Temporal variability in shell mound formation at Albatross Bay, northern Australia

Simon J. Holdaway*, Patricia C. Fanning, Fiona Petchey, Kasey Allely, Justin I. Shiner, Geoffrey Bailey

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Abstract

    We report the results of 212 radiocarbon determinations from the archaeological excavation of 70 shell mound deposits in the Wathayn region of Albatross Bay, Australia. This is an intensive study of a closely co-located group of mounds within a geographically restricted area in a wider region where many more shell mounds have been reported. Valves from the bivalve Tegillarca granosa (Linnaeus, 1758) were dated. The dates obtained are used to calculate rates of accumulation for the shell mound deposits. These demonstrate highly variable rates of accumulation both within and between mounds. We assess these results in relation to likely mechanisms of shell deposition and show that rates of deposition are affected by time-dependent processes both during the accumulation of shell deposits and during their subsequent deformation. This complicates the interpretation of the rates at which shell mound deposits appear to have accumulated. At Wathayn, there is little temporal or spatial consistency in the rates at which mounds accumulated. Comparisons between the Wathayn results and those obtained from shell deposits elsewhere, both in the wider Albatross Bay region and worldwide, suggest the need for caution when deriving behavioural inferences from shell mound deposition rates, and the need for more comprehensive sampling of individual mounds and groups of mounds.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0183863
    Pages (from-to)1-24
    Number of pages24
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Volume12
    Issue number8
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2017

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    Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

    Cite this

    Holdaway, S. J., Fanning, P. C., Petchey, F., Allely, K., Shiner, J. I., & Bailey, G. (2017). Temporal variability in shell mound formation at Albatross Bay, northern Australia. PLoS ONE, 12(8), 1-24. [e0183863]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0183863