Pandanus nutshell generates a palaeoprecipitation record for human occupation at Madjedbebe, northern Australia
Nature Ecology and Evolution
Little is known about the Pleistocene climatic context of northern Australia at the time of early human settlement. Here we generate a palaeoprecipitation proxy using stable carbon isotope analysis of modern and archaeological pandanus nutshell from Madjedbebe, Australia’s oldest known archaeological site. We document fluctuations in precipitation over the last 65,000 years and identify periods of lower precipitation during the penultimate and last glacial stages, Marine Isotope Stages 4 and 2. However, the lowest effective annual precipitation is recorded at the present time. Periods of lower precipitation, including the earliest phase of occupation, correspond with peaks in exotic stone raw materials and artefact discard at the site. This pattern is interpreted as suggesting increased group mobility and intensified use of the region during drier periods.
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