The micromorphology of Cloggs Cave, southeast Victoria: Reconstructing depositional environments and site use patterns

Author: Declan Miller

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 3 Jun 2027.

Miller, Declan, 2024 The micromorphology of Cloggs Cave, southeast Victoria: Reconstructing depositional environments and site use patterns, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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The archaeological narrative of Cloggs Cave (GunaiKurnai Country) has recently been flipped, from a Pleistocene occupation site abandoned in the improved conditions of the Holocene, to a socially and cosmologically significant site used well into the Late Holocene. During this 2019–20 re-investigation five sediment blocks were sampled for micromorphological investigation.

Micromorphology was applied to the Cloggs Cave sediments to identify archaeological site formation processes, reconstruct climate signals from the cave and catchment, and identify the presence of diagenesis in the sediments. However, application of this powerful method has only gained momentum in Australia in the past decade, and our understanding of sedimentary dynamics in cave environments needs refining. Consequently, this study will provide nuanced insights into the archaeological interpretations of Cloggs Cave, as well as contribute to the growing literature on sedimentary processes in Australian caves.

The results of thin section analysis identified slopewash colluviation and faunal inputs to be the driving processes of sedimentation at Cloggs Cave from ~46–24 ka, with the first evidence for human activity around 25 ka being a well-preserved charcoal fragment unlikely to have been reworked. After this time, anthropogenic inputs began to periodically drive sediment deposition throughout the LGM and deglacial periods, with the most abundant evidence for human activity present throughout the Holocene sequence. Little evidence for human occupation of Cloggs Cave was observed. Instead, micromorphological analyses corroborate the proposed cosmologically significant use of the site by the Old People, such as the deliberate production of vast quantities of ash by burning soft plant matter. This was recorded in the low temperature burning in an in situ hearth feature and the observation of plant cell structures consistent with bark, grass, leaves, and twigs.

This study has demonstrated the benefits of applying a micromorphological approach by reconstructing the Cloggs Cave depositional and post-depositional environments and refining archaeological interpretations. These results contribute to a growing body of work that establishes the need for more routine geoarchaeological analyses in Australia.

Keywords: Micromorphology, geoarchaeology, cave, GunaiKurnai, sediments, archaeology

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2024
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Associate Professor Mike Morley