Late Pleistocene fauna at Spring Creek, Victoria: A re-evaluation

23rd January 2014

J. Peter White and Tim Flannery


For at least the last two decades, since the publication of Martin’s forceful articles (1967, 1973, 1984) discussions of late Pleistocene extinctions on the two continental landmasses of the Americas and Sahul have been basically polarised between his ‘blitzkrieg’ view and the opposing theory of climatic change. In Australia, Flannery (1990) has been the most recent strong proponent of the blitzkrieg model, and the target of critical comments from several other researchers (Horton 1990; Grayson 1990; Bowdler 1990). Those who reject the model point to its supporters’ inability to demonstrate that extinctions occurred very shortly after the arrival of humans. Cogently phrased as ‘Where are the kill sites?’, critics have drawn attention to two major unfulfilled archaeological requirements: the clear association of extinct animals with any human activity and the dating of extinct animals to within the period of human settlement. While some Australian sites appear to provide such data—Seton (Hope et al. 1977), Lancefield (Gillespie et al. 1978), Lime Springs (Gorecki et al. 1984), Trinkey (Wright 1986) and Cuddie Springs (Dodson et al. 1993)—and are often accepted as so doing, strict examination of the evidence reveals the flimsy basis to such claims (Grayson 1990; Baynes 1992). While a detailed re-examination of all claimed dates and associations, such as has been carried out by Mead and Meltzer (1984) and Grayson (1991) for the American data, has not been published for Australia, greater precision in regard to these at any site will contribute to the larger picture. At Spring Creek (Flannery and Gott 1984) eight extinct species have been claimed to survive to well within the period of human settlement, though with only minimal evidence of human association. However, the association of the date of 20,000 yr BP with extinct fauna is not very strong, and our research has been aimed at either strengthening or discarding it. In particular, we determined to try to obtain dates directly on the bones themselves as well as re-examining the circumstances under which they were deposited at the site.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

White, J.P. and T. Flannery
Late Pleistocene fauna at Spring Creek, Victoria: A re-evaluation
June 1995
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