Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 279–304 | Cite as

A multi-proxy study of anthropogenic sedimentation and human occupation of Gledswood Shelter 1: exploring an interior sandstone rockshelter in Northern Australia

  • Kelsey M. Lowe
  • Susan M. Mentzer
  • Lynley A. Wallis
  • James Shulmeister
Original Paper


Rockshelters contain some of the most important archives of human activity in Australia but most research has focused on artifacts and cultural context. This study explores geomorphological and geoarchaeological approaches for understanding a sandstone rockshelter in interior northern Australia: Gledswood Shelter 1. At this site, magnetic susceptibility and micromorphology techniques were integrated with bulk sedimentology, soil chemistry and geochronology to better understand the record of human impact and site formation processes. The micromorphology studies indicate that primary depositional fabrics, such as graded bedding or laminations, are absent, and sediment structural development is low throughout the entire sequence, with most samples exhibiting a high degree of post-depositional mixing. The sediment magnetic susceptibility analysis reveals magnetic changes coinciding with human occupation, a result of anthropogenic burning. Specifically we highlight that combustion features are prevalent in this sandstone shelter and provide critical insights into the human usage of the shelter.


Magnetic susceptibility Micromorphology FTIR Combustion features Rockshelters Site formation processes Last glacial maximum 



We thank Kathryn Fitzsimmons in the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology undertook the OSL dating, the results of which will be presented elsewhere. David Appleton in the School of Agriculture and Food Science at The University of Queensland carried out the processing of phosphorous samples and Josh Feinberg, Mike Jackson and Dario Bilardello from the Institute for Rock Magnetism, University of Minnesota, assisted with the magnetic analysis. Stewart Fallon, Ben Keys, Xavier Carah, Claire St George, Chantal Wight, Lydia McKenzie, Dan Rosendahl and Ian Moffat have been involved with various other aspects of the research and are thanked for their contribution to the wider project. We also thank the Woolgar Valley Aboriginal Corporation for supporting this research, including participation during fieldwork, and Flinders University, the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies for funding the research. We would like to acknowledge the generosity and hard work of the RRUFF project and Steve Weiner for making digital reference FTIR spectra available open access. Finally, we thank Jim Allen and Paul Goldberg for earlier comments on the manuscript in addition to James Woodward and one anonymous reviewer. KML was funded by the Institute of Rock Magnetism, University of Minnesota Visiting Research Fellowship and the University of Queensland, through an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship and Centennial Scholarship, and a Graduate School International Travel Award. Funding for μFTIR was provided by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (MI 1748/3-1).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelsey M. Lowe
    • 1
    • 2
  • Susan M. Mentzer
    • 3
    • 4
  • Lynley A. Wallis
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • James Shulmeister
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Geography, Planning and Environmental ManagementThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.School of Social ScienceThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Institute for Archaeological SciencesUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  4. 4.School of AnthropologyThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  5. 5.Department of ArchaeologyFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  6. 6.Wallis Heritage ConsultingBrightonAustralia
  7. 7.Nulungu Research InstituteThe University of Notre Dame AustraliaBroomeAustralia

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