Analysis of Coastal Middens in South-Eastern Australia

sizing of fish remains in Holocene deposits

Jennifer F. Owen*, John R. Merrick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)


Several findings about relative sizes of fishes captured by coastal communities in south-eastern Australia, during the period from 7000-270 BP, are questioned. Problems with comparative collections and analytical procedures previously used are outlined. Using an extant species of snapper (Pagrus auratus), remains of which are commonly found in middens, methods are developed for accurate determination of fish length using a suite of 12 head and body bones; individual variation is calculated from a large comparative collection. A general length to weight relationship for P. auratus is also determined. The significant variation in weight associated with minor changes in length is illustrated and biological factors which can affect growth rates or occurrence are briefly discussed. It is recommended that future size analyses: be based on a suite of bones from the largest possible reference series (40 or more individuals of varied size and maturity); use predicted lengths to calculate weight ranges; and formulate conclusions about extant species only after consideration of feeding, behavioural and reproductive cycles as well as environmental factors known to affect growth or distribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-10
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1994



  • Coastal Middens, South-Eastern Australia, Sizing, Length, Weight, Growth Rate, Fish Remains

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