Exploring palaeoecology in the Northern Territory: the Walanjiwurru rockshelter, vegetation dynamics and shifting social landscapes in Marra Country

Cassandra Rowe, Jeremy Ash, Liam M. Brady, Daryl Wesley, Shaun Evans, David Barrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This paper presents a palynological analysis of sediments from Walanjiwurru 1, a rockshelter located in the Country of the Marra Aboriginal people at Limmen National Park in the Northern Territory (Australia). Analysis seeks to test rockshelter sediments as a framework for research in an environmentally difficult location, and to explore how the palaeoecological record may capture the diversity of people-nature relationships over time in the Northern Territory. The Walanjiwurru 1 pollen record provides an approximate 500-year insight into the rockshelter’s surrounding landscape. Two plant communities demonstrate local presence across this time frame—foremost a drier eucalypt woodland, and a wetter fringing Melaleuca dominated habitat, each with an integrated series of monsoonal forest taxa. With only subtle shifts in vegetation, the Marra’s consistent maintenance of relations with their landscape is observable, and this is discussed in relation to the Walanjiwurru 1’s archaeology and regional European settler colonialism. Charcoal recovery from Walanjiwurru 1 is derived from in situ campfires, making it difficult to conclude on the response of plant types and vegetation communities to long-term landscape burning. Future palaeoecological research off-site from the rockshelter has therefore been recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Charcoal
  • Collaborative research
  • Late-Holocene
  • Northern Australia
  • Pollen
  • Rockshelter

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