Undervalued Animals: The Small Faunal Taphonomy and Zooarchaeology of Cape de Couedic Rockshelter, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

12th November 2013

Chris Langeluddecke

BA(Hons), Department  of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide, 2001

This thesis describes a study of the remains of small fauna excavated from an archaeological site on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. It aims to identify the small faunal component of the assemblage, and to examine that fauna in its cultural context. The taphonomic history of the assemblage is investigated, the agents responsible for its accumulation are identified, and wider applications for this type of study are suggested.

The study of small fauna from Australian archaeological sites has been neglected throughout most of the discipline’s history in this country. Research into the hunting and butchery of larger fauna and an ongoing fascination with questions regarding megafaunal extinctions has overshadowed the potential information offered by the analysis of smaller fauna. In spite of the acknowledged importance of small fauna in to patterns of subsistence used by past Indigenous Australians, both archaeology and ethnography have, for the most part, failed to explore that importance in any significant detail.

This analysis shows that although the small fauna form a small proportion of the total assemblage excavated from the site, they are a comparatively rich source of information. Palaeoecological examination of the species represented shows more open vegetation prevailed during the site’s occupation than that present on the island currently. This concurs with information from other sites on the island, which have suggested that the island’s environment was in a state of flux at that time. Human taphonomic influences are visible within the assemblage, resulting from secondary disturbance of both cultural and non-cultural material, possibly indicating from site clean-up practices. Owl deposition is also detected in part of the site, although it is obscured by secondary taphonomic influences.

Information gained from this research, though limited by the small amount of bone available for analysis, is still capable of generating information relevant outside of archaeology itself. Palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and palaeontological insights generated by the research could not be generated by an examination of the large fauna alone. Small faunal analysis is invaluable to the understanding of the wider implications of the site.

Langeluddecke, C.
Undervalued Animals: The Small Faunal Taphonomy and Zooarchaeology of Cape de Couedic Rockshelter, Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Thesis Abstracts
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