Geoarchaeology in Australia: Understanding human-environment interactions

Simon J. Holdaway*, Patricia C. Fanning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reviews the long history of interaction between scientists working in geomorphology, stratigraphy, sedimentology and chronology and those working in archaeology to understand past human-environment interactions in Australia. Despite this close collaboration, differentiating environmental impacts from the influence of human behaviour has proven difficult in research on key topics such as the causes of megafauna extinction, the significance of fire, and the impact of climatic shifts such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Geoarchaeological research focused on depositional environments and post-depositional change in western New South Wales, Australia, provides important examples of how processes acting over different temporal scales affect archaeological deposits. The archaeological record is in some places discontinuous in time because geomorphological activity has removed the record of particular time periods, and it is discontinuous in space because it is preserved only in places that are geomorphologically relatively inactive. Important inferences concerning past human behaviours may be drawn from the record, but the processes responsible for both the presence and absence of the record must be considered. More attention needs to be given to ensuring that datasets with a similar temporal resolution are compared if the causes for behavioural changes in the past are to be correctly understood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-85
Number of pages15
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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