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Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria Society
Promotion and advancement of science

The Moyjil site, south-west Victoria, Australia: excavation of a Last Interglacial charcoal and and burnt stone feature — is it a hearth?

Ian J. McNiven, Joe Crouch, Jim M. Bowler, John E. Sherwood, Nic Dolby, Julian E. Dunn and John Stanisic

Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 130(2) 94 - 116
Published: 04 March 2019


Claims for a human presence in Australia beyond 60,000 years ago must have a strong evidence base associated with rigorous methodology and intense scrutiny. In this light we present excavation results for Charcoal and Burnt Stone Feature #1 (CBS1) located within coastal dune sediments at Moyjil (Point Ritchie), Warrnambool, that independent geomorphic and OSL dating indicates is of Last Interglacial age (~120,000 years ago). While on plausibility grounds the cultural status of a feature of such great antiquity in Australia is unlikely, a cultural origin for CBS1 is less easily dismissed if assessed with an age-independent methodology. A broad range of macroscale discrimination criteria has been used to assess whether CBS1 is either a cultural hearth or a natural feature such as a burnt tree stump. On balance, evidence marginally supports a cultural origin over a natural origin. However, the absence of associated stone artefacts and faunal remains and the presence of burnt root wood precludes definitive statements on the cultural status of the feature. Our case study is methodologically instructivein terms of the potential complexities and issues of equifinality involved in the archaeological identification of ancient hearths.

© CSIRO 2019

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