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Burnt and unburnt carbon; dating charcoal and burnt bone from the Willandra Lakes, Australia.

Richard Gillespie


A new analysis of previous results on conflicts between shell and charcoal dates and on burnt human bones, with new data presented here, suggests that alternative interpretations are possible for the archaeology and environmental history of the Willandra Lakes region. Black sediment samples from archaeological sites at Lake Outer Arumpo exhibit wide variation in burnt and unburnt carbon content; high humic acid concentrations in midden layers and in one group of hearth/ovens are absent in another, older, group of hearth/ovens. There are no acceptable results on charcoal from hearth/ovens older than ca. 31 ka BP, and no evidence that these samples are associated with numerous midden shell dates at 34-37 ka BP. Similar logic applied to humic-free residue dates on burnt human bones places five gracile skeletons (including Mungo 1) as post-Last Glacial Maximum.


burnt bones;Lake Mungo;Lake Outer Arumpo;Murray Darling Basin;otoliths;Willandra Lakes;Hominidae;Homo;Primates;lacustrine environment;calibration;Theria;Eutheria;middens;organic carbon;New South Wales Australia;human activity;Australia;organic acids;humic acids;Mammalia;Australasia;archaeology;archaeological sites;isotope ratios;techniques;Chordata;Tetrapoda;Vertebrata;Pleistocene;upper Pleistocene;organic compounds;sample preparation;bones;Cenozoic;charcoal;Quaternary;geochronology;C 14;carbon;isotopes;radioactive isotopes;shells;C 13 C 12;stable isotopes;absolute age

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