Coastal shell middens of the Abydos coastal plain, Western Australia

Clune, Genevieve and Harrison, Rodney (2009). Coastal shell middens of the Abydos coastal plain, Western Australia. Archaeology in Oceania, 44(S1) pp. 70–80.



Middens and mounds dominated by Anadara granosa began to be formed on the Abydos Coastal Plain sometime between 4400 and 5300 calibrated years before present, and while mounds appear to have ceased forming some 1800–1600 years ago, middens continued to form until the early twentieth century or later. In some cases, the earliest of these middens and shell mounds formed on top of older middens from which Anadara granosa is totally absent, and in which Terebralia spp.(while occurring in relatively low concentrations)is the dominant shell species. Anadara granosa dominated middens (sensu lato) occur in a variety of forms across the landscape, including large shell mounds, earth mounds (or mounded shell middens), lenses of shell eroding out of well-developed dunes, and undifferentiated surface shell scatters. The large number of middens which occur throughout the region from the mid Holocene, and the volume of shell represented by these sites, point to the occurrence of significant economic and social changes from the mid to late Holocene. The Abydos Coastal Plain experienced increasing aridity, and, as a result, increased resource stress during the mid-Holocene. We suggest that the large, single species Anadara granosa middens were occupied during regular periods when large groups of Aboriginal people undertook ceremonial activities after the wet season, when resources were abundant. Changes apparent in the archaeological record, including the occurrence of large numbers of Anadara granosa dominated middens and shell mounds, increased establishment of archaeological sites and increased complexity and distance of exchange systems, came about as a result of social, economic and logistical restructuring. This in turn was the result of the effects of resource stress on local Aboriginal people over the course of the mid to late Holocene.

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