A Technological Analysis of Stone Artefacts from Allen's Cave, South Australia

Author: Simon Munt

Munt, Simon, 2016 A Technological Analysis of Stone Artefacts from Allen's Cave, South Australia, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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This thesis presents the first technological analysis of both previously excavated stone artefact assemblages from Allen’s Cave, South Australia. Recent climate proxy records for the Allen’s Cave region indicate that during the period from initial human occupation to the mid-Holocene, 39,800 ± 3100 BP to 5000 BP, two significant environmental fluctuations occurred. The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; c. 30,000–19,000 BP) brought hyper-aridity never previously or since encountered by Aboriginal Australians, while local conditions during the early Holocene (c. 11,000–8000 BP) were relatively favourable. Using a technological approach, the lithics from before, during and after the LGM and early Holocene are analysed in order to examine whether, and if so how, inhabitants of this arid zone rockshelter responded to the contrasting environments through their stone technology. Based on this analysis, contributions are made to the ongoing consideration of two major models concerning the past human use of Australia’s arid zone during climatic changes: ‘refuges, barriers and corridors’ (Veth 1989) and ‘desert transformation’ (Hiscock and Wallis 2005).

Results demonstrate that little technological change occurred during the human occupation of Allen’s Cave, corroborating a conclusion shared by previous analysts Ljubomir Marun (1972) and Scott Cane (1995). While there was technological continuity from before and during the LGM, evidence shows a combination of consistency and behavioural change in the early Holocene. The appearance in the assemblage of non-local lithic raw material for the first time at c. 11,000 BP indicates trade/exchange and/or the possible expansion of foraging range by inhabitants of Allen’s Cave. Contemporaneous improvement in local environmental conditions may have partly precipitated such behavioural change. A combination of evidence, however, suggests non-environmental factors, and the continuity of the LGM lithics indicates that the hyper-aridity of this period may not have catalysed behavioural change as suggested by previous models.

Keywords: Allen's Cave, stone artefacts, Australian archaeology, last glacial maximum

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2016
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: AMY ROBERTS