ENSO influence on Holocene Aboriginal populations in Queensland, Australia
In the Pacific region, the onset of modern El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) activity at approximately 5000 years ago may have played a significant role in the development of cultures in the Pacific basin. Within Australia, similar trends in population and resource use have been identified but largely ascribed to cultural changes. To test human responses to changing ENSO activity through the Holocene we analysed a comprehensive suite of 710 radiocarbon ages from archaeological sites in ENSO-sensitive Queensland. We observe a dramatic and sustained increase in landscape activity at inland sites from 4860 ± 15 years ago, statistically indistinguishable from the timing of the onset of modern ENSO activity. Subsequent changes in long-term activity directly impacted on human populations indicating that once established, ENSO maintained a continuous influence on disparate cultures throughout the Pacific basin.