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New Directions in Archaeological Science

New Directions in Archaeological Science

Andrew Fairbairn
Sue O’Connor
Ben Marwick
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 28
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    New Directions in Archaeological Science
    Book Description:

    Archaeological Science meetings will have a personality of their own depending on the focus of the host archaeological fraternity itself. The 8th Australasian Archaeometry meeting follows this pattern but underlying the regional emphasis is the continuing concern for the processes of change in the landscape that simultaneously effect and illuminate the archaeological record. These are universal themes for any archaeological research with the increasing employment of science-based studies proving to be a key to understanding the place of humans as subjects and agents of change over time. This collection of refereed papers covers the thematic fields of geoarchaeology, archaeobotany, materials analysis and chronometry, with particular emphasis on the first two. The editors Andrew Fairbairn, Sue O'Connor and Ben Marwick outline the special value of these contributions in the introduction. The international nature of archaeological science will mean that the advances set out in these papers will find a receptive audience among many archaeologists elsewhere. There is no doubt that the story that Australasian archaeology has to tell has been copiously enriched by incorporating a widening net of advanced science-based studies. This has brought attention to the nature of the environment as a human artefact, a fact now more widely appreciated, and archaeology deals with these artefacts, among others, in this way in this publication.

    eISBN: 978-1-921536-49-6
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. None)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. None)
  3. New directions in archaeological science Foreword
    (pp. I-VI)
    Andrew Fairbairn, Sue O’Connor and Ben Marwick

    The papers in this volume were presented at the 8th Australasian Archaeometry Conference (AAC) hosted from the 12-15th December 2005 at the Department of Archaeology and Natural History in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies of the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra, Australia. The Australasian Archaeometry Conference was initiated in 1982 by ANU archaeologist Wal Ambrose in collaboration with the then Australian Atomic Energy Commission at Lucas Heights. Since its inception, the conference has been an important meeting place for the widely dispersed and diverse community of Australasian archaeological scientists, including both those resident in the region, primarily...

  4. 1 Assessing the frequency distribution of radiocarbon determinations from the archaeological record of the Late Holocene in western NSW, Australia
    (pp. 1-12)
    Simon J. Holdaway, Patricia C. Fanning and Judith Littleton

    The archaeology of the late Holocene in Australia is frequently characterised by, amongst other things, an increase in the number of identified ‘sites’ (Ross et al. 1992:109), an increase in the number and variety of artefacts found at those sites (Hiscock 1986) and, in western New South Wales (NSW), an increase in the number of heat-retainer hearths (or earth ovens) exposed on the surface (Holdaway et al. 2002). There are two major hypotheses posed to explain these data. On the one hand, the apparent increase in the abundance of artefacts at late Holocene sites may indicate increasing populations (e.g. Beaton...

  5. 2 Heat-retainer hearth identification as a component of archaeological survey in western NSW, Australia
    (pp. 13-24)
    Patricia C. Fanning, Simon J. Holdaway and Rebecca S. Phillipps

    Surface artefact scatters in western New South Wales (NSW) (Figure 1) are almost always associated with the remains of one or more heat-retainer hearths, or earth ovens, used in the past by Aboriginal people to cook food (Allen 1972:280–1; Peake-Jones 1988). Hearths are an important part of the archaeological record in this region because they are an easily recognisable indicator of past Aboriginal occupation. For archaeologists, they provide a means for developing a chronology of Aboriginal occupation using radiocarbon determinations from charcoal preserved beneath the fire-cracked rock (e.g. Holdaway et al. 2002, 2005a), and potentially through optically stimulated luminescence...

  6. 3 Persistent places: An approach to the interpretation of assemblage variation in deflated surface stone artefact distributions from western New South Wales, Australia
    (pp. 25-42)
    Justin Shiner

    Heat-retainer hearths and stone artefacts dominate the surface archaeological record of semi-arid western New South Wales. These most frequently occur as deflated and spatially extensive distributions of varying density with occasional hearths. They typically lack clear and readily definable boundaries. The deflation of the artefacts has resulted in the loss of vertical integrity and relative chronological relationships between artefacts. Consequently, it is difficult to group artefacts into assemblages for analysis. The definition of assemblages in these contexts rarely, if ever, has anything to do with fine-scale temporal and spatial behavioural patterns. Rather, assemblages are often defined according to similarities in...

  7. 4 Developing methods for recording surface artefacts in situ on nineteenth and twentieth century sites in Australia
    (pp. 43-54)
    Samantha Bolton

    The majority of archaeological artefacts found in Australia are from surface scatters (Burke and Smith 2004: 202; Holdaway et al. 1998: 1). Despite this, most archaeological research continues to concentrate on excavated, and therefore collected, material, particularly in historical archaeology (Crook et al. 2002; Murray 2002: 11). Studies in historical archaeology that have recorded surface material in situ include the Central Australia Archaeology Project (Birmingham 1997) and Paterson’s work in the south-western Lake Eyre Basin (Paterson 1999, 2003, 2005). Many studies of prehistoric sites are also of surface scatters and methods have been developed to record these sites.

    There has...

  8. 5 Late Quaternary environments and human occupation in the Murray River Valley of northwestern Victoria
    (pp. 55-76)
    A. L. Prendergast, J. M. Bowler and M. L. Cupper

    The semi-arid central Murray Valley (Figure 1) preserves a wealth of evidence with which to reconstruct the environmental and cultural evolution in southeastern Australia. The lack of ice cover during glacial periods has ensured that a relatively complete record of climate change is preserved in sediments and landforms (Bowler and Magee 1978). In addition, the semi-arid fringes of southeastern Australia preserve one of the longest records of human occupation on the continent (Mulvaney and Kamminga 1999; O’Connell and Allen 2004).

    This paper aims to investigate the impact of climate change over the last glacial cycle on the geological and archaeological...

  9. 6 Seeing red: The use of a biological stain to identify cooked and processed/damaged starch grains in archaeological residues
    (pp. 77-92)
    Jenna Weston

    The following paper presents the results of a feasibility study that was initially undertaken as part of an Honours thesis at the University of Queensland (Lamb 2003) under the supervision of Dr Tom Loy. This work resulted in the establishment of a new method for determining cooking in archaeological plant residues, which was published (Lamb and Loy 2005) and then presented at the 2005 Australasian Archaeometry Conference. This paper provides a summary of the methods and archaeological applications published by Lamb and Loy (2005), and expands upon the 2005 publication with new data on taphonomic controls and additional images. It...

  10. 7 Initial tests on the three-dimensional movement of starch in sediments
    (pp. 93-104)
    Michael Haslam

    Analyses of starch granules from archaeological soils complement other, longer-established microbotanical techniques including pollen and phytolith studies. As in these other fields, starch analysts are increasingly recognising the influence of taphonomic factors on constructing and biasing the recovered microfloral suite (Babot 2003; Barton et al. 1998; Haslam 2004). Of critical taphonomic importance is the estimation of starch movement through a soil profile following deposition. Pioneering work in this regard was undertaken in the early 1990s by Fullagar, Loy and Cox (Fullagar et al. 1994), and later developed and elaborated on by Therin (1998, see also 1994) in the first publication...

  11. 8 Re-viewing raphides: Issues with the identification and interpretation of calcium oxalate crystals in microfossil assemblages
    (pp. 105-120)
    Alison Crowther

    The analysis of plant microfossils such as starch, phytoliths and pollen is gaining momentum in Pacific archaeology. Such studies have made important contributions to palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and our understanding of past human-plant interactions. This paper focuses on the analysis of calcium oxalate crystals, which have been reported in a number of archaeological microfossil assemblages worldwide, including as residues on stone tools (e.g. Bernard-Shaw 1984 cited in Bernard-Shaw 1990:193; Fullagar 1993b; Fullagar et al. 2006; Hardy 2004; Hardy et al. 2001; Loy et al. 1992; Shafer and Holloway 1979; Sobolik 1994) and pottery surfaces (Crowther 2005; Horrocks and Bedford 2005), in...

  12. 9 Archaeobotany of Sos Höyük, northeast Turkey
    (pp. 121-138)
    Catherine Longford, Andrew Drinnan and Antonio Sagona

    Sos Höyük is an archaeological site located in the modern village of Yiğittaşı in Erzurum Province, northe ast Turkey (Figure 1). The site is situated at an altitude of 1800m in the narrow Pasinler Valley flanked by the Karapazarı Mountains to the north and the Palandöken Range to the south, both of which reach eleva tions in excess of 3000 m. As is the case today, in antiquity the Pasinler Valley lay on one of the main routes through the mountains of Eastern Anatolia linking Western Turkey to Iran and the Caucasus. Members of the University of Melbourne’s Northeastern Anatolia...

  13. 10 A multi-disciplinary method for the investigation of early agriculture: Learning lessons from Kuk
    (pp. 139-156)
    Tim Denham, Simon Haberle and Alain Pierret

    Multi-disciplinary investigations at Kuk Swamp in the Upper Wahgi Valley have confirmed New Guinea to be a centre of early and independent agricultural development (Denham et al. 2003, 2004a, 2004b; Golson 1977, 1991; Golson and Hughes 1980; Hope and Golson 1995). These investigations have identified successive periods of manipulation of the wetland margin for plant exploitation and swamp drainage for cultivation. Although claims for agriculture dating to 10,000 years ago are contentious (Phase 1; Denham 2004a; Denham et al. 2004a), there is general agreement that mounded cultivation occurred on the wetland margin at c. 7000/6500 cal. BP (Phase 2; Denham...

  14. 11 Dating marine shell in Oceania: Issues and prospects
    (pp. 157-174)
    Fiona Petchey

    A plant or animal that obtains carbon from a marine source (or reservoir) yields what is termed an ‘apparent age’. The surface ocean (down to around 200m depth) has an apparent $ ^{14}\textrm{C} $ age that is, on average, 400 years older than the terrestrial (atmospheric) reservoir. This is known as the marine reservoir effect, and is caused by a delay in the $ ^{14}\textrm{C} $ exchange between the atmosphere and ocean, and by the mixing of surface waters with upwelled, $ ^{14}\textrm{C} $ -depleted deep ocean water (Stuiver et al. 1986:982). This reservoir effect is automatically corrected for when a marine shell conventional radiocarbon age...

  15. 12 Examining Late Holocene marine reservoir effect in archaeological fauna at Hope Inlet, Beagle Gulf, north Australia
    (pp. 175-188)
    Patricia Bourke and Quan Hua

    Although there are known uncertainties identified in radiocarbon dating marine samples, particularly shell, related to system complexities (e.g. estuarine fluctuations, oceanic upwelling and organism physiology) of carbonate incorporation, shell offers important advantages to archaeologists, as Higham and Hogg (1995) have outlined:

    1. it has the potential to date an event closely. Shellfish are mostly processed close to where they are collected

    2. shell remains are ubiquitous in Australian coastal contexts

    3. the marine calibration curve is smoother for marine than terrestrial samples, with fewer multiple intercepts and narrower derived calibrated ranges.

    By reducing the uncertainties and refining local marine reservoir correction factors for...

  16. 13 Archaeological surfaces in western NSW: Stratigraphic contexts and preliminary OSL dating of hearths
    (pp. 189-202)
    Edward J. Rhodes, Patricia Fanning, Simon Holdaway and Cynthja Bolton

    Surface archaeological deposits are widespread in western NSW (Figure 1), but have received relatively little attention, owing in part to the difficulty of providing chronological constraint. Heat-retainer hearths, or earth ovens, are most often found in association with stone artefact deposits, and radiocarbon dating of charcoal from the hearths is beginning to provide a powerful means of developing a chronology of occupation of the locations in which they are found (e.g. Holdaway et al. 2002, 2005).

    Optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of sediments (Huntley et al. 1985; Rhodes 1988) provides an additional method which may be applied in these contexts. For...

  17. 14 HPLC-MS characterisation of adsorbed residues from Early Iron Age ceramics, Gordion, Central Anatolia
    (pp. 203-214)
    Todd Craig, Peter Grave and Stephen Glover

    Fatty residues recovered from within the porous fabrics of archaeological ceramics have been studied for almost 30 years. Condamin and coworkers (1976) first demonstrated that the porous fabric of earthenware ceramics provides an excellent microenvironment for the preservation of fatty residues. Initially, chemical exploration of archaeological residues focused on fatty acid derivatives due to their archaeological ubiquity and analytic simplicity (Condamin et al. 1976, Morgan et al. 1984, Patrick et al. 1985). In simple terms fatty acids are hydrocarbon chains with a terminal carboxyl group (Markley 1960). These hydrocarbon chains occur in a range of configurations. However, straight-chain saturated fatty...

  18. 15 Melting Moments: Modelling archaeological high temperature ceramic data
    (pp. 215-234)
    Peter Grave

    In the elemental analysis of archaeological ceramics the ‘provenance postulate’ remains a major conceptual link between geochemical pattern and archaeological interpretation (Olin et al. 1978; Kolb 1982; Maggetti et al. 1984; Jones 1986; Vitali and Franklin 1986; Ferring and Perttula 1987; Mason and Keall 1988; Middleton et al. 1992; Mommsen et al. 1992; Mallory-Greenough et al. 1998; Neff 2000; Wilson and Pollard 2001; Gomez et al. 2002; Hein et al. 2002; Grave 2004). Experimental studies of earthenwares have shown that interpretation can be complicated by additional factors such as technological treatment or post-depositional alteration (Matson 1971; Kilikoglou et al. 1988;...

  19. 16 New approaches for integrating palaeomagnetic and mineral magnetic methods to answer archaeological and geological questions on Stone Age sites
    (pp. 235-254)
    Andy I. R. Herries

    Archaeomagnetism as defined here is the use of magnetic methods of analysis on archaeological materials and deposits, although in its widest context it refers to the magnetisation of any materials relating to archaeological times. It is most widely known for its use in dating, but more recently it has been utilised for other purposes including site survey, sourcing and palaeoclimatic reconstruction. These applications have different site requirements, as discussed below. Two main methods of analysis exist: those that look at the direction and intensity of fossil remnant magnetisations, as in palaeomagnetism; and those related to looking at the mineralogy, grain...

  20. 17 The role of the conservator in the preservation of megafaunal bone from the excavations at Cuddie Springs, NSW
    (pp. 255-262)
    Colin Macgregor

    In the Australia/Pacific Region, it is less common for conservators to be actively employed in archaeological excavations than is the case in North America or Europe. This results from a combination of factors: the nature of the materials, the degree of preservation of material excavated in the region, and the availability of trained archaeological conservators. Most archaeological materials (particularly organics and metals) have reached an equilibrium state with their burial environment which is disturbed upon excavation. Taking appropriate measures on site to halt rapid deterioration immediately can be crucial in the prevention of major damage occurring before the finds reach...