Australian climate and environment 10,000 years ago

Our March Meeting 2018  was well attended with 54 members & visitors. Our speaker this month was Richard Wright AM, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of Sydney with the title of his talk being: “What was happening with the Australian climate and environment 10,000 years ago?”

In the 1970s and 1980s Richard conducted excavations on the edges of swamps in Victoria and NSW. These digs yielded insights into ancient archaeology, plants and mammals.

10,000 years ago at the start of the Holocene period was the beginning of a relatively stable climate and environment. Just prior to that, there had been an unusually large increase in temperatures.

Richard explained the contents of his excavations which were in deposits called loess. This term was new to most of the 54 members and guests at our meeting. These deposits consist of fine wind blown silt, typically in the 20–50 micrometre size range, twenty percent or less clay and the balance equal parts sand and silt that are loosely cemented by calcium carbonate. These deposits can be several metres in depth. Some very large examples can be found in China (more than 100 metres deep.)

Loess seem to be formed in Australia when lakes suddenly dry out causing these fine particles to be moved by the prevailing winds over short periods of time, resulting in homogeneous accumulations. Excavations by Richard unearthed examples of now extinct mega fauna.

Richard has also been involved in forensic excavations of mass graves in Bosnia for the United Nations and more recently in the recovery and identification of WW1 skeletal remains at Fromelles in France.

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