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Assessing context: are coastal underwater finds in NW Australia in situ?

Time Thursday 9 December, 2021 at 14:00 - 16:00
Place Online in Zoom

The Research Seminar Series in Archaeology and Environmental archaeology invites you to a seminar with the title "Assessing whether coastal archaeological artefact scatters are underwater and in situ, NW Australia".

Seminar by video call (1400hrs Sweden – 2100hrs Australia)

For the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Umeå University, Sweden


Ingrid Ward (UWA, Perth)
Piers Larcombe (UWA, Perth)
Peter Ross (Flinders University, Adelaide),
Chris Fandry (RPS MetOcean, Perth)


Ingrid Ward & Piers Larcombe


The absence of known prehistoric underwater cultural heritage (UCH) sites on the inner continental shelf of Australia stands in stark contrast to the thousands of sites revealed elsewhere in the world. Two recent claims – Dortch et al. (D2019) and Benjamin et al. (B2020) – put forward the first in situ (i.e., primary context) marine UCH sites in the shallow waters of the Dampier Archipelago, NW Australia.  Each paper argued that the stone artefact scatters are at least 7000 years old and are submerged (D2020) or intertidal (D2019) because of post-glacial sea-level rise.  Huge international publicity resulted.

From the data published in D2019 and B2020, we assess the explicit and implicit assumptions and uncertainties of these claims. We include results of new hydrodynamic modelling, data on coastal erosion and bathymetric data of northern Flying Foam Passage, which together help contribute to a reinterpretation of the sites' sedimentary settings and the archaeology.

These and similar sites in the region (and elsewhere) would benefit from a thorough appraisal of past and present coastal processes to produce a defensible understanding of site formation processes. Even as secondary sites, if investigated appropriately and dated effectively, they would still inform our understanding of process and change and might then inform us about past cultures.

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Online seminar

This seminar will be held online. Link for paticipation is sent via email to all employees within the subject well in advance of the seminar. If you do not have a participant link, contact the seminar organizers below.

About the seminar series

The Research Seminar Series in Archaeology and Environmental Archaeology presents and discusses current research in archaeology and environmental archaeology.
See more upcoming seminars in the series

Event type: Seminar
Malcolm Christopher Lillie
Read about Malcolm Christopher Lillie