Residue analysis and palaeodiet in arid Australia

12th November 2013

Jane Balme, Glenn Garbin and Richard A. Gould


A study of residues and usewear on 49 provenanced and dated whole or fragmentary groundstone implements excavated from Puntutjarpa Rockshelter in Australia’s
Western Desert suggest that plant processing and seed grinding were important components of Aboriginal diet well before the mid- to late Holocene. The analysis revealed the presence of starch grains in varying concentrations on the surfaces of all but four of the 49 artefacts dating back to approximately 10,000 years ago. Eight of the specimens
also contained traces of blood residue and five contained ochre, indicating multiple use of some grindstones for processing either both plant and animal products or both plant products and pigment. Three of the four specimens on which no traces of starch were recorded were too large to fit under the metallurgical microscope and it is likely that
starch residues are also present on them. Ochre was macroscopically visible on one of the three specimens. Ochre was the only residue on the remaining artefact.

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

Balme, J., G. Garbin and R.A. Gould
Residue analysis and palaeodiet in arid Australia
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