Bones of contention: An analysis of jawbones of extinct macropods from Lancefield Swamp, Victoria

22nd April 2013

Kerrie Lee

BA(Hons), Department of Archaeology, University of Sydney, October 2009

This thesis presents research carried out on a collection of jawbones of extinct megafaunal macropods, Macropus titan, excavated in 2004-2005 at Lancefield Swamp, Victoria. Dating of the Pleistocene site remains uncertain, but the most recent estimate is ca 50,000 BP. The aim of this study was to ascertain the ages at which the animals died, and thereby test ideas about the circumstances of their death. This, in turn, would contribute to the long-running debate regarding the cause of megafaunal extinction. Two main hypotheses dominate the debate – anthropogenic factors and environmental stress – and age profiling could help determine which, if either, was the chief cause of the deaths at this site and clarify the processes affecting regional megafauna at this time. Analysis of the jawbones was based on standard, non-invasive assessment methods: molar eruption and molar progression, with tooth wear as an adjunct. The results were compared with those of earlier researchers, notably from major excavations in the 1970s. As well, jawbones held at Museum Victoria from other twentieth century Lancefield excavations were analysed. The outcome from the primary research showed that the vast bulk of animals died in their prime. There were very few juveniles and even fewer old animals. This parallelled the results from the 1970s, as well as more recent studies. The findings are consistent with a waterhole death assemblage. Considering the age profiles, along with taphonomic and hydrological data, it appears that the animals died of drought-induced stress. This finding suggests that drought would have been one of the major impacts on southeastern Australian megafauna at the time of deposition.

Kerrie Lee
Bones of contention: An analysis of jawbones of extinct macropods from Lancefield Swamp, Victoria
June 2010
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Thesis Abstracts
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