Thesis abstract ‘Archaeobotanical Investigations into Plant Food Use at Madjedbebe (Malakunanja II)’
03rd May 2014
S. Anna Florin
BA(Hons), School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, October 2013
This thesis explores the diet and land use of Indigenous populations occupying Madjedbebe (formerly Malakunanja II), western Arnhem Land, through the analysis of macrobotanical remains spanning 50–60,000 years of occupation. The research question investigated was: Do the patterns of food plant exploitation at Madjedbebe fit a diet breadth and patch choice model as climate, landscape and vegetation changed from first colonisation to present? An optimal foraging model was established to generate hypotheses predicting temporal trends in diet breadth, patch choice and species diversity. The macrobotanics were analysed using a combination of light and scanning electron microscopy, with comparison to modern reference material.
Three plant foods were found to be exploited and preserved archaeologically: pandanus kernels, geophytes and fruits. This level of identification was insufficient to test the diet breadth and patch choice hypotheses. However, as predicted, the diversity of the macrobotanical assemblage troughed in the Last Glacial Maximum and terminal Pleistocene (ca 30–14,000 years ago) and peaked during the mid- to late Holocene transition (ca 4000 years ago), consistent with past levels of precipitation and temperature. This illustrates the effect that climate change had on resources available to prehistoric populations and suggests that optimal foraging theory is an appropriate theoretical framework to further explore their subsistence choices.
Type: Thesis abstract