Unearthing Lancefield’s megafauna

La Trobe University archaeologists hope to get to the bottom of one of Victoria’s biggest fossil mysteries during a week-long dig at a significant bone deposit.

A team of archaeologists, palaeontologists and Traditional Owners will today begin excavating Lancefield Swamp, where the bones of thousands of animals, including extinct giant marsupials, were previously found.

La Trobe University’s Dr Jillian Garvey said it’s the first archaeological dig to be held at the swamp in more than a decade.

“The 2000 square metre site was first discovered in the 19th century and is one of Australia’s richest deposits of late Pleistocene megafauna fossils,” Dr Garvey said.

“Past digs uncovered skeletons of giant kangaroos, rhinoceros-sized wombat-like animals and marsupial lions – and there is still much more to be discovered.”

The site has been a treasure trove for scientists investigating the loss of Australia’s megafauna – but they’re yet to unearth one major secret.

“We don’t know for certain why or when these animals accumulated in Lancefield Swamp,” Dr Garvey said.

“There has been previous speculation that humans may have played a part in their demise - but more recent research suggests the animals instead died before humans arrived in the region.

“We anticipate that this new excavation will help solve the mystery.”

The dig leads up to the Lancefield Megafauna Festival on November 25 and 26, which features a talk from internationally acclaimed scientist, former Australian of the Year and La Trobe Alumni Dr Tim Flannery.

Dr Garvey will give a public lecture on ‘The Australian Paleodiet: 40,000 years in the making,’ and will discuss the role of native fauna, including extinct megafauna, in both past Indigenous and the modern Australian diet. There are also opportunities to tour the Mt William Aboriginal Stone Axe Quarry as part of the festival.

Media contact Briena Barrett: 0432 566 014