Journal article

The timing and cause of megafauna mass deaths at Lancefield Swamp, south-eastern Australia

Joe Dortch, Matt Cupper, Rainer Grun, Bernice Harpley, Kerrie Lee, Judith Field



Lancefield Swamp, south-eastern Australia, was one of the earliest sites to provoke interest in Pleistocene faunal extinctions in Sahul (Pleistocene Australia-New Guinea). The systematic investigation of the deposit in the early 1970s identified megafaunal remains dominated by the 100-200 kg kangaroo Macropus giganteus titan. Associated radiocarbon ages indicated that the species was extant until c.30,000 BP, suggesting significant overlap with human settlement of Sahul. This evidence was inconsistent with contemporary models of rapid human-driven extinctions. Instead, researchers inferred ecological tethering of fauna at Lancefield Swamp due to intense drought precipitated localised mass de..

View full abstract


Awarded by Australian Research Council (ARC)

Funding Acknowledgements

We thank members of the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Heritage Council for the endorsement of our research, which was funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC DP0342843), a University of Sydney Sesquicentenary R&D Grant held by JD, and a Carlyle Greenwell Bequest to BN. We are grateful for the support of the Lancefield Park Management Committee, Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (Vic.) and Shire of Macedon Ranges. We are indebted to Richard Wright and David Horton for advice and sharing their field records, especially to Richard for statistical analyses and guidance on site. For collegial discussions, we thank Jim Bowler, Lyn Dawson, Rob Glenie, Braddon Lance, Robert Jones, Bernie Joyce, T.H. Kirkpatrick, Phil Macumber, Gifford Miller, Matt Peel, David Pickering, Tom Rich, Clive Trueman, Sanja Van Huet, Peter White and Steve Wroe. We thank the numerous field and lab volunteers, John Fryer (University of Newcastle) for survey work, Sam Player for sedimentological analyses, Don Page for technical assistance, and Les Kinsley (ANU) for assistance with mass spectrometric U-series analyses.