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Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes as indicators of sedentism and territoriality in late Holocene South Australia

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Abstract

Previous research has presented hypotheses concerning the presence of widespread Aboriginal sedentism in coastal and riverine South Australia during the past 5000 years. These hypotheses were based on biological distance data (metric and non-metric), isotopic analyses at the inland Roonka Flat site and the emergence of large, well-defined cemeteries throughout the region. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope data for a large burial population at the Swanport archaeological site in the lower Murray River Basin of South Australia, near the coastal river mouth, provide additional evidence for the presence of hunter–gatherer sedentism and territoriality during the late Holocene. Stable isotope research provides a powerful method to examine subsistence-settlement systems and social relations in prehistoric populations.

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