Bennett’s wallaby marrow quality vs quantity: Evaluating human decision-making and seasonal occupation in late Pleistocene Tasmania
- Bennett’s wallaby marrow quality vs quantity: Evaluating human decision-making and seasonal occupation in late Pleistocene Tasmania
Note: This presentation won 2nd Place in the 2010 Junior Researcher Open Zoorachaeology Prize competition.
During the 25,000-year occupation of late Pleistocene southwest Tasmania, humans focused on the Bennett’s wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) despite dramatic climatic and environmental changes during the height of the Last Glacial Maximum. With recent skeletochronological analysis of wallaby teeth suggesting that humans hunted in upland and lowland valleys on a coordinated seasonal basis. The dominance of wallaby body parts in these assemblages, in particular split hindlimbs, implies targeting of these elements for their relatively large flesh or marrow yields. Alternatively it may have been the quality of these resources that humans were seeking. However the mechanisms for this seasonal and selective hunting/butchery have not been explored.
Arguments behind human decision-making in the selection of specific body parts of ungulates have highlighted possible motivators including the quality of bone marrow, marrow cavity volume, and/or processing time. These ideas are incorporated here to help interpret the Tasmanian assemblages and explore possibilities in the selection of specific wallaby’s body parts and the seasonal occupation of sites. Results from fatty acid analysis of wallaby meat and marrow across different seasons and geographical regions are discussed and compared to the economic utility of the wallaby, to determine if it was variation in marrow quality or quantity, or a combination, that humans were seeking. Thus this unique Australian zooarchaeological analogue has the potential to play an important role in discussing prehistoric human behaviour.