Identification and Dental Cementum Analysis of Macropodoidea and Potoroidae Teeth from the ‘Silver Dollar’ Archaeological Site, Shark Bay, Western Australia

01st December 2007

Fiona Dyason

BSc(Hons), School of Social and Cultural Studies, The University of Western Australia, November 2006

Macropod teeth from the Silver Dollar Aboriginal site were used to determine environmental and subsistence changes between the Pleistocene and mid-Holocene in Shark Bay, Western   Australia. Silver Dollar is situated on the west coast of the PeronPeninsula in the traditional lands of the Mulgana local group. This study consisted of two parts: identification of faunal remains from Silver Dollar and investigating the usefulness of dental cementum analysis as a way to determine seasonal hunting patterns.

The changing frequencies of the species at Silver Dollar demonstrate a change in environmental conditions. The faunal remains identified in the Pleistocene layers of the site are dominated by arid adapted species, particularly Lagorchestes hirsutus which is now found primarily in the Tanami desert (Northern Territory). Additionally, species commonly associated with less arid conditions, such as Macropus fuliginosus and Macropus robustus are either absent or negligible in the Pleistocene levels. The appearance of M. fuliginosus, which usually requires a mean annual rainfall exceeding 250mm, in the Holocene levels of the site indicates a shift from an arid Pleistocene environment to a semi-arid environment. This indicates higher levels of rainfall in the early Holocene. Subsistence changes related to the rising sea-levels at the end of the LGM are also evident at the site, with the incorporation of relatively more marine than terrestrial food sources as the site became coastal.

The dental cementum analysis technique was investigated to determine its usefulness for identifying season of capture of fauna represented in Australian archaeological sites. The banding of dental cementum has often been suggested to result from the different occlusal forces caused by food types. This study compared cementum banding of 30 macropod individuals collected from both arid and temperate environments. There is a large amount of variation in the pattern and thickness of bands in the samples from both environments. This suggests that there are other factors apart from food type that influence dental cementum banding in macropod teeth. One possibility is that small variations in climate, such as short-term droughts, may prevent bands from forming. A study of animals collected over years with known environmental data is required to test this hypothesis.

Fiona Dyason
Identification and Dental Cementum Analysis of Macropodoidea and Potoroidae Teeth from the ‘Silver Dollar’ Archaeological Site, Shark Bay, Western Australia
December 2007
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Thesis Abstracts
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