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Peopled Landscapes

Peopled Landscapes: Archaeological and Biogeographic Approaches to Landscapes OPEN ACCESS

Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 34
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Peopled Landscapes
    Book Description:

    This impressive collection celebrates the work of Peter Kershaw, a key figure in the field of Australian palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. Over almost half a century his research helped reconceptualize ecology in Australia, creating a detailed understanding of environmental change in the Late Pleistocene and Holocene. Within a biogeographic framework one of his exceptional contributions was to explore the ways that Aboriginal people may have modified the landscape through the effects  of anthropogenic burning. These ideas have had significant impacts on thinking within the fields of geomorphology, biogeography, archaeology, anthropology and history. Papers presented here continue to explore the dynamism of landscape change in Australia and the contribution of humans to those transformations. The volume is structured in two sections. The first examines evidence for human engagement with landscape, focusing on Australia and Papua New Guinea but also dealing with the human/environmental histories of Europe and Asia. The second section contains papers that examine palaeoecology and present some of the latest research into environmental change in Australia and New Zealand. Individually these papers, written by many of Australia's prominent researchers in these fields, are significant contributions to our knowledge of Quaternary landscapes and human land use. But Peopled Landscapes also signifies the disciplinary entanglement that is archaeological and biogeographic research in this region, with archaeologists and environmental scientists contributing to both studies of human land use and palaeoecology. Peopled Landscapes reveals the interdisciplinary richness of Quaternary research in the Australasian region as well as the complexity and richness of the entangled environmental and human pasts of these lands.  - Prof. Peter Hiscock, The Australian National University

    eISBN: 978-1-921862-72-4
    Subjects: Archaeology, Paleontology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    • Bruno David, Simon G. Haberle and Donald Walker

      The way we view the Australian landscape at the start of the 21st century is notably different to how we viewed it in the late 20th century, and Peter Kershaw has had a most significant role in this. One of the key elements to Peter’s intellectual contribution lies in the discovery that the Australian landscape is more changeable and dynamic than was previously imagined, and in particular more deeply influenced by human history than we could have then known. The notion that people arriving in an uninhabited landscape over 40,000 years ago so fundamentally changed fire regimes, and that Aboriginal...

  2. I. Archaeology and Perceptions of Landscape
    • Harry Lourandos, Bruno David, Nicola Roche, Cassandra Rowe, Angela Holden and Simon J. Clarke

      Hay Cave is one of many limestone caves in the tropical Mitchell-Palmer area of north Queensland. Archaeologically, its major significance is a lengthy, more than 30,000 year-long, cultural sequence, with good preservation of faunal remains as well as stone artefacts and an abundance of rock art. Thus, it offers the opportunity to investigate long-term local archaeological trends in one site and to compare these with regional trends obtained from a wider range of sites throughout this archaeologically rich area (David and Lourandos 1997). How can these long-term cultural trends be characterised from an individual site? In what ways do they...

    • Thomas Richards

      Peter Kershaw has contributed substantially to the understanding of palaeoenviromental change in Australia, particularly in relation to the timing of Aboriginal colonisation and anthropomorphic alterations of vegetation communities. More recently, Kershaw and colleagues have studied the palaeoenvironment of southwestern Victorian landscapes, with emphasis on the palaeoecology of lakes and swamps, especially in regard to the appearance of Aboriginal water management and fish-trapping systems on the Mt Eccles lava flow and the relationship of these systems to socioeconomic complexity of Aboriginal groups in the southwest (e.g. Kershaw 2004; Tibby et al. 2006; Builth et al. 2008; Kershaw and Lewis 2011). This...

    • Åsa Ferrier and Richard Cosgrove

      Human occupation of Sahul (Australia-Tasmania-New Guinea) began about 50,000 years ago, and by 40,000 BP most environments had been colonised (O’Connell and Allen 2008). By this time, people had adapted to the tropics, the arid centre and the glacial areas of Tasmania. In his groundbreaking palynological and palaeoecological studies, Peter Kershaw provided an essential framework within which to examine human responses to changing vegetation and climate variability in Australia. At Lynch’s Crater on the Atherton Tableland, Kershaw demonstrated major climatic changes based on the study of pollen and charcoal concentrations fluctuating over the past ca. 120,000 years (Kershaw 1986; Moss...

    • Ian J. McNiven, Bruno David, Ken Aplin, Jerome Mialanes, Brit Asmussen, Sean Ulm, Patrick Faulkner, Cassandra Rowe and Thomas Richards

      In 1974, Peter Kershaw published a paper in Nature outlining a remarkable pollen core sequence from Lynch’s Crater in tropical northeast Queensland (Kershaw 1974). From an archaeological perspective, the most interesting dimension to this work was the novel and provocative suggestion that the transition from rainforest to sclerophyll forest beginning around 38,000 BP may have been related to anthropogenic burning of the landscape since Aboriginal colonisation of the continent (Kershaw 1974:222). In a sense, Kershaw was giving empirical veracity to Rhys Jones’s (1969) paradigmatic notion of ‘fire-stick farming’ and the proposition that ‘the arrival of Aboriginal man [to Australia] increased...

    • Bryce Barker, Lara Lamb, Bruno David, Kenneth Korokai, Alois Kuaso and Joanne Bowman

      This paper presents a model for the occupation of the Kikori River delta and the first archaeological results from excavations undertaken in Kerewo lands on the large river delta island of Goaribari, western Gulf of Papua (Gulf Province), Papua New Guinea (PNG) (Figure 1). The site of Otoia 1 is situated along the northwestern end of Goaribari. Ethnographically this region encompasses the lands of the Kerewo in the eastern Kiwai language area, who at the time of initial European contact in the 1870s, exerted socio-political control and/or competitive influence from the Turama River in the west, to Paia Inlet in...

    • John Dodson, Fiona Bertuch, Liang Chen and Xiaoqiang Li

      The Chinese provinces of Gansu and Xinjiang are key places for understanding prehistoric exchange between West and East Eurasia. For the past 2000 years, this has been encapsulated in the term ‘Silk Road’ (which was, in fact, many roads), but goods and ideas have been exchanged across the region for much longer (e.g. Li et al. 2007). In this regard, the well-known existence of the Ürümqi mummies of Xinjiang, which are of Caucasian origin (e.g. Barber 1999), show that they had opportunity to interact with Mongoloid people much earlier.

      Detailed examination of the hundreds of archaeological sites in the region...

    • Mike Macphail, Mary Casey and Matthew Kelly

      Considerable efforts have been made to find proxy indicators for humans at sites lacking direct archaeological evidence such as pottery, tools and the remains of built structures. Indirect evidence of human activity, such as charcoal and pollen records showing deforestation, continues to be equivocal (cf. Ellison 1994), although pollen of introduced crop and ornamental plants are an important exception (Macphail 1999; Macphail and Casey 2008; Prebble and Wilmshurst 2009). Buried seeds with gnaw marks of the introduced Pacific rat (Rattus exulans) provide equally reliable evidence for detecting initial human colonisation of islands in Remote Oceania (Wilmshurst and Higham 2004).


    • Christian A. Kull and Haripriya Rangan

      The genus Acacia, as Peter Kershaw has often told us, may be widely present in the landscape, but its pollen is seldom found in any abundance. The pollen grains are heavy and probably not capable of long-distance transport, and even where they dominate the vegetation, their pollen is greatly under-represented. Compounding the problem, Acacia pollen tends to break up into individual units that are difficult to identify. However, as we hope to show in our contribution celebrating Peter’s work, the poor representation of acacias in palaeoenvironmental records is more than compensated by its dominating presence in what has been described...

    • Lesley Head and Joachim Regnéll

      Our increased understanding of ‘Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth’ (Thomas 1956) is one of the key scientific achievements of the second half of the 20th century. Human activities now appropriate more than one third of the Earth’s terrestrial ecosystem production, and between a third and a half of the land surface of the planet has been transformed by human development (Vitousek et al. 1997). Humans are inextricably embedded in all earth surface processes, and often dominate them. These findings are increasingly being recognised in political and policy spheres, most notably in contemporary debates about climate change...

  3. II. Biogeography and Palaeoecology
    • Marie-Pierre Ledru and Janelle Stevenson

      Understanding tropical sensitivity and its link with higher latitudes is a major issue for both climatologists and climate modellers. Moreover, changes in the floristic composition of tropical forests through time are of interest to ecologists wanting to understand the evolution of tropical biodiversity. Araucariaceae is a very ancient family of conifers dating to the Triassic. Its maximum diversity was reached during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, becoming extinct in the Northern Hemisphere at the end of the Cretaceous. Today, the genus Araucaria includes 19 species, 13 of which are endemic to New Caledonia, with another six distributed across Norfolk Island,...

    • Mike Macphail, Greg Jordan, Feli Hopf and Eric Colhoun

      ‘Mistletoe’ is the common name for a diverse group of hemi-parasitic shrublets that grow attached to and within the branches of trees and shrubs. Vidal-Russell and Nickrent (2008a) and Nickrent et al. (2010) infer that the mistletoe habit has evolved five times in the sandalwood order Santalales. The first of these clades is the family Misodendraceae, which is endemic to southern South America and whose species grow mainly on Nothofagus. The habit evolved three times within the Santalaceae – in the cosmopolitan tribe Visceae, which includes the ‘archetypal’ European Mistletoe Viscum album, in tropical American species of Santaleae that were...

    • Jim M. Bowler, Richard Gillespie, Harvey Johnston and Katarina Boljkovac

      Using lakes and dry basins for discerning the patterns of climatic change faces a number of challenges. Study of the Willandra basins (Figures 1 and 2) involves reconstruction of their environmental history and its relationship to controlling climatic change. The various methods for data interpretation and hydrologic reconstruction have been discussed elsewhere (Bowler 1971, 1998). In early evaluation, the history of the Willandra Lakes was summarised in terms of three major stratigraphic units, each related to a major cycle of hydrologic change. The units Golgol, Mungo and Zanci were designated as responsible for the major stratigraphic events in the history...

    • Eric A. Colhoun and Peter W. Shimeld

      Vegetation forms the major living characteristic of a landscape that solicits inquiry into the history of its changes during the late Quaternary and the major factors that have influenced the changes. Early studies considered ecological factors would cause vegetation to develop until a stable climatic climax formation was attained (Clements 1936). The concept of an area developing a potential natural vegetation in the absence of humans was similar (Tüxen 1956). Both ideas held that the vegetation of an area would develop to a stable condition that would change little. However, the vegetation of a region never remains in stasis, but...

    • Patrick T. Moss, Richard Cosgrove, Åsa Ferrier and Simon G. Haberle

      The Wet Tropics region of northeastern Australia has been the focus of palynological research into the late Quaternary history of climate, vegetation and human environmental impact for a number of years (Moss and Kershaw 2000, 2007; Kershaw et al. 2007, 2003a, 2003b; Kershaw 1994, 1986). Numerous palynological records covering the Holocene period have been examined, but they have either been concentrated within the core rainforest area due to the availability of volcanic crater sites on the Atherton Tableland (e.g. Kershaw 1983, 1975, 1971, 1970; Walker and Chen 1987; Chen 1988; Walker 2007); and/or situated in coastal areas where successional processes...

    • Matt S. McGlone and Les Basher

      New Zealand treelines have been well studied over the past few decades. Peter Wardle carried out extensive observational and experimental studies of their ecology and suggested that the length and warmth of summer was critical in permitting alpine trees to make sufficient growth to survive winter (Wardle 1985a). He also showed that New Zealand treelines were low when compared with global treelines, in particular with those of southern South America, and that exotic Pinus contorta could grow up to 300 m above the indigenous treeline (Wardle 1985b, 2008). A later global study demonstrated that warmth of the growing season was...

    • John Tibby, Dan Penny, Paul Leahy and A. Peter Kershaw

      Palaeoenvironmental research can provide useful perspectives about the vulnerability and resilience of ecosystems to future climate change by documenting ecosystem response to past natural and human-induced environmental change (e.g. Dearing 2008, 2011). Such information is important since instrumental records for all but a few localities are non-existent, or are temporally short relative to ecological timescales (Smol 2008) and because ecosystem changes are, or will soon be, beyond the magnitude of anything witnessed in the historical period (Hansen 2005).

      Between 1997 and 2010, lakes in western Victoria responded to prolonged hydrological deficit in a range of ways. Many dried out, while...

    • Patrick J. Baker, Rohan Simkin, Nina Pappas, Alex McLeod and Merna McKenzie

      A common feature of many Australian landscapes is the interdigitation of eucalypt-dominated sclerophyll forest with rainforest. In most instances, the eucalypt forests dominate the landscape, with rainforest restricted to relatively small fragments and strips that are often (but not always) associated with topographic features such as riparian zones or southeastern-facing slopes. However, these patterns reflect the current state of a dynamic system. Over several hundreds of thousands of years, the relative dominance of the rainforests and eucalypt forests has waxed and waned across these landscapes in near synchrony (Kershaw et al. 2002; Sniderman et al. 2009). During periods of relatively...

    • Tim Denham, Carol Lentfer, Ellen Stuart, Sophia Bickford and Cameron Barr

      The arrival of Europeans in Australia has been described as an ‘apocalyptic event for Australian ecosystems’ (Adamson and Fox 1982:110). It is generally assumed that subsequent transformations of Australian biota and landscapes have been more dramatic than those made by Aborigines over tens of millennia (Young 1996:72). However, there is limited scientific data with meaningful temporal resolution (i.e. decadal or subdecadal) that shows the nature, extent and rate of transformation concomitant with European colonisation of landscapes in Australia (e.g. Dodson et al. 1994a, 1994b; Gale et al. 1995; Mooney 1997; Haberle et al. 2006; see review in Dodson and Mooney...

    • Cassandra Rowe

      The Cape York Peninsula region of northeastern Australia supports considerable biological diversity. It is an environment that illustrates stages in evolutionary through to historical biogeography (Mackey et al. 2001; Turner et al. 2001) and a landscape that reflects culturally based value systems, both indigenous and European (Mackey et al. 2001; McNiven et al. 2007).

      Of the vegetation, Cape York Peninsula comprises a complex mosaic of plant associations and structural formations (see Neldner and Clarkson 1995). These vegetation communities reflect underlying physical environmental processes and controls (e.g. edaphic conditions), as well as the degree of climatic seasonality and consequential hydroperiod across...

    • Chris S.M. Turney

      Since the 1960s, scientific understanding of our global environment and its climate has undergone a remarkable transformation. We are now increasingly aware that the world around us is dynamic, and quasi-stable only in the short term. Recognising the challenge of human-induced climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 and released its most recent Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) in 2007. The AR4 conclusions are startling: By 2100, global temperatures are estimated to increase between 1°C and 6.5°C compared with 1990, accompanied by a sea level rise of between 0.18 m and 0.58 m. This relatively...

    • Peter Gell

      One could line up a suite of palaeoecological research papers published about Australian sites and, while they would not extend from Lake Wangoom to Lynch’s Crater, they would fill much of the pollen microscope laboratory at Monash University. In one way, that, in fact, would be the best place to start to assemble the bibliography, as many of the papers have emanated from Peter Kershaw and the long list of honours and postgraduate students he has supervised, his post-doctoral fellows and the palaeoecological diaspora that is the legacy of this legend from Littleborough. Of course, all of these students would...

    • Samantha Fox, Michelle Waycott, David Blair and Jon Luly

      Climatic excursions in the late Pleistocene dramatically reduced habitat available to organisms dependent on forested landscapes (Hopkins et al. 1993; Kershaw 1994; Kershaw et al. 2007; VanDerWal et al. 2009). Pollen analysis and bioclimatic modelling of rainforest in northeastern Queensland indicate the region was subject to massive change during Quaternary glaciations. The consequences for rainforest-dependent species were severe, especially for organisms with limited mobility or adaptability (Schneider et al. 1998). We report here on present-day regional-scale genetic structure in the spectacled flying fox (Pteropus conspicillatus), generally assumed to be a rainforest specialist, and on the insights modern-day processes may provide...