Deakin University

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The Moyjil site, south-west Victoria, Australia: Fire and environment in a 120,000-year coastal midden — Nature or people?

journal contribution
posted on 2022-10-10, 01:55 authored by J M Bowler, D M Price, J E Sherwood, S P Carey
At Moyjil (Point Ritchie), a cliffed site at the mouth of the Hopkins River at Warrnambool, south-eastern Australia, an erosional disconformity of Last Interglacial age on both a rock stack and the adjacent headland represents a surface of possible human occupation. Shells of edible marine molluscs occur on the disconformity, together with a distinctive population of transported stones derived from a calcrete of MIS 7 age and bearing variable dark grey to near-black colouration suggestive of fire. Experimental fire produced similar thermal alteration of calcrete. A strong correlation exists between intensity and depth of dark staining on one hand and increased magnetic susceptibility on the other. Thermal luminescence analyses of blackened stones provide ages in the MIS 5e range, 100–130 ka, consistent with independent stratigraphic evidence and contemporaneous with the age of the surface on which they lie. The distribution of fire-darkened stones is inconsistent with wildfire effects. Two hearth-like features closely associated with the disconformity provide further indications of potential human agency. The data are consistent with the suggestion of human presence at Warrnambool during the Last Interglacial.



Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria




71 - 93



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