Economic Utility and Nutritional Value of the Common Wombat: Evaluating Australian Aboriginal Hunting and Butchery Patterns

23rd November 2014

The Common or Bare-nosed wombat (Vombatus ursinus) is Australia’s largest extant quadruped herbivorous marsupial, yet little is known about its potential economic and dietary value in the archaeological record. In the rich late Pleistocene southwest Tasmanian assemblages the wombat is the second-most common prey species, after the medium-sized macropod the Bennett’s wallaby (Macropus rufogrisesus). Detailed analysis of these sites indicates that the head, pectoral region and forelimbs of the wombat were frequently selected, while the pelvic girdle and hindlimbs were largely ignored. This differs to the wallaby butchery patterns where the anterior part of the animal is rare in the archaeological assemblages. To investigate the distribution of wombat body parts an economic utility and nutritional analysis was conducted, and the results compared to the distribution of wombat body parts in the southwest Tasmanian caves. It seems that people ignored the meatier hind limbs and pelvis, preferring the meat closer to the brain, which itself may also have been an influencing factor. It may also have been the high fat content surrounding the pectoral girdle and along the vertebral column that people were seeking. While wombat bones were fractured to obtain marrow, these elements do not provide the same quantity available from the Bennett’s wallaby, suggesting that it was another commodity that people were seeking. These results have implications for understanding prey selection and butchery strategies of some of the most southerly late Pleistocene hunter-gatherers especially during the height of the Last Glacial Maximum, a time of significant climatic variability.

Citation for this poster:

Garvey, J., G. Roberts and R. Cosgrove 2014 Economic Utility and Nutritional Value of the Common Wombat: Evaluating Australian Aboriginal Hunting and Butchery Patterns. Poster Presented at the AAA/ASHA Annual Conference, 1-3 December, Cairns.

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