Megafauna in a continent of small game: Archaeological implications of Martu Camel hunting in Australia's Western Desert

Douglas W. Bird, Brian F. Codding, Rebecca Bliege Bird, David W. Zeanah, Curtis J. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Archaeologists often assume that large ungulates are inherently highly ranked prey because of their size, especially attractive to hunters using sophisticated capture technologies common after the late Pleistocene. Between 1840 and 1907, over 10,000 dromedary camels were imported to Australia, and today feral populations number well over a million. Although contemporary Aboriginal hunters in Australia''s Western and Central Deserts regularly encounter camels, they rarely pursue them. We present data on camel encounter and pursuit rates, with comparisons of energetic search and handling efficiency relative to other foraging options among Martu, the Traditional Owners of a large region of the Western Desert. We then explore some hypotheses concerning the determinants of prey rank and the technological and social contexts that influence resource value. In some respects the case runs counter to common expectations about hunting large ungulates, and highlights the special kinds of opportunity costs that large game acquisition might entail in many contexts. The data should therefore provide insight into the socio-ecological contexts of large ungulate hunting and its archaeological signatures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-166
Number of pages12
JournalQuaternary International
Volume297
DOIs
StatePublished - May 29 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes

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