Using stable isotope analysis of archaeological pandanus nutshell to understand past rainfall at Madjedbebe, northern Australia

Dr S. Anna Florin1,2,3, Dr Patrick Roberts4,2,3, Assoc. Prof.  Ben Marwick5, Nicholas R.  Patton6, Prof.  James Shulmeister6,7,3, Prof.  Catherine E.  Lovelock8, Linda A.  Barry9, Dr Quan Hua9, May Nango10, Djaykuk Djandjomerr10, Prof.  Richard Fullagar11, Assoc. Prof.  Lynley A. Wallis12, Prof.  Andrew S. Fairbairn2,3,4, Prof. Chris  Clarkson2,3,4,11

1St John’s College, University Of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2School of Social Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 3ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Wollongong, Australia, 4Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany, 5Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle, USA, 6School of Earth and Environment, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zeaand, 7School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 8School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 9Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Lucas Heights, Australia, 10Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, Jabiru, Australia, 11Centre for Archaeological Science, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, 1211Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia

Archaeological research provides a long-term perspective on how humans live with various environmental conditions over tens of thousands of years. However, to do this, archaeologists rely on the existence of local and temporally comparable environmental proxies, which are often not available. Our research at Madjedbebe, a ~65,000-year-old archaeological site on Mirarr country in northern Australia, developed an on-site proxy for past rainfall from pandanus nutshell, a remnant of ancient meals eaten at the site. This talk will discuss how we can use ancient food scraps, such as pandanus nutshell, to document past rainfall and what the results of this research mean for communities living at Madjedbebe in the past.


Anna Florin is an Australian archaeobotanist, with an interest in early adaptations to novel environments and long-term human-environment interaction, including the management of plant resources and landscapes by Indigenous communities in Island Southeast Asia, Australia and New Guinea.

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Nov 15 2021


12:00 pm - 12:55 pm