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Mapping Tasmania's cultural landscapes: using habitat suitability modelling of archaeological sites as a landscape history tool


Jones, PJ and Williamson, GJ and Bowman, DMJS and Lefroy, EC, Mapping Tasmania's cultural landscapes: using habitat suitability modelling of archaeological sites as a landscape history tool, Journal of Biogeography, 46, (11) pp. 2570-2582. ISSN 0305-0270 (2019) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2019 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1111/jbi.13684


Aim: Understanding past distributions of people across the landscape is key to understanding how people used, affected and related to the natural environment. Here, we use habitat suitability modelling to represent the landscape distribution of Tasmanian Aboriginal archaeological sites and assess the implications for patterns of past human activity.

Location: Tasmania, Australia.

Methods: We developed a RandomForest ‘habitat suitability' model of site records in the Tasmanian Aboriginal Heritage Register. We applied a best‐effort bias correction, considered 31 predictor variables relating to climate, topography and resource proximity, and used a variable selection procedure to optimize the final model. Model uncertainty was assessed via bootstrapping and we ran an analogous MaxEnt model as a cross‐validation exercise.

Results: The results from the RandomForest and MaxEnt models are highly congruent. The strongest environmental predictors of site occurrence include distance to coast, elevation, soil clay content, topographic roughness and distance to inland water. The highest habitat suitability scores are distributed across a wide range of environments in central, northern and eastern Tasmania, including coastal areas, inland water body margins and forests and savannas in the drier parts of Tasmania. With the exception of coastal areas much of western Tasmania has low habitat suitability scores, consistent with theories of low‐density Holocene Tasmanian Aboriginal settlement in this region.

Main conclusions: Our modelling suggests Tasmanian Aboriginal people occupied a heterogeneity of habitats but targeted coastal areas around the whole island, and drier, less steep and/or open forest and savanna environments in the central lowlands. The western interior was identified as being rarely used by Aboriginal people in the Holocene, with the exception of isolated pockets of habitat; yet whether this is a true reflection of Aboriginal‐resourceuse demands increased archaeological surveys, particularly in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Tasmania, indigenous, archaeology, Australia, fire, habitat suitability, RandomForest, Tasmanian Aboriginal people
Research Division:Indigenous Studies
Research Group:Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, language and history
Research Field:Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander archaeology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
UTAS Author:Jones, PJ (Dr Penelope Jones)
UTAS Author:Williamson, GJ (Dr Grant Williamson)
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
UTAS Author:Lefroy, EC (Professor Ted Lefroy)
ID Code:134666
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:8
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2019-08-27
Last Modified:2020-06-17
Downloads:5 View Download Statistics

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