The Moyjil site, south-west Victoria, Australia: Chronology
An unusual shell deposit at Moyjil (Point Ritchie), Warrnambool, in western Victoria, has previously been dated at 67±10 ka and has features suggesting a human origin. If human, the site would be one of Australia's oldest, justifying a redetermination of age using amino acid racemisation (AAR) dating of Lunella undulata (syn. Turbo undulatus) opercula (the dominant shellfish present) and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) of the host calcarenite. AAR dating of the shell bed and four Last Interglacial (LIG) beach deposits at Moyjil and Goose Lagoon, 30 km to the west, confirmed a LIG age. OSL analysis of the host sand revealed a complex mixing history, with a significant fraction (47%) of grains giving an early LIG age (120-125 ka) using a three-component mixing model. Shell deposition following the LIG sea-level maximum at 120-125 ka is consistent with stratigraphic evidence. A sand layer immediately below the shell deposit gave an age of ~240 ka (i.e. MIS 7) and appears to have been a source of older sand incorporated into the shell deposit. Younger ages (~60-80 ka) are due to bioturbation before calcrete finally sealed the deposit. Uranium/thorium methods were not applicable to L. undulata opercula or an otolith of the fish Argyrosomus hololepidotus because they failed to act as closed systems. A U-Th age of 103 ka for a calcrete sheet within the 240 ka sand indicates a later period of carbonate deposition. Calcium carbonate dripstone from a LIG wave-cut notch gave a U‒Th age of 11-14 ka suggesting sediment cover created a cave-like environment at the notch at this time. The three dating techniques have collectively built a chronology spanning the periods before and after deposition of the shell bed, which occurred just after the LIG sea-level maximum (120-125 ka).