The humid tropics area of northeastern Queensland has provided a substantial and detailed history of rainforest and rainforest-savanna interactions from the pollen analysis of a number of sites on the volcanic Atherton Tableland through the latter part of the Quaternary period. A recent extension of the record to close to the base of the Quaternary from examination of an offshore core provides a broad regional and temporal context for evaluation of the true significance of late Quaternary changes. It is apparent that the major sustained change in the vegetation of the region occurred relatively recently, probably within the last 140,000 yr, and that this change was time transgressive. It involved the replacement of extensive moist rainforest by open eucalypt woodland and is considered to have been most likely caused by the burning activities of Aboriginal people. Some aspects of the record from this region can contribute to the history of rainforest on a global scale but other features of it re-inforce the unique nature of the development of Australian vegetation patterns.