Sucking the Shell Beds Dry? The Morphometric Analysis of Oyster (Saccostrea glomerata), Cockle (Anadara trapezia) and Whelk (Pyrazus ebeninus) to Interpret the Intensity of Human Exploitation of Molluscs at the Sandstone Point Shell Midden Complex, Southeast Queensland

21st April 2013

Ronni Christine Walton

BA(Hons), School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, October 2012

Analysis of shell size throughout archaeological midden deposits has provided robust data for interpreting the intensity of human exploitation of a variety of molluscan species. Demonstrative of recent archaeological literature worldwide, there has been a significant emphasis on the analysis of environmental changes to decipher natural versus anthropogenic impacts on extant molluscan populations. In the case of shell size analysis, this focus endeavours to refine interpretations that emphasise human impact, resource depression and depletion as the sole causal agent of size changes on mollusc populations. This research presents the analysis of shell size and morphology for three common temperate mollusc species Anadara trapezia (cockle), Pyrazus ebeninus (whelk) and Saccostrea glomerata (oyster), from the midden site of Sandstone Point, southeast Queensland. Metric analyses of these taxa were assessed in conjunction with the known late Holocene environmental patterns for Moreton Bay to investigate human exploitation of coastal resources at the site. Owing to considerable fragmentation of the assemblage, morphometric methods were utilised to avoid differential size bias of shells commonly affected by poor preservation. Based on these analyses, certain anatomical features of A. trapezia, S. glomerata and P. ebeninus demonstrate high predictive power for size reconstruction. More broadly, the results presented here suggest that variability in shell size and shape are a consequence of both human harvesting and ecological adaptation to environmental variability of the late Holocene.

Ronni C. Walton
Sucking the shell beds dry? The morphometric analysis of oyster (Saccostrea glomerata), cockle (Anadara trapezia) and whelk (Pyrazus ebeninus) to interpret the intensity of human exploitation of molluscs at the Sandstone Point shell midden complex, southeast Queensland
June 2013
Thesis Abstracts
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