape Modelling, GIS

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2018
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Jonathan Benjamin