Title

Phytolith and starch analysis of sediment samples from two archaeological sites on Dauar Island, Torres Strait, northeastern Australia

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Parr, JF & Carter, M 2003, 'Phytolith and starch analysis of sediment samples from two archaeological sites on Dauar Island, Torres Strait, northeastern Australia', Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 131-141.

The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00334-003-0014-7

Abstract

Current archaeological research suggests that first human occupation of the Torres Strait Islands occurred sometime between 2500 and 3000 cal b.p., and evidence indicates that the development of agricultural mound-and-ditch systems occurred there after 1200 cal b.p. Although archaeological remains testify to the existence of a marine based subsistence economy prior to 1200 cal b.p., the potential presence of earlier prehistoric horticultural signatures has yet to be adequately examined. This study investigates such evidence through a preliminary application of fossil phytolith and starch grain analysis using excavated sediments from two archaeological sites on Dauar Island, eastern Torres Strait. The results show the early presence of yam (Dioscorea sp.), and Musa species not endemic to the island. The occurrence of these edible plant types in association with carbonised phytoliths and anthropogenic shell and bone deposits may be indicative of a combined insular horticultural and marine subsistence system on Dauar Island. We suggest that with a larger and appropriate phytolith reference set for the research area, there is a potential to more clearly define human induced changes to vegetation and patterns of subsistence in the Torres Strait Islands.