Thesis abstract ‘Understanding the Tests of Time: Using Foraminifera to Refine Knowledge of Archaeological Site Formation Processes’

03rd May 2014

Texas Nagel

BA(Hons), School of Arts and Social Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, November 2013

Foraminifera are single-celled organisms with hard shells or ‘tests’ that are abundant in all marine environments. Foraminiferal density studies have been established as a reliable criterion for distinguishing between natural and cultural shell deposits; however, the wider potential of foraminiferal analyses to contribute to palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and understandings of foraminifera transport and depositional processes remains undeveloped. This project develops methods of foraminiferal analysis to refine knowledge of site formation processes using the archaeological shell midden site of Thundiy, Bentinck Island, southern Gulf of Carpentaria, as a case study. Direct AMS dating of selected foraminifera samples at Thundiy provides the basis for constraining the chronology of beach-ridge formation and the sediment transport system reservoir ages of foraminifera represented in both cultural and natural deposits. Taphonomic study of individual foraminifera—assessing damage to test morphology and sculpture using a classification hierarchy developed for this study—provides the basis for inferences about foraminifera transport and depositional processes. Results confirm the efficacy of previous foraminiferal density studies and demonstrate that AMS radiocarbon dating of foraminifera can contribute to understandings of coastal site formation processes through the examination of taphonomic pathways for multiple shell midden constituents and the palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of archaeological deposits.

Nagel, T.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

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