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Thinking of purchasing a book but not sure whether it’s going to be worth the purchase price? Check here first to see if it’s been reviewed in Australian Archaeology!  All of the book reviews from recent volumes, listed alphabetically by book title, compiled in one place to make it easy for you to find what you’re looking for.





Abandonments of Settlements and Regions: Ethnoarchaeological and Archaeological Approaches edited by C.M. Cameron and S.A. Tomka (reviewed by Peter Veth).

Aboriginal Economy and Society: Australia at the Threshold of Colonisation by Ian Keen (reviewed by Peter Veth).

A Companion to Archaeology edited by John Bintliff (reviewed by Bruno David).

A Companion to Rock Art edited by Jo McDonald and Peter Veth (reviewed by Ken Mulvaney).

A Companion to Social Archaeology edited by Lynn Meskell and Robert W. Preucel (reviewed by Alistair Paterson).

A Critical Exploration of Frameworks for Assessing the Significance of New Zealand’s Historic Heritageby Sara Donaghey (reviewed by Jane Lennon).

Adventures in Fugawiland: A Computer Simulation in Archaeology, Second Edition by T. Douglas Price and Anne Birgette Gebauer (reviewed by Katrina MacDonald).

Aesthetics and Rock Art III Symposium: Proceedings of the XV USIPP World Congress edited by Thomas Heyd and John Clegg (reviewed by June Ross).

A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse Legacies of the Cold War edited by John Schofield and Wayne Cocroft (reviewed by Iain Stuart).

African Civilisations – Pre-Colonial Cities and States in Tropical Africa: An Archaeological Perspectiveby Graham Coonah (reviewed by Zoe Wakelin-King).

After Caption Cook: The Archaeology of the Recent Indigenous Past in Australia edited by Rodney Harrison and Christine Williamson (reviewed by Judy Birmingham).

After Modernity: Archaeological Approaches to the Contemporary Past by Rodney Harrison and John Schofield (reviewed by Alice Gorman).

Altered Ecologies: Fire, Climate and Human Influence on Terrestrial Landscapes edited by Simon Haberle, Janelle Stevenson and Matthew Prebble (reviewed by Bruno David).

Altered States: Material Cultural Transformations in the Arafura Region edited by Clayton Fredericksen and Ian Walters (reviewed by Christopher Chippindale).

American Beginnings: The Prehistory and Palaeoecology of Beringia edited by Frederick Hadleigh West (reviewed by Rob Gargett).

A Millenium of Culture Contact by Alistair Paterson (reviewed by Angela Middleton).

An Analysis of Ice Age Art. It’s Psychology and Belief System by Noel W. Smith (reviewed by Robert Bednarik).

An Annotated Bibliography of Theses in Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Studies at The University of Queensland, 1948–2000 by Sean Ulm, Anna Schnukal and Catherine Westcott (reviewed by Annie Ross).

Ancestors for the Pigs: Taxonomy and Phylogeny of the Genus Sus by Colin Groves (reviewed by Tim Flannery).

An Archaeology of Australian Since 1788 by Susan Lawrence and Peter Davies (reviewed by Iain Stuart).

An Archaeology of Institutional Confinement. The Hyde Park Barracks, 1848-1886 by Peter Davies, Penny Crook and Tim Murray (reviewed by Susan Piddock).

An Introduction to Landscape by Peter J. Howard (reviewed by Tom Kimber).

A Pacific Odyssey: Archaeology and Anthropology in the Western Pacific. Papers in Honour of Jim Specht edited by Val Attenbrow and Richard Fullagar (reviewed by Alison Crowther).

A Pictoral Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture by R. Apperly, R. Irving and P. Reynolds (reviewed by Susan Lawrence Cheney).


Archaeological Dimensions of World Heritage: From Prevention to Social Implications edited by Alicia Castillo (reviewed by Ian Lilley).


Archaeological Investigation by Martin Carver (reviewed by David Frankel).

Archaeological Typology and Practical Reality: A Dialectical Approach to Artifact Classification and Sorting by W.Y. Adams and E.W. Adams (reviewed by Glenn R. Summerhayes).

Archaeology and Colonialism: Cultural Contact from 5000 BC to the Present by Chris Godsen (reviewed by Rodney Harrison).

Archaeology and Linguistics: Aboriginal Australia in Global Perspective edited by P. McConvell and N. Evans (reviewed by Ian Lilley).

Archaeology as Long-Term History edited by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Matthew Spriggs).

Archaeology of the Chinese Fishing Industry in Colonial Victoria by Alister M. Bowen (reviewed by Neville Ritchie).

Archaeology of the Coastal Exchange System: Sites and Ceramics of the Papuan Gulf edited by David Frankel and James W. Rhodes (reviewed by J. Peter White).

Archaeological Theory and the Politics of Cultural Heritage by Laurajane Smith (reviewed by Thomas F. King).

Archaeological Theory in Practice by Patricia Urban and Edward Schortmann (reviewed by Martin Porr).

Archaeological Theory: Who Sets the Agenda? edited by Norman Yoffee and Andrew Sherratt (reviewed by Laurajane Smith).

Archaeologies of Memory edited by Ruth M. van Dyke and Susan E. Alcock (reviewed by Rodney Harrison)

Archaeologies of Mobility and Movement edited by Mary C. Beaudry and Travis G. Parno (reviewed by Thomas G. Whitley).

Archaeology and the Media edited by Timothy Clark and Marcus Brittain (reviewed by Hilary du Cros).

Archaeology in Practice: A Student Guide to Archaeological Analyses edited by Jane Balme and Alistair Paterson (reviewed by Annie Ross).

Archaeology of Ancient Australia by Peter Hiscock (reviewed by Brian Fagan).

Archaeology of Asia edited by Miriam T. Stark (reviewed by Bill Boyd).

Archaeology of Oceania: Australia and the Pacific Islands edited by Ian Lilley (reviewed by Richard Fullagar).

Archaeology to Delight and Instruct: Active Learning in the University Classroom edited by Heather Burke and Claire Smith (reviewed by Martin Gibbs).

Arrernte Present, Arrernte Past: Invasion, Violence and Imagination in Indigenous Central Australia by Diane Austin-Broos (reviewed by John White).

Art and Archaeology: Collaborations, Conversations, Criticisms edited by Ian Alden Russell and Andrew Cochrane (reviewed by June Ross).

Artefact Classification: A Conceptual and Methodological Approach by Dwight W. Reed (reviewed by David Frankel).

At a Crossroads: Archaeology and First Peoples in Canada edited by George P. Nicholas and Thomas D. Andrews (reviewed by Paul S.C. Tacon)

Australia’s Fossil Heritage: A Catalogue of Important Australian Fossil Sites by the Australian Heritage Council (reviewed by Judith Field).

Australia and the Origins of Agriculture by Rupert Gerritsen (reviewed by Harry Lourandos).

Australian Apocalypse: The Story of Australia’s Greatest Cultural Monument by Robert G. Bednarik (reviewed by Paul Tacon).

Australian Archaeology ’95: Proceedings of the 1995 Australian Archaeological Association Annual Conference edited by Sean Ulm, Ian Lilley and Annie Ross (reviewed by Peter Veth).

Australian Rock Art: A New Synthesis by Robert Layton (reviewed by Claire Smith).

Australia’s Eastern Regional Sequence Revisited: Technology and Change at Capertee 3 by Peter Hiscock and Val Attenbrow (reviewed by Chris Clarkson).

Between Plateau and Plain by June Anderson (reviewed by Madge Schwede).

Beyond Art: Pleistocene Image and Symbol edited by Margaret W. Conkey, Olga Soffer, Deborah Stratmann and Nina G. Jablonski (reviewed by Linda Conroy).

Blue Mountain Dreaming: The Aboriginal Heritage by Eugene Stockton (reviewed by Val Attenbrow).

Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination by Karin Sanders (reviewed by Miranda Aldhouse-Green).

Box Office Archaeology: Refining Hollywood’s Portrayals of the Past edited by Julie M. Schablitsky (reviewed by Peter Hiscock).

Bradshaws: Ancient Paintings of North-West Australia by Graeme L. Walshe (reviewed by Mike Morwood).

Bridging the Divide: Indigenous Communities and Archaeology into the 21st Century edited by Caroline Phillips and Harry Allen (reviewed by Chris Wilson).

Bruising the Red Earth: Ochre Mining and Ritual in Aboriginal Tasmania edited by Antonio Sagona (reviewed by Bruno David).

Burning Bush. A Fire History of Australia by Stephen J. Pyne (reviewed by Lesley Head).

Bushfires and Bushtucker: Aboriginal Plant Use in Central Australia by Peter Latz (reviewed by Wendy Beck).

Catalogue of the Roth Collection and Aboriginal Artefacts from North Queensland by Kate Khan (reviewed by Paul Gorecki).

Cave Art: A Guide to the Decorated Ice Age Caves of Europe by Paul Bahn (reviewed by Iain Davidson).

Climate Change: The Science, Impacts and Solutions by A. Barrie Pittock (reviewed by Mike Rowland).

Coastal Themes: An Archaeology of the Southern Curtis Coast, Queensland by Sean Ulm (reviewed by Bryce Barker).

Colouring the Past: The Significance of Colour in Archaeological Research edited by Andrew Jones and Gavin MacGregor (reviewed by Noelene Cole).

Conserving Australian Rock Art: A Manual for Site Managers by David Lampert (reviewed by Christopher Chippendale).

Constructing Frames of Reference: An Analytical Method for Archaeological Theory Building using Ethnographic and Environmental Data Sets by Lewis R. Binford. (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).

Consultation and Cultural Heritage: Let us Reason Together by Claudia Nissley and Thomas F. King (reviewed by Lynley A. Wallis).

Contemporary Archaeology in Theory: A Reader by R.W. Preucel and Ian Hodder (reviewed by Bryce Barker).

Continent of Hunter-Gatherers: New Perspectives in Australian Prehistory by Harry Lourandos (reviewed by Ian McNiven).

Conversations with Landscape edited by Karl Benediktsson and Katrin Anna Lund (reviewed by Harry Lourandos).

Coobool Creek: A Morphological Analysis of the Crania, Mandibles and Dentition of a Prehistoric Australian Human Population by Peter Brown (reviewed by Phillip J. Habgood).

Cultural Heritage, Ethics and the Military edited by Peter G. Stone (reviewed by Umberto Albarella).

Cycles of the Sun, Mysteries of the Moon: The Calender in Mesoamerican Civilization by Vincent H. Malmstrom (reviewed by Gabrielle Vail).


Desert Peoples: Archaeological Perspectives edited by Peter Veth, Mike Smith and Peter Hiscock (reviewed by Mike Basgall).

Digging it up Down Under: A Practical Guide to Doing Archaeology in Australia by Claire Smith and Heather Burke (reviewed by George Nicholas).

Digging up a Past by John Mulvaney (reviewed by Bruno David).

Dingo Makes Us Human by Deborah Bird Rose (reviewed by Peter Thorley).

Dirty Diggers: Tales from the Archaeological Trenches by Paul Bahn (reviewed by Duncan Wright).

Documentary Archaeology in the New World edited by Mary V. Beaudry (reviewed by Tim Murray).

Documental Filmmaking for Archaeologists by Peter Pepe and Joseph W. Zarzynski (reviewed by Karen Martin-Stone).

Doing Archaeology: A Cultural Resource Management Perspective by Thomas F. King (reviewed by John L. Craib).

East of Wallace’s Line: Studies of Past and Present Maritime Cultures of the Indo-Pacific Region edited by Sue O’Connor and Peter Veth (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

East of Wallace’s Line: Studies of Past and Present Maritime Cultures of the Indo-Pacific Region edited by Sue O’Connor and Peter Veth (reviewed by Martin Williams).

Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, society and cultureedited by D. Horton (reviewed by Sharon Wellfare).

Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Martin Porr).

Environmental Archaeology: Principals and Practice by Dena Dincauze (reviewed by Tim Owen).

Excavations, Surveys and Heritage Management in Victoria, Volume 1 edited by Ilya Berelov, Mark Eccleston and David Frankel (reviewed by Pamela Ricardi).

Exhuming Loss: Memory, Materiality and Mass Graves of the Spanish Civil War by Layla Renshaw (reviewed by Jon Prangnell).

Explorations into Highland New Guinea, 1930-1935 by Michael J. Leahy (reviewed by J. Peter White).

Exploring Central Australia: Society, the Environment and the 1984 Horn Expedition by S.R. Morton and D. J. Mulvaney (reviewed by June Ross).

Fantastic Dreaming: The Archaeology of an Aboriginal Mission by Jane Lydon (reviewed by Celmara Pocock).

Faunal Extinction in an Island Society: Pygmy Hippopotamus Hunters of Cyprus by Alan H. Simmons and Associates (reviewed by Mike Smith).

‘Fire and Hearth’ Forty Years On: Essays in Honour of Sylvia J. Hallam edited by Caroline Bird and Esmee Webb (reviewed by Harry Lourandos).

First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies by Peter Bellwood (reviewed by Tim Denham).

First Footprints: The Epic Story of the First Australians by Scott Cane (reviewed by Douglas Bird).

First in their Field: Women and Australian Anthropology edited by Julie Marcus (reviewed by Claire Smith).

First Light by Peter Ackroyd (reviewed by Tony Smith).

Flintknapping: Making and Using Stone Tools by John C. Whittaker (reviewed by Katerina McDonald).

Frauds, Myths and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology by Kenneth L. Fedden (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).

Gendered Archaeology edited by Jane Balme and Wendy Beck (reviewed by Stephanie Moser).

Geoarchaeology: The Earth-Science Approach to Archaeological Interpretation by G. Rapp Jr and C.L. Hill (reviewed by Rob Gargett).

Gunyah, Goondie and Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia by Paul Memmott (reviewed by Cherrie de Leiuen).

Handbook of Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology edited by Soren Blau and Douglas Ubelaker (reviewed by Judith Littleton).

Handbook of Landscape Archaeology edited by Bruno David and Julian Thomas (reviewed by David S. Whitley).

Heritage, Communities and Archaeology by Laurajane Smith and Emma Waterton (reviewed by Amy Roberts).

Heritage: Critical Approaches by Rodney Harrison (reviewed by Keir Reeves).

High Lean Country: Land, People and Memory in New England edited by Alan Atkinson, J.S. Ryan, Iain Davidson and Andrew Piper (reviewed by Sharon Sullivan).

Historical Archaeologies of Cognition: Explorations into Faith, Hope and Charity edited by James Symonds, Anna Badcock and Jeff Oliver (reviewed by Edwina Kay).

Historical Archaeology edited by Martin Hall and Stephen W. Silliman (reviewed by Jon Prangnell).

Historical Archaeology: Why the Past Matters by Barbara J. Little (reviewed by Alasdair Brooks).

Hominid Adaptations and Extinctions by David W. Cameron (reviewed by Sylvia Hallam).

How a Continent Created a Nation by Libby Robin (reviewed by Veronia Strang).

Human Evolution, Language and Mind: A Psychological and Archaeological Enquiry by William Noble and Iain Davidson (reviewed by Howard Morphy).

Hunters and Collectors: The Antiquarian Imagination in Australia by Tom Griffiths (reviewed by Mike Smith).

Hunter-Gatherers in History, Archaeology and Anthropology edited by Alan Barnard (reviewed by Ian McNiven).

Inauthentic Archaeologies: Public Uses and Abuses of the Past by Troy Lovata (reviewed by Denis Gojak).

Indigenous Peoples and the Collaborative Stewardship of Nature: Knowledge Binds and Institutional Conflicts by Anne Ross, Kathleen Pickering Sherman, Jeffrey G. Snodgrass, Henry D. Delacore and Richard Sherman (reviewed by Joe Watkins).

Inscribed Landscapes: Marking and Making Place edited by Bruno David and Meredith Wilson (reviewed by Michael Slack and Richard Fullagar).

Interpreting Ground-Penetrating Radar for Archaeology by Lawrence B. Conyers (reviewed by Ian Moffat).

Introduction to Rock Art Research by David S. Whitley (reviewed by Natalie R. Franklin).

Investigating Olduvai : Archaeology of Human Origins by Jeanne Sept (reviewed by Peter Grave).

Invitation to Archaeology Second Edition by Philip Rahtz (reviewed by Simon Holdaway).

Islamic Art and Archaeology of Palestine by Myriam Rosen-Ayalon (reviewed by Alan Walmsley).

Kakadu: Natural and Cultural Heritage and Management edited by Tony Press, David Lea, Ann Webb and Alistair Graham (reviewed by Sean Ulm).

Landscapes, Rock-Art and the Dreamings: An Archaeology of Pre-Understanding by Bruno David (reviewed by Tim Murray).

Lapita Design Form and Composition: Proceedings of the Lapita Design Workshop Canberra, Australia, December 1988 edited by Matthew Spriggs (reviewed by Jim Specht).

Late Holocene Indigenous Economies of the Tropical Australian Coast: An Archaeological Study of the Darwin Region by Patricia M. Bourke (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

Lessons for Human Survival: Nature’s Record from the Quaternary edited by Paul Bishop (reviewed by Scott Smithers).

Lithics Down Under: Australian Perspectives on Lithic Reduction, Use and Classification edited by Chris Clarkson and Lara Lamb (reviewed by Ian J. McNiven).

Lithics in the Land of the Lightning Brothers: The Archaeology of Wardaman Country, Northern Territory by Chris Clarkson (reviewed by Richard A. Gould).

Love’s Obsession: The Lives and Archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart by Judy Powell (reviewed by Andrew Sneddon).

Making Archaeology Happen: Design versus Dogma by Martin Carver (reviewed by Tim Murray).

Managing Archaeological Resources: Global Context, National Programs, Local Actions edited by Francis P. McManamon, Andrew Stout and Jodi A. Barnes (reviewed by Thomas F. King).

Many Exchanges: Archaeology, History, Community and the Work of Isabel McBryde edited by Ingereth Macfarlane with Mary-Jane Mountain and Robert Paton (reviewed by Martin Gibbs).

Marine Molluscan Remains from Franchthi Cave by Judith C. Shackleton (reviewed by Moya Smith).

Maritime Archaeology: A Technical Handbook by J. Green (reviewed by Iain Stuart).

Material Culture of the North Wellesley Islands by Paul Memmott (reviewed by Asa Ferrier).

Measured on Stone: Stone Artefact Reduction, Residential Mobility and Aboriginal Land Use in Arid Central Australia by W. Boone Law (reviewed by Michael J. Shott).

Motherland by Timothy O’Grady (reviewed by Tony Smith).

Much More than Stones and Bones: Australian Archaeology in the Late Twentieth Century by Hilary Du Cros (reviewed by Tracey Ireland).

Mungo over Millenia: The Willandra Landscape and its People edited by Helen Lawrence (reviewed by Josephine M. Flood).

Mystery Islands: Discovering the Ancient Pacific by Tom Koppel (reviewed by Matthew Spriggs).

Native Title and the Transformation of Archaeology in the Postcolonial World edited by Ian Lilley (reviewed by Alistair Paterson).

Neolithic by Susan Foster McCarter (reviewed by Phillip C. Edwards).

Ngarrindjeri Wurrawarrin: A World That Is, Was and Will Be by Diane Bell (reviewed by James Knight).

Nomads in Archaeology by Roger Cribb (reviewed by Ron Lampert).

Nonlinear Models for Archaeology and Anthropology: Continuing the Revolution edited by Christopher S. Beekman and William W. Baden (reviewed by Mal Ridges).

North American Archaeology edited by Timothy R. Pauketat and Diana DiPaolo Loren (reviewed by Michael Slack).

Object Lessons: Archaeology and Heritage in Australia edited by Jane Lydon and Tracey Ireland (reviewed by Celmara Pocock).

Oceania Explorations: Lapita and Western Pacific Settlement edited by Stuart Bedford, Christophe Sand and S.P. Connaughton (reviewed by Patrick V. Kirch).

Otoliths of Common Australian Temperate Fish: A Photographic Guide by Dianne Furlani, Rosemary Gales and David Pemberton (reviewed by Marshall Weisler).

Our People’ Series (reviewed by Anne Skates).

Owls, Caves and Fossils: Predation, Preservation and Accumulation of Small Mammal Bones in Caves, with an Analysis of the Pleistocene Cave Faunas from Westbury-Sub-Mendip, Somerset, United Kingdom by Peter J. Andrews (reviewed by David Cameron).

Pacific Production Systems. Approaches to Economic Prehistory edited by D.E. Yen and J.M.J. Mummery (reviewed by J.P White).

Palaeonenvironmental Change and the Persistence of Human Occupation in Southwestern Australian Forests by Joe Dortch (reviewed by Sylvia Hallam).

Palaeopathology of Aboriginal Australians: Health and Disease across a Hunter-Gatherer Continent by Stephen Webb (reviewed by Graham Knuckey and F. Donald Pate).

Patterns of Burning over Archaeological Sites and Landscapes: Prospection and Analysis by Alistair Marshall (reviewed by Kelsey Lowe).

Peopling the Cleland Hills: Aboriginal History in Western Central Australia 1850-1980 by Mike A. Smith (reviewed by Jo McDonald).

Pictures of Time Beneath: Science, Heritage and the Uses of the Deep Past by Kirsty Douglas (reviewed by Josephine M. Flood).

Pieces of the Vanuatu Puzzle: Archaeology of the North, South and Centre by Stuart Bedford (reviewed by Jennifer G. Kahn).

Pinning Down the Past: Archaeology, Heritage and Education Today by Mike Corbishey (reviewed by Craig Baxter).

Pitt Rivers. The Life and Archaeological work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, DCL FRS FSA by Mark Bowden (reviewed by Ron Lampert).

Place as Occupational Histories: An Investigation of the Deflated Surface Archaeological Record of Pine Point and Langwell Stations, Western New South Wales, Australia by Justin Shiner (reviewed by Ben Marwick).

Plants in Australian Archaeology edited by Wendy Beck, Annie Clark and Lesley Head (reviewed by Bill Boyd).

Pleistocene Geology, Palaeontology and Archaeology of the Soa Basin, Central Flores, Indonesia edited by F. Aziz, M.J. Morwood and G.D. van den Bergh (reviewed by Jillian Garvey).

Port Essington: The Historical Archaeology of a North Australian Nineteenth Century Military Outpostby Jim Allen (reviewed by Charles E. Orser Jr).

Prehistoric Marine Resource Use in the Indo-Pacific Regions edited by Rintaro Ono, Alex Morrison and David Addison (reviewed by Mirani Litster).

Prehistory and Heritage: The Writings of John Mulvaney by D.J. Mulvaney (reviewed by R.J. Lampert).

Prodigious Birds. Moas and Moa-Hunting in Prehistoric New Zealand by Atholl Anderson (reviewed by Brendan Marshall).

Quantifying Diversity in Archaeology edited by Robert D. Leonard and George T. Jones (reviewed by Colin Pardoe).

Quaternary Environments by M.A.J. Williams, D.L. Dunkerley, P. De Deckker, A.P. Kershaw and T. Stokes (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).

Quaternary Environments (Second Edition) by M.A.J. Williams, D.L. Dunkerley, P. De Deckker, A.P. Kershaw and J. Chappell (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).

Quinkan Prehistory: The Archaeology of Aboriginal Art in S.E. Cape York Peninsula, Australia edited by Michael J. Morwood and Douglas R. Hobbs (reviewed by Bruno David).

Reading Material Culture: Structuralism, Hermeneutics and Post-Structuralism edited by Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Bruno David).

Recent Studies in Australian Palaeoecology and Zooarchaeology: A Volume in Honour of the Late Su Solomon edited by Jillian Garvey and Judith Field (reviewed by Joe Dortch).

Re-Constructing Archaeology: Theory and Practice by Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Bruno David).

Records in Stone: Papers in Memory of Alexander Thom edited by C.L.N. Ruggles (reviewed by R.J. Lampert).

Recovering the Tracks: The Story of Australian Archaeology by David Horton (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

Remains to be Seen: Archaeological Insights into Australian Prehistory by David Frankel (reviewed by Annie Ross).

Renewing Women’s Business: A Documentary by Julie Drew and Wardaman Aboriginal Corporation (reviewed by Sally Babidge).

Returning to Nothing: The Meaning of Lost Places by Peter Read (reviewed by Veronica Strang).

Rock Art and Ethnography: Proceedings of the Ethnography Symposium, Australian Rock Art Research Association Conference, Darwin, 1998 edited by M.J. Morwood and D.R. Hobbs (reviewed by Noelene Cole).

Rock Art and Posterity: Conserving, Managing and Recording Rock Art edited by C. Pearson and B.K. Schwartz (reviewed by Christopher Chippendale).

Rock Art of the Dreamtime: Images of Ancient Australia by Josephine Flood (reviewed by Annie Thomas).

Rock Art of the Kimberley: Proceedings of the Kimberley Society Rock Art Seminar held at the University of Western Australia, Perth, 10 September 2005 edited by Mike Donaldson and Kevin Kenneally (reviewed by Paul S.C. Tacon).

Roonka: Fugitive Traces and Climatic Mischief edited by Keryn Walshe (reviewed by Eleanor Crosby).


Salvage Excavation of Human Skeletal Remains at Ocean and Octavia Streets, Narabeen, Site #45-6-2747 by Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd (reviewed by Judith Littleton).

Salvage Excavation of Six Sites along Caddies, Seconds Ponds, Smalls and Cattals Creeks in the Rouse Hill Development Hill Area by Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd (reviewed by Fiona Hook).

Scribes, Warriors and Kings, the City of Copan and the Ancient Maya by William L. Fash (reviewed by Rene Viel and Jay Hall).

Second Nature: The History and Implications of Australia as Aboriginal Landscape by Lesley Head (reviewed by Harry Allen).

Secrets at Hanging Rock by Alan Watchman (reviewed by Claire St George).

Shamans, Sorcerers and Saints: A Prehistory of Religion by Brian Hayden (reviewed by Bryce Barker).

Shared Landscapes: Archaeologies of Attachment and the Pastoral Industry in New South Wales by Rodney Harrison (reviewed by Lynette Russell).

Sites and Bytes: Recording Aboriginal Places in Australia edited by Josephine Flood, Ian Johnson and Sharon Sullivan (reviewed by Peter Veth).

Social Theory and Archaeology by Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Bruno David).

Social Theory and Archaeology by Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Chris Godsen).

Structured Worlds: The Archaeology of Hunter-Gatherer Thought and Action edited by Aubrey Cannon (reviewed by Colin Pardoe).

Style, Society and Person: Archaeological and ethnological perspectives edited by Christopher Carr and Jill E. Neitzel (reviewed by Bruno David).

Surface Collection: Archaeological Travels in Southeast Asia by Denis Byrne (reviewed by Sarah Milledge Nelson).

Sustaining Heritage: Giving the Past a Future by Tony Gilmour (reviewed by Richard Mackay).


The Archaeologist’s Field Handbook by Heather Burke and Claire Smith (reviewed by Tim Ormsby).

The Archaeologist’s Fieldwork Companion by Barbara Ann Kipfer (reviewed by Ian J. McNiven).

The Archaeologist’s Manual for Conservation: A Gudie to Non-Toxic, Minimal Intervention Artifact Stabilization by Bradley A. Rodgers (reviewed by Brandy Lockhart).

The Archaeology of Australia’s Deserts by Mike Smith (reviewed by Peter Hiscock)

The Archaeology of Contextual Meanings edited by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Matthew Spriggs).

The Archaeology of Difference: Negotiating Cross-Cultural Engagements in Oceania edited by Robin Terrence and Anne Clark (reviewed by Jo McDonald).

The Archaeology of Drylands: Living at the Margin edited by Graeme Barker and David Gilbertson (reviewed by Mike Smith).

The Archaeology of Market Capitalism: A Western Australian Perspective by Gaye Nayton (reviewed by William Lees).

The Archaeology of Montebello Islands, North-West Australia: Late Quaternary Foragers on an Arid Coastline by Peter Veth, Ken Aplin, Lynley A. Wallis, Tiina Manne, Tim Pulsford, Elizabeth White and Alan Chappel (reviewed by Goeff Bailey).

The Archaeology of the Angophora Reserve Rock Shelter by Josephine McDonald (reviewed by Val Attenbrow).

The Archaeology of the Aru Islands, Eastern Indonesia edited by Sue O’Connor, Matthew Spriggs and Peter Veth (reviewed by Daniel Rosendahl).

The Archaeology of the Colonised by Michael Given (reviewed by Rodney Harrison).

The Archaeology of Time by Gavin Lucas (reviewed by Michael Morrison).

The Archaeology of Whaling in Southern Australia and New Zealand by Susan Lawrence and Mark Staniforth (reviewed by Peter Veth).

The Axe had Never Sounded: Place, People and Heritage of Recherche Bay, Tasmania by John Mulvaney (reviewed by Lyndall Ryan).

The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage (reviewed by Bruno David).

The Bone Readers: Atoms, Genes and the Politics of Australia’s Deep Past by Claudio Tuniz, Richard Gillespie and Cheryl Jones (reviewed by Iain Davidson).

The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia by Charles Higham (reviewed by Robert Theunissen).

The Cainozoic in Australia: A Reappraisal of the Evidence edited by M.A.J. Williams, P. De Deckker and A.P. Kershaw (reviewed by Scott Smithers).

The City in Time and Space by Aidan Southall (reviewed by Jim Walmsley).

The Dark Abyss of Time: Archaeology and Memory by Laurent Olivier (reviewed by Steve Brown).

The Death of Prehistory by Peter Schmidt and Stephen Mrozowski (reviewed by John Giblin).

The Dendroglyphs of ‘Carved Trees’ of New South Wales  by Robert Etheridge (reviewed by Jeanette Hope.

The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq edited by Peter Stone and Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly (reviewed by Dan Potts).

The Discovery of the Hobbit: The Scientific Breakthrough that Changed the Face of Human History by Mike Morwood and Penny van Oosterzee (reviewed by Michael Green).

The Discovery of the Past: The Origins of Archaeology by Alain Schnapp (reviewed by Heather Burke).

The Domestication of Europe by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Ron Paul Rainbird).

The Early Prehistory of Fiji edited by Geoffrey Clark and Atholl Anderson (reviewed by Yvonne Marshall).

The Fabrication of Aboriginal History. Volume One, Van Diemen’s Land 1803–1847 by Keith Windschuttle (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk: An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilisation by Michael Balter (reviewed by Andrew Fairbairn).

The History and Archaeology of the Sydney Cove Shipwreck (1797): A Resource for Future Work by Shirley Strachan (reviewed by David Cameron).

The Illusion of Riches: Scale, Resolution and Explanation in Tasmanian Pleistocene Human Behaviourby Richard Cosgrove (reviewed by Judith Field).

The Illustrated History of Humankind edited by Goran Burenhult (reviewed by Jane Balme).

The Incas by Terence N. D’Altroy (reviewed by Dave Bulbeck).

The Languages of Archaeology: Dialogue, Narrative and Writing by Rosemary Joyce  (reviewed by Darren Griffin).

The Lost Legions: Culture Contact in Colonial Australia by Alistair Paterson (reviewed by Nan Rothschild).

The Makers and Making of Indigenous Australian Museum Collections edited by Nicolas Peterson, Lindy Allen and Louise Hamby (reviewed by Michael Westaway).

The Meaning of Water by Veronica Strang (reviewed by Ingereth Macfarlane).

The Naïve Lands: Prehistory and Environmental Change in Australia and the South-West Pacific edited by John Dodson (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

The Nature of Heritage: The New South Africa by Lynn Meskell (reviewed by Keir Reeves).

The New Archaeology and Aftermath: A View from Outside the Anglo-American World by K. Paddayya (reviewed by Tessa Corkhill).

The Northern Barbarians 100 BC-AD 300 by Malcolm Todd (reviewed by M. Ruth Megaw).

The Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal People by Josephine M. Flood (reviewed by J. Peter White).

The Origins and Spread of Domestic Plants in Southwest Asia and Europe edited by Sue Colledge and James Connolly (reviewed by Tim Denham).

The Origins of Hereditary Social Stratification by Malcolm McKay (reviewed by Ian Lilley).

The Origins of War: Violence in Prehistory by Jean Guilaine and Jean Zammit (reviewed by Graham Knuckey).

The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus by Peter Sutton (reviewed by Luke Godwin).

The Prehistory of the Mind: A Search for the Origins of Art, Religion and Science by Steven Mithen (reviewed by Catherine Mitchell).

The Riches of Ancient Australia by Josephine Flood (reviewed by Wendy Beck).

The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period by Darrell Lewis (reviewed by Kim Sales).

The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period by Darrell Lewis (reviewed by Natalie Franklin).

The Rocks: Life in Early Sydney by Grace Karskens (reviewed by Jane Lydon).

The Roth Family, Anthropology and Colonial Administration edited by Russell McDougall and Iain Davidson (reviewed by Luke Godwin).

The Science of Human Origins by Claudio Tuniz, Giorgio Manzi and David Caramelli (reviewed by Iain Davidson).

The Shore Whalers of Western Australia: Historical Archaeology of a Maritime Frontier by Martin Gibbs (reviewed by Ian Smith).

The Social Archaeology of Australian Indigenous Societies edited by Bruno David, Bryce Barker and Ian J. McNiven (reviewed by Richard Cosgrove).

The Stone Mirror: A Novel of the Neolithic by Rob Swigart (reviewed by Andy Fairbairn).

The Uses of Style in Archaeology edited by Margaret W. Conkey and Christine A. Hastorf (reviewed by Robert G. Bednarik).

The Willandra Lakes Hominids by S.G. Webb (reviewed by Phillip J. Habgood).

Thinking from Things: Essays in the Philosophy of Archaeology by Alison Wylie (reviewed by Tim Murray).

Time, Energy and Stone Tools by Robin Torrence (reviewed by Dan Witter).

Time to Quarry: The Archaeology of Stone Procurement in Northwestern New South Wales, Australia by Trudy Doelman (reviewed by Justin Shiner).

Tracks, Scats and Other Traces: A Field Guide to Australian Mammals by Barbara Triggs (reviewed by Rob Gargett).

Transitions: Pleistocene to Holocene in Australia and Papua New Guinea edited by Jim Allen and J.F. O’Connell (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).

Treasures of the Nicholson Museum, The University of Sydney edited by D.T. Potts and K.N. Sowada (reviewed by Vincent Megaw).

23°S: Archaeology and Environmental History of the Southern Deserts edited by Mike Smith and Paul Hesse (reviewed by Peter Thorley).


Uncommon Ground: Cultural Landscapes and Environmental Values by Veronica Strang (reviewed by Wendy Beck).

Uncovering Australia: Archaeology, Indigenous People and the Public by Sarah Colley (reviewed by Ian McNiven).

Understanding Sea-Level Rise and Variability edited by John A. Church, Philip L. Woodworth, Thorkild Aarup and W. Stanley Wilson (reviewed by Mike Rowland).

Uses of Heritage by Laurajane Smith (reviewed by Jane Lennon).

Virtual Archaeology: Re-Creating Ancient Worlds edited by Maurizio Forte and Alberto Siliotti (reviewed by Roland Fletcher).

Visions from the Past: The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art by Mike J. Morwood (reviewed by Meredith Wilson).

Weipa Shell Mounds: Cultural or Natural Deposits? by Geoff Bailey (reviewed by Elizabeth Rich).

Whalers and Free Men: Life on Tasmania’s Colonial Whaling Stations by Susan Lawrence (reviewed by Martin Gibbs).

What is an Animal? edited by Tim Ingold (reviewed by Iain Davidson and William Noble).

What is Archaeology? An Essay on the Nature of Archaeological Research by Paul Courbin (translated by Paul Bahn) (reviewed by Allan Lance).

What’s Changing: Population Size or Land-Use Patterns? The Archaeology of the Upper Mangrove Creek, Sydney Basin by Val Attenbrow (reviewed by Brit Asmussen).

Women in Archaeology: A Feminist Critique edited by Hilary du Cros and Laurajane Smith (reviewed by Alexy Simmons).

Working with Rock Art: Recording, Presenting and Understanding Rock Art Using Indigenous Knowledge edited by Benjamin Smith, Knut Helskog and David Morris (reviewed by Sven Ouzman).

Writing Archaeology: Telling Stories about the Past by Brian Fagan (reviewed by Karen Murphy).


Gimme Shelter: Archaeology and the Social History of Structural Defence in Adelaide, 1941–1943


The Prospect ARP Sub-Control Station (courtesy of Martin Wimmer).

The Prospect ARP Sub-Control Station (courtesy of Martin Wimmer).

Martin Wimmer

Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, PhD, January 2014

This thesis concerns itself with the archaeological interpretation of the civilian structural response to an anticipated Japanese aerial bombardment of Adelaide in South Australia (SA) during World War II (WWII). The underlying premise of this research is that civilian air raid shelters reflect aspects of our past society that other forms of material culture do not.

Analysis incorporates archival research, archaeological fieldwork, the testimony of eyewitnesses and contemporary early twentieth century psychological research into the effects of aerial bombardment in order to help understand 547 Adelaide metropolitan and 39 SA country air raid shelters. It provides a typology for the range of responses, identifies the social contingencies attributable to each type, and tests the depth of social data stored in these structures. This thesis also introduces the notion of the ‘psychology of fabric’ as an additional cultural attribute of material remains that were purposely developed and positioned in the landscape to elicit a behavioural change in a fearful community awaiting a catastrophe.

Across Adelaide, air raid shelters were built by people from diverse backgrounds and with varied economic means. The largest, most expensive and best fortified, however, were not owned by the wealthiest people in society, but instead by those with ties to the food and construction industries. Those employed in the building/construction industries tended to over-engineer the structural components of their shelters, greatly enhancing their personal protection. Men with previous military experience favoured a particular type of shelter and, whilst some single women dug trenches for themselves, they took little part in constructing other shelter types beyond making the initial decision to install one. Analysis showed that 89.3% of domestic shelters that could be properly characterised had overhead protection and that the local Code for Shelter Construction was, for the main, observed. This, to some extent, vindicates government policy which encouraged people to make their way home during an air raid under the assumption that they could procure better protection for themselves than could be provided for them in the public arena.

The phenomenon of shelter building was a short-lived event, and largely occurred in Adelaide over an eighteen month period beginning on 7 December 1941. This thesis, therefore, is also an archaeology of social recency. It deals with a very concise time period during a significant world event. As such, it precisely maps social trends and patterning in the cultural landscape of an Australian wartime community. It is an archaeology of real and identifiable people who are largely unrepresented in official documentation, but who made decisions about their own protection and invested considerable time, energy and physical resources in doing the best they possibly could for themselves, their families and their neighbours.

The Evidence of the Dutch Occupation of the Western Australian Coast Following the Vergulde Draeck (1656) Shipwreck


The view from inside a cave overlooking the location of the Vergulde Draeck shipwreck (image courtesy of Bob Sheppard).

The view from inside a cave overlooking the location of the Vergulde Draeck shipwreck (image courtesy of Bob Sheppard).

Robert (Bob) Sheppard

Department of Archaeology, School of Humanities, The University of Western Australia, BA(Hons), November 2013

Following the shipwreck of the Vergulde Draeck near the Western Australian coast in 1656, at least 75 Dutch survivors reached the shore. Seven sailed in a small ship’s boat to Batavia (Jakarta) for help, leaving 68 behind. This is the first recorded large-scale European occupation of the Australian mainland. There is no historical record of their fate, which has become one of Australia’s most enduring maritime mysteries. By utilising an archaeological methodology to examine reported material culture located on the coast adjacent to the wreck, and which is potentially associated with the survivors, this thesis determines that, in some cases, the material is related to the Dutch. Future investigations based on these findings will provide archaeologists with an opportunity to determine the survivors’ fates.


World War II Conflict Aviation Archaeology: Managing World War II Aviation Sites in Australia and the Marshall Islands


Fiona Shanahan

Department of Archaeology, La Trobe University, BA(Hons), May 2014

During World War II (WWII) the Pacific witnessed a war like no other—an air war. Despite the significance of WWII aviation sites in the Pacific, few are formally managed or protected by current heritage legislation. This study investigated two case studies located in Australia’s Northern Territory (Darwin Harbour and Coomalie) and another two in the Marshall Islands (Jab’u Island and Taroa Island) in regards to current heritage legislation and management plans for WWII sites and artefacts. Implementation of heritage legislation for WWII sites in Australia and the Marshall Islands has undergone considerable change since the first heritage acts in 1991. However, the implementation of management plans has not advanced, with none of these four case studies officially managed. This thesis evaluates the importance of WWII aviation sites and the need for adequate legislation and management plans to ensure the survival of these sites.

Vanished Value


William Doring

BArch(Hons), Department of Archaeology, La Trobe University, November 2013

The mid-nineteenth century was a period of great change in Australia’s history. The discovery of gold brought new wealth and increased population numbers to the colonies, though with these came many problems. One of these was that the available supply of coins was suddenly insufficient; there were plenty of officially distributed sovereigns and half sovereigns, but this would be analagous today to only having $20 and $50 notes readily available. The solution eventually settled on was for various businesses to mint their own coins. Such ‘trader’s tokens’ were imagined as a form of voucher but soon became an unofficial currency used widely throughout Australia, especially in New South Wales and Victoria. Eventually tokens became to be seen as problematic, especially once new official coins had been introduced, and the colonial governments took steps to have them phased out, with the Tasmanian government going so far as to ban them outright. Trader’s tokens were in common use for a period of fewer than 20 years, during which time they transitioned from items of value to items that were commonly viewed as worthless or even illegal. Many can be traced to a specific distribution point and many travelled far outside the distribution of the businesses for which they were made. This thesis examines traders’ tokens as archaeological artefacts, focusing on where they are found today compared with the businesses from which they were first distributed. It considers how and why tokens travelled. Ultimately information about these unusual artefacts in archaeological settings proves sparse, but what there is supports the numismatic interpretation of history, i.e. that while the use of tokens as currency was widespread their movement between colonies was minimal.

The Occupation of Bakers Flat: A Study of Irishness and Power in Nineteenth Century South Australia


Shamrock buckle with three interwoven shamrocks, Bakers Flat, South Australia (courtesy of Susan Arthure).

Shamrock buckle with three interwoven shamrocks, Bakers Flat, South Australia (courtesy of Susan Arthure).

Susan Arthure

Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, Master of Archaeology, October 2014

This research investigates Irish social identity (‘Irishness’) in the nineteenth century, centring on a substantial and long-lived Irish settlement known as Bakers Flat, in the mid-north of South Australia (SA). The research questions focus on the concepts of identity and power, specifically, how these Irish expressed their identity through material culture, and what this tells us about the community and its power relations.

The occupation of Bakers Flat began in 1854, when many Irish families came to labour at the nearby Kapunda copper mine, and squatted rent-free on the Bakers Flat land. The settlement persisted until at least the 1920s, set apart from the broader community. Although hundreds of Irish people lived there, the written histories document little about the community and, if mentioned at all, the narrative tends to be a stereotypical one based on the widespread perception of the Irish as dirty, wild, drunken and lawless. In large part this negative narrative was probably stimulated by the refusal of the residents to pay rent or allow outsiders into the community, and their resistance to the landowners’ attempts to remove them.

Analysis of a metal artefact collection and site survey have enabled a more complex interpretation of Bakers Flat, with Irishness evident through several material realms. Many of the artefacts conform to general Victorian trends, and align with a people endeavouring to conform to the ideal of respectability. Catholicism, a key marker of Irishness, is evident through artefactual and historical evidence, and appears as both a cultural way of life and a spiritual belief system. The Catholic Church’s tolerance for folk practices may have allowed a folk tradition practice to continue here alongside traditional religious practice, as it did elsewhere. On a site-wide scale, the Irishness of this community is expressed through the spatial layout of the settlement, and historical evidence of the lack of fencing and unrestrained stock, all of which indicate the continuation of a traditional Irish ‘clachan’ and ‘rundale’ settlement pattern constructed around clustered kin-linked housing and communal farming methods. This resulted in a close-knit community based around mutual obligation which enabled this group to stand united against the dominant power of the landowners through an extended court case.

Review of ‘Excavations, Surveys and Heritage Management in Victoria Volume 1′ by Ilya Berelov, Mark Eccleston and David Frankel

Ricardi-review-cover2012. La Trobe University, Bundoora, 79 pp. ISBN 978-1-291-27025-9 (pbk).

Reviewed by Pamela Ricardi

The inaugural issue of Excavations, Surveys and Heritage Management in Victoria presents a range of papers, most of which were delivered at the La Trobe University Colloquium on Victorian Archaeology and Heritage Management on 3 February 2012. In the Editorial, the Editors (Berelov and Eccleston pp.7–8) state that the aim of the journal is to bring the State’s archaeological community together to share their thoughts and concerns. In keeping with this aim, papers discuss a diverse range of topics relevant to archaeological practice in Victoria, including methodological concerns working under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, exciting community engagement initiatives, and historical and maritime projects.

A recurring concern surrounds restrictive methodological demands associated with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. Specifically, conclusions are shown to vary depending on the field methodologies applied, with the Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) process seen by some authors as restrictive (Anderson pp.27–34; Thomas pp.19–26). As Anderson points out, sites may not be accurately recorded by the current site registration criteria, which favour a site specific rather than a regional approach. This sentiment is echoed across a number of papers (Kiriama pp.67–74; Vines pp.35–44), a concern that remains even after legislative amendments in 2011.

The introduction of the Act has brought positive changes, particularly in the area of community engagement (e.g. the establishment of Registered Aboriginal Parties). However, as Kiriama stresses, site extent and significance assessments do not incorporate intangible cultural values (pp.67–74), and the dominance of scientific data in site registration is a matter of concern for community members. Therefore, it was excellent to find two papers in this volume discussing community engagement initiatives that recorded cultural values associated with Country and traditional ecological knowledge (Gilding et al. pp.11–18; Parmington et al. pp.57–66) Hopefully, similar initiatives will continue into the future.

There are a few research papers provided in this volume. Staniforth, for example, introduces the Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded ‘Australian Historic Shipwreck Protection Project’. This research will investigate the in situ preservation of wreck sites, a timely task considering the damage caused by development and climate change on maritime heritage. Smith’s paper details results from a project aimed at identifying prisoners (including Ned Kelly) executed in Melbourne between 1880 and 1967. This multidisciplinary project involved archaeologists, historians and forensic anthropologists from public, private and academic spheres in Australia and Argentina. The project concluded with the successful discovery of all executed prisoners, as well as the identification of a few prisoners’ remains, Ned Kelly included, who were buried in mass graves. This paper provides an excellent example of multidisciplinary research and offers a significant contribution to Australian archaeology, history and even Ned Kelly folklore.

The last two papers deal with the past and the future of Victorian archaeology. From a Marxist perspective, Zorzin considers the transition from State supported archaeology under the Victorian Archaeological Survey (VAS) to the dominance of private consultancy companies established during the early 1980s. Lawrence et al. consider the responsibility of universities in generating graduate students with interests in local archaeology and skills required in consulting firms–the main employers of archaeology graduates.

Overall, this volume abides by its central aim, providing a forum for reporting interests and concerns for Victorian archaeologists. It is a timely contribution for heritage practitioners in the state and, for this, the producers and Editors should be commended. The journal is particularly relevant to archaeologists working in Victoria, although a few papers (particularly those outside the local consulting sphere) will be of interest to a nation-wide audience. A frustrating aspect of this volume, however, was the large quantity of typos, grammatical errors, missing references and style inconsistencies. Excavations, Surveys and Heritage Management in Victoria has a long way to go to reach the standards set by other university produced journals, such as The University of Queensland’s Queensland Archaeological Research. Considering this is the first issue I feel sure that this will soon change and provide a useful resource for Victorian archaeology.

Review of ‘Love’s Obsession: The Lives and Archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart’ by Judy Powell

Loves-Obsession-cover2013. Wakefield Press, Kent Town, 308 pp. ISBN 978 1 74305 235 8.

Reviewed by Andrew Sneddon

The 1930s were romantic times for archaeology. Vere Gordon Childe, Sir Leonard Woolley, Mortimer Wheeler and Sir Matthew Flinders Petrie cast long shadows over the profession, and archaeologists could still be seen hunched over maps in Baghdad coffee shops and Cairo tea houses. Sure, penicillin hadn’t been invented, but the line between looting and ‘collecting’ was broad, and a murky and wonderfully accommodating grey. Not surprisingly, in addition to the great Childe, Australian archaeologists were already in the mix through the 1930s and into the 1950s, learning their trade, honing their skills and, as it turns out, drinking a little too much and having affairs. What is surprising is that one of the most active and influential of these archaeologists— Jim Stewart—is little known today by Australia’s younger archaeologists. Judy Powell’s meticulously researched and elegantly written Love’s Obsession: The Lives and Archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart is therefore an important and necessary corrective.

Jim Stewart was the first person to teach archaeology in a formal capacity at an Australian university. He was the foundation on which the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sydney was built. And he was the father of the Nicholson Museum. Many past and present students of archaeology at the University of Sydney will have passed the ghosts of Jim Stewart, and his wife Eve, in the corridors and cloisters. Powell’s biography puts flesh on their bones. The many Australian archaeologists with fond memories of field schools in Cyprus owe Jim Stewart a great debt of gratitude, which must also extend to his wives. In the late 1930s Stewart and his first wife Eleanor excavated the rich prehistoric Bronze Age cemeteries at Vounous on Cyprus’ north coast. This project was the first in a long line of Australian archaeological excavations on the island that extends to today.

After Jim divorced Eleanor, he married his lover—Eve Dray—also a fine archaeologist and (some argue) the ghost writer of her husband’s best work. Therefore, Love’s Obsession is not only a biography of Jim Stewart. Rather, it tells the story of both Jim and Eve, tracing their lives from their birth and childhood, to their studies at university, to when they met, became lovers and eventually married. Love’s Obsession also follows the Stewarts through Jim’s later career, which was characterised by both academic collaboration and bitter feuding, to Jim’s death and Eve’s productive widowhood, when she continued to exert some influence over the shape and proceedings of the expanding Department of Archaeology at the University of Sydney. Their relationship makes for an interesting and ultimately moving love story (although I would have liked to have known more about what became of Stewart’s first wife, Eleanor, who was also an accomplished archaeologist).

Interesting characters are not always likeable and Love’s Obsession presents Jim with all his personal weaknesses, as well as a few of Eve’s. Jim was capable of being irascible and loose with the truth, he could take credit where it belonged to others, and could make promises and not keep them. With Eve, the couple were a formidable pair, as Eve could also be uncompromising and critical. And ultimately, Jim cheated on his wife Eleanor with Eve, which will taint both Jim and Eve in the eyes of many readers. Anybody who has used Stewart’s typological system for the pottery of Cyprus’ prehistoric Bronze Age will not be surprised to learn that he could be pedantic. His typologies hint at an underlying obsessive compulsive disorder, some of which seems to have rubbed off on Eve. But there was no doubting Jim’s dedication to his craft. He spent most of World War II in a German POW camp where he continued his study of Cypriot prehistory in difficult conditions. When the war ended, he weighed just 38 kg but he was determined to return to excavate on Cyprus (some archaeologists who have worked on Cyprus more recently have left the island in a similar physical condition and just as determined to return).

It is entirely possible that there will be elders of our profession alive today who will not be too pleased with some aspects of Love’s Obsession—which is what makes the second half of the book such entertaining reading. It does not shy away from reporting the personal feuds and fierce intradepartmental wrangling of the early years of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sydney. Based on numerous interviews and exhaustive archival research, Powell describes the jealousies and rivalries of prominent members of staff, their arguments and shenanigans.

Therefore, Love’s Obsession will be of particular interest to graduates of the University of Sydney who will recognise many of the names that feature in the chapters on the Department of Archaeology’s early years. Archaeologists who have worked on Cyprus, and who have been seduced by its romance, will also enjoy learning more about two of the profession’s founding fathers and mothers and their work on the island. Love’s Obsession is amusing, informative, engagingly written and scandalous without ever being prurient. Some readers might even end the book with a lump in their throats. They will certainly be better informed about two powerful forces in academic archaeology’s birth and early development in Australia.

A Kaurna burial, Salisbury, South Australia: Further evidence for complex late Holocene Aboriginal social systems in the Adelaide region

Detailed view of in situ carpal bones, with the hearth above the hands (published in Australian Archaeology 79).

Detailed view of in situ carpal bones, with the hearth above
the hands (published in Australian Archaeology 79).

Tim Owen and F. Donald Pate

In 2011 a burial was disturbed during work in Salisbury, a northern suburb of Adelaide, South Australia (SA). Subsequent archaeological excavation revealed a male human interment in a deep alluvial context with a number of unusual characteristics, including a bone point and several ‘binding’ hearths. A sample of femoral bone was submitted for AMS radiocarbon dating and bone collagen stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis. Dating determined that the burial was relatively recent (380±30 BP), contemporary with proposed shifts in the Kaurna’s economic systems when ‘mound sites’ were inhabited, that is, over the past 1500 years. Stable isotope results indicated the individual consumed a distinct diet based on terrestrial foods, with an absence of marine protein. The location, mode and stratigraphic context of the burial, coupled with the stable isotope results, suggest this individual had a different diet to contemporary Kaurna men. The ethnographic record and knowledge provided by traditional owners suggested that his diet may have been connected to his status and position within Kaurna society as a ‘medicine man’ or ‘sorcerer’.

Transforming the inedible to the edible: An analysis of the nutritional returns from Aboriginal nut processing in Queensland’s Wet Tropics

Black bean (Castanospermum austral) during cooking (published in Australian Archaeology 79).

Black bean (Castanospermum austral) during cooking (published in Australian Archaeology 79).

Anna Tuechler, Åsa Ferrier and Richard Cosgrove

In ethnohistorical records, tree nuts are frequently referred to as important food sources for Aboriginal people in the tropical rainforest region of northeast Queensland. Experimental processing and chemical analyses were undertaken of nuts from yellow walnut (Beilschmiedia bancroftii), black walnut (Endiandra palmerstonii), black pine nut (Sundacarpus amara) and black bean (Castanospermum australe). Their energy values and potential dietary benefits were analysed through replication experiments that followed traditional Aboriginal processing techniques. Results indicate these species were all high energy-high return food sources. We propose that, despite the relatively intense preparation required, they would have provided an important and reliable source of starchy food within a varied rainforest diet. Findings support the proposal that processed toxic and noxious rainforest nuts may have played a significant role in the late Holocene permanent settlement of the rainforest region and in the development of a unique Aboriginal rainforest culture.

The making of a radical archaeologist: The early years of Vere Gordon Childe

Derricourt AA79 wordcloudRobin Derricourt

Vere Gordon Childe is the most prominent archaeologist produced by Australia to date. His writing influenced two generations of the public’s understanding of the human past, alongside the academic interpretation and teaching of prehistory, while his work has stimulated more professional conferences and critiques than any other in the discipline. This paper explores how close Childe came to taking a different path, outlining the circumstances that led him to abandon archaeology and pursue a potentially high profile political career. This began and ended amid opposition and controversy, when external circumstances forced him out of politics and, at the age of 30, back to archaeology. This account of the details of Childe’s early life, motivation, passions and skills draws on unpublished archives held in the State Records of New South Wales, and other early sources, together with the disparate materials that have become available since the biography of Childe published in 1981.

Earthenware of Anuru Bay: A reassessment of potsherds from a Maassan trepang processing site, Arnhem Land, Australia, and implications for Macassan trade and the trepang industry

Malara illustrating stonelines, excavation trenches, and pottery collection Areas A and B (published in Australian Archaeology 79).

Malara illustrating stonelines, excavation trenches, and
pottery collection Areas A and B (published in Australian Archaeology 79).

Daryl Wesley, Tristen Jones, Sue O’Connor and William R. Dickinson

Previous excavations at Malara (Anuru Bay A), a Macassan trepang processing site in Arnhem Land, produced a substantial quantity of earthenware pottery (Macknight 1969). Earthenware pottery has also been reported and collected from Macassan sites elsewhere along the Northern Territory and Kimberley coastlines. Although several studies have been undertaken on earthenwares from Macassan sites in Australia, it was uncertain whether any included sherds from the significant Anuru Bay site. This paper details the results of the analysis of earthenware sherds recovered during a recent programme of excavation and surface collection at Anuru Bay. The earthenware was analysed in order to investigate its source and to determine whether one or more regions of manufacture were evident. Our results indicate that the sole source for all of the analysed pottery was likely south Sulawesi. It would appear that the trepang fishing fleets who camped at Malara provisioned non-perishables, such as local earthenware, at the port of Makassar prior to beginning their voyage to Marege. This strengthens claims for Makassar as the major operating port for the fleets operating in the Anuru Bay area.

‘Small, individually nondescript, and easily overlooked’: Contact beads from rockshelters in the Wellington Range, north western Arnhem Land

Part of the glass beaded headband and necklace collection from the NT sourced between 1925 and 1930 by Mrs Jessie Litchfield and now held at the British Museum (published in Australian Archaeology 79).

Part of the glass beaded headband and necklace collection
from the NT sourced between 1925 and 1930 by Mrs Jessie Litchfield and now held at the British Museum (published in Australian Archaeology 79).

Daryl Wesley and Mirani Litster

This paper examines the interactions between Indigenous traditional owners, Macassan trepangers and European settlers in northwest Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. The recovery of an assemblage of beads from six archaeological sites within the Manganowal estate (Djulirri, Malarrak 1, Malarrak 4, Bald Rock 1, Bald Rock 2 and Bald Rock 3) in the Wellington Range, supports the case for the introduction of these items to Arnhem Land in the pre-Mission era context. We present descriptions of one stone and 28 glass beads/bead fragments and examine the significance of the exchange of these items and how they became incorporated into existing Indigenous cultural systems. This archaeological evidence is assessed in concert with the historical, ethnographic, linguistic and anthropological records. We interpret this within the framework of a hybrid economy between Indigenous people, Europeans and Macassans (Altman 2001,2006, 2007).

Landscape history in the Hunter Valley, NSW: Why there is a multitude of Holocene archaeological sites, but so few Pleistocene sites

The central lowlands (dashed line), showing the three main sites discussed in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 79).

The central lowlands (dashed line), showing the three main
sites discussed in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 79).

Phil Hughes, Nigel Spooner and Daniele Questiaux

The central lowlands of the Hunter Valley are rich in Holocene-aged open stone artefact concentrations but, to date, very few verified traces of Pleistocene occupation have been found there. The central lowlands would have been a reasonably attractive place to live, so logic suggests that there should be Pleistocene sites. Given the geomorphic and soil formation processes that have operated over the potentially long period of Aboriginal occupation of the central lowlands, however, it is likely that most archaeological materials older than ca 10,000 years have been either completely removed or widely dispersed across the landscape and are no longer recognisable as discrete Pleistocene-aged assemblages. Sand bodies have the greatest potential to contain older sites, but in most, if not all, cases their stratigraphic integrity has been compromised, principally by bioturbation. Understanding the landscape history over the last 90,000 years is the key to understanding why finding Pleistocene sites in the Hunter Valley has proven to be so difficult. Geoarchaeological evidence which illustrates this difficulty is presented from sites in three deposits of probable Pleistocene to early Holocene age—two in sand bodies and one in colluvium. On one sand body (the Warkworth sand sheet) there is contestable evidence for traces of pre-LGM occupation beginning more than ~23,000, possibly 50,000, years ago, but on the other (the Cheshunt dune) there is no evidence of occupation beyond the mid-Holocene.

Monitoring change at Indigenous rock art sites in Australia


Tourist signing the visitor book at the Art Gallery, Carnarvon Gorge (photograph by Phillip Habgood).

Tourist signing the visitor book at the Art Gallery, Carnarvon Gorge (photograph by Phillip Habgood).

Natalie Franklin

Change operates constantly on Indigenous rock art sites, caused by a range of natural and artificial agents. It is important for site managers to be aware of, understand and monitor natural processes in order to protect sites and prevent further deterioration. It is equally important to monitor changes in visitor pressure at sites, including the seasonality of visitation, visitor profiles and visitor attitudes towards sites. This paper outlines and critically reviews five main methods used for monitoring change at rock art sites. Each method is illustrated using Australian examples, and the implications of these studies for site protection and management highlighted. It is argued that methods for monitoring change need to be carefully selected and applied by site managers according to the goals of management, especially given the limited availability of funds and expertise. Site histories, a critical component of site monitoring, should be adopted as standard practice for rock art management across Australia.

Chronological trends in late Holocene shell mound construction across northern Australia: Insights from Albatross Bay, Cape York Peninsula

Shell matrix site distribution at Albatross Bay showing sites where radiocarbon determinations have been obtained.

Shell matrix site distribution at Albatross Bay showing sites where radiocarbon determinations have been obtained.

Mick Morrison

Shell mound sites dating from the mid-Holocene and containing very large numbers of the estuarine bivalve Anadara granosa are found across northern Australia. It has recently been proposed that the economic, social and cultural practices linked to their formation ceased some 500–700 years ago across northern Australia as a result of environmental changes leading to the substantially reduced availability of A. granosa. This has been used in support of arguments that ethnographic data are irrelevant to archaeological interpretations of shell mound sites. The Albatross Bay region, Cape York Peninsula, has been cited as one area potentially showing a continuity of mound building after 500–700 cal. BP; however, radiocarbon data for the region have not been reviewed in the context of this debate. This paper reviews both new and previously published radiocarbon determinations from shell matrix sites at Albatross Bay and integrates these with newly available site data for the region. Analysis of this dataset shows a dramatic increase in mound construction activity during the last millennium, continuing up until ca 200 cal. BP. This shows that shell mound construction did not universally cease across northern Australia at 500–700 cal. BP. This paper calls for further refinement of the broader model via the development of more nuanced, regionally specific models.

This article includes online supplementary material that is freely available.

Review of ‘What is an Animal?’ edited by Tim Ingold


Davidson and Noble Book Review Cover 1990‘What is an Animal?’ edited by Tim Ingold, 1988, London: Unwin Hyman, ISBN 0-04-945012-5 (hbk)

Review by Iain Davidson and William Noble

Why should any archaeologist be concerned with the question forming this book’s title? And why should any Australian specialist be interested in the question?

One answer to both these questions is that the western-world history of understanding of the evolutionary significance of Aborigines has largely been one of questioning their status as humans. We need to be aware of the issues about the differences between human and animal to understand better the error of such questioning. But to draw attention to it may be to suggest that we are still interested in whether Aborigines are really people. Our own recent writing (Davidson and Noble 1989; Noble and Davidson 1989) suggests that, far from Australia’s Aborigines being a connection to earlier evolutionary stages, it was precisely due to the fact that these first colonists were human that they were able to colonise Australia at all.

The point which allows this view of the humanity of the first colonists of Australia is raised directly in this book by Tanner (p.128): ‘If we define language as “only that portion of human communication which uses symbols in the form of words and syntax” can we say that humans alone use language itself?’. We have explicitly identified language and hence humanity in this way. Language is essential for the complex feat of making a boat capable of reaching Australia. Jones (1989) recently suggested that such a craft ‘could be made with the minimum cutting technology’, but in doing so ignored the technological sophistication of knowing how to lash bamboo stems together. No animal does anything like that: It is a sophistication derived from the sort of conceptualisation only made possible by language. In addition, perceiving the need for a boat or raft in the first place is a conceptual accomplishment only made possible by language.

So the book may be of interest to Australian archaeologists. Does it solve the problem it poses in a way relevant to archaeologists? Only one of its contributors is employed in an archaeology department. Even so, the question is not one to have a demarcation dispute about. We critique each chapter separately.

It is not clear what the editor and contributors take their point to be in raising the question ‘What is an animal?’. In his introductory chapter Ingold confounds us immediately by remarking that people have ‘incorporated animals into their social groups, whether as domestic familiars or captive slaves’. The enslavement by people of other people may be akin to treatment by people of non-human animals. To apply the concept of ‘enslavement’ to human exploitation of the capacities of other species risks blurring the difference between human and non- human creatures. This may be Ingold’s intent, but if so that must be argued for, not simply presumed as a legitimate move. How can a non-human animal be enslaved? Enslavement implies conflict and conquest, that is, the political commerce carried on by people in and between their social groups. To be ‘enslaved’ is to be placed in a political relationship whose terms are, in principle, accessible to both parties. Such access can only be gained via a shared natural language. Thus, it is exclusive to humans.

Tapper supports Ingold’s conflation of the ‘slavery’ concept, citing an argument made by Ingold elsewhere (1933), contra Marx, to the effect that human domination of certain animal species, in being like slavery, means that the productive relation between the species is a ‘social’ one. But in the sense meant here, ‘social’ relations can only occur among members of language communities. Humans and non- human animals may engage in various genial, hostile or indifferent relations, but only among humans can the nature of whatever sort of relationship it is thought to be find expression, in the course of human social interaction. ‘Fido’ can’t concur with or argue about the constructions (including its name) you put on him. Slaves can; and they can rebel. That’s why they have to be guarded, chained up. They don’t just drift away from the flock if untended. It may be possible to reduce a human creature, all its sensorimotor facilities intact, to the state of a non-human animal (rare cases are reported of human creatures, surviving from soon after birth, out of all contact with other humans). That transformation can occur. But it is not possible to effect the opposite, to transform a non-human animal into a human being. And, of course, the enslavement of humans by other humans is not an instance of reduction to ferality.

Clark challenges the idea that ‘humanity’ can be called a Quinean natural kind – as forming a class whose members are unmistakable for any other kinds. Substances like water or gold are held, In Quine’s scheme, as natural kinds. But, Clark says, humans considered as a species – that is, whose members are identified through a capacity to reproduce themselves – may not be. He tries an argument to the effect that Homo sapiens sapiens might have been unable to reproduce successfully with Homo sapiens neandertalis, yet the two have practices in common, such as burial and worship, that make them both recognisably human. We note that there is no good evidence to support either part of this argument. The probable significance of the difference between standard neandertal and modern human morphology is in the capacity for more varied vocal articulation in the modern human form (e.g., Liberman 1984). Given an ever-strengthening selective advantage of vocal language, hominid morphologies with more versatile articulatory capacity would be likelier to survive (Davidson and Noble 1989:137). Homo sapiens sapiens may indeed be mistakable for neandertalis; the surviving hominid form can still be differentiated from other surviving primates, if for no reason besides the absence of reproductive success between members of the species Hss and any of those others.

The philosopher, Midgley stresses that the concept of an animal has both an inclusive meaning – we are all animals – and an exclusive meaning – we are not as other animals are. She is one of many to cite Griffin (1984) and his argument for giving a place to animal thinking. She mocks what she calls ‘species solipsism’ – attributing consciousness only to humans – citing as if as evidence the belief by elephant trainers that their charges show extraordinarily human intelligence. Yet counter arguments can be put, including the belief by trainers of dolphins. those favourite ‘intelligent’ creatures, that their charges learn only by conditioning (Pryor 1981). There is in the popular belief that ‘my pet talks to me’ much of what Lock, writing of early learning in children, calls ‘completing the action’.

Coy discusses a rather similar phenomenon in her comments on Griffin. She points out that humans have the ability ‘to predict the actions of other individuals, so that ‘completing the action’ is very human. In a rare example in this book that the origins of the exclusive relation between humans and other animals is an evolutionary one, she speculates on the significance of this for cerebral evolution. We would argue the other way around, that evolving reflectivity enabled the awareness of the actions of other individuals of both the same and other species.

The emiotician. Sebeok, goes to the fundamentals and addresses the question ‘What is life?’, preferring a classification that ‘while plants exhibit predominantly indexical signs. in animals both indexical and iconic signs appear, whereas human sign-processes encompass the entire gamut from indexlcallity via iconicity to symbolicity’. Hegoeson to discuss the semiotic content of various relationships between species of animals: predation; parasitism; conspecificity; insentience; taming; and training. Curiously he omits the relationship of animal as ancestor – one where the moral and emotional become mixed, historically, with any attempt at science and where the issues of the signs perceived in the ancestral species become paramount. Why did Victorians think that Aborigines had signs of being ‘missing links’?

Ingold contrasts the views of early and more recent commentators on the matter of language and consciousness in human and non-human animals of carious kinds (bees. beavers). He comes firmly to the view that non-human animals, in not having linguistic capacity, have no conceptual world to express. There can be no quarrel from the present reviewers with that. Ingold goes on to assert that this does not amount to denying what he calls practical consciousness and intentionality to non-human animals. As with much of human conduct. carried on in well-worn grooves of tradition and habit, prefiguring of the aims of one’s actions is not a constant feature of human behaviour, yet human behaviour is no less practically intentional for that. Ingold relies on fairly ad hoc kinds of reasoning to carry this argument. To be sure, humans need not reflect on how they ambulate in order to get from here to there, and even their going from here to there may be an unremarked sub-aspect of a larger project. But a point must always be reached in analysis of human behaviour where the purpose of the activity has been formed up as a plan articulated in advance.

Elsewhere, Ingold (1983) has expressed the notion that the axe for the human axe-wielder in the woods is as its teeth are for the beaver – tools for the accomplishment of practical ends. But the point he dodges there, as here, is that the axe-wielder must have a prlorly expressed and currently expressible plan, so as to be doing the business of axe-wielding at all. In contrast, the behaviour of non-human animals (and pre-linguistic humans), by his own argument, can never result from a plan (of their making). It can only result from response to here- and-now contingencies. Allowing that human habitual conduct (how to wield your axe) may go linguistically unmonitored, following its practised acquisition, does not amount to an argument that the purpose of the action is automatlsed too. Anthropology feeds on the abundance of accounts provided by human axe-wielders et cetera, regarding their plans and purposes. The scenario would be unintelligible, outside the contrived contexts, In which an inquirer found a fellow-human mystified as to what it is they were doing, in response to an Inquiry about what they were doing.

Goodwin identifies as ‘dualistic’ the pairing of genotype and phenotype or of organism and environment, within Cartesian mechanistic characterisations of reality. In just the same way, he notes that a Chomskian view of language partakes of (indeed, celebrates) Descartes’ mind-body dualism. Goodwin advocates instead a doctrine of mutualism, in which the terms of these kinds of pairs are witnessed as in dynamic equilibrium, rather than as separate sorts of entity. As a result, he offers the following answer to the book’s question: ‘An animal is a centre of immanent, self-generating or creative power, organised in terms of a relational order that results in a periodic pattern of transformation (a life-cycle) involving historical and actual components (genes and environment) and biological universals (the order of the living state)’.

Reed continues the mutualist orientation, with specific reference to the ecological theorising of James Gibson. He offers a general account, from this perspective, of the argument that objective information in the structure of perceivable energy accessed by an animal may specify animacy as distinct from inanimacy. The usefulness of such an approach is in allowing explanations of animals’ difference to conduct that require no appeal to ‘mental constructions’ on the basis of ‘raw sensory data’. The problem with Reed’s story is that he tries to rest too much of human conduct on this same base. In this respect he is slipping into the same error of over-extension made by Ingold.

Tanner has dedicated herself to showing the importance of women in human evolution through extended analogy with chimpanzee ‘social’ organisation. After raising the issue of the centrality of language, she then ignores it, concentrating instead on the theme about female chimpanzees; the use, by early hominids, of tools to gather plants, and the choice by female primates of their sexual partners. Alas, although she castigates those who prefer ‘faith and politics’ to evidence, her own work is mostly polemical. Yet she is surely right that females were fundamental in the differentiation of hominids from other apes because of the stresses on females in reproduction. And she is right too that evolutionary arguments should show change occurring through the new success of behaviours which may have been minor parts of the repertoire of the common ancestor.

Tanner over-emphasizes the earliest claims for stone tools in the archaeological record. Indeed, in emphasising that the environment for some primates was like living next to the well stocked refrigerator, the question she should really have addressed was what advantage there may have been to using tools at all, and if there was advantage to some of the apes, why wasn’t there for all of them? Her answer is that it helped female hominids, nutritionally stressed by pregnancy and nursing. But don’t female chimpanzees, and the common ancestor, suffer similar stresses? Tanner is right in emphasising some continuity between ancestors and descendants – and hence similarity between divergent descendants. But in her emphasis on tools, on the one hand, and symbols (in a very superficial way) on the other, she does recognise important steps in the otherwise smooth evolutionary path. Whether either of these steps constitutes a boundary between animal and human she completely fails to address, due to her polemical insistence on continuity as a justification of her use of a chimpanzee model.

So the book does raise some issues that are good for us to think about, but on the whole it hangs together rather loosely. As an indication of this, in a volume to 190 pages, 42 are devoted to a rambling discussion by Mundkur of religion in the relations between human and animal that is unworthy of inclusion with the other thought provoking, however misguided , works.


Davidson, I. and W. Noble. 1989 The archaeology of perception: traces of depiction and language. Current Anthropology 30:125- 55.

Griffin, D.R. 1984 Animal Thinking. Harvard University Press: Cambridge.

Ingold , T 1983 The architext and the bee : reflections on the work of animals and men. Man 18:1 – 20.

Jones R 1989 East of the Wallace’s Line: issues and problems in colonization of the Australian continent. In P. MeHars and C. Stringer (eds) , The Human Revolution. Behavioural and Biological Perspectives on the Origins of Modern Humans, pp.743-82. Princeton University Press: Princeton.

Lieberman, P. 1984 The Biology and Evolution of Language . Harvard University Press : Cambridge, Mass.

Noble, W. and I. Davidson 1989 On depiction and language. Current Anthropology 30:337 – 42.

Pryor, K. 1981 Why porpoise trainers are not dolphin lovers: real and false communication in the operant setting. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 364:137 – 42.

Review of ‘African Civilisations – Pre-Colonial Cities and States in Tropical Africa: an Archaeological Perspective’ by Graham Coonah

‘African Civilisations – Pre-Colonial Cities and States in Tropical Africa: an Archaeological Perspective’ by Graham Coonah, `987, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-31992-7 (pbk)

Review by Zoe Wakelin-King

The aim of this book, as stated in the Preface, is to fill a gap in the otherwise ‘highly specialized’ field of literature documenting the last 3,000 years of African history and prehistory, for the benefit of a wide range of ‘the reading public’, as well as for students and teachers of African archaeology. Unfortunately the academic style used by the author to develop his subject guarantees that this book will have very limited appeal outside of the university library.

A promisingly succinct five-page introduction, which states some of the overall thoughts behind the book in a clear, though dry, way, gives way to a daunting second chapter entitled ‘Concepts and questions’. Here the rot sets in, as we are launched into a verbose discussion, heavily laden with 1960s style sociologese the like of which I have not seen since I mercifully graduated from my days in Queensland University’s Department of Anthropology and Sociology. It is not that the subject of urbanization and ‘state-formation’ necessarily has to be boring, but when it is presented as one theoretical argument versus another in true third-year essay format, laden with references, boring it is!

It is a relief to discover, at the end of this turgid expose, a relatively brief section entitled ‘The basic questions’, which tells us that in the following chapters, ‘Each set of archaeological evidence will be investigated from the point of view of geographical location, environmental conditions, basic subsistence, prevailing technology, social system, population pressures, ideology, and external trade.

And so to Chapters 3 – 8, the ‘substantive’ chapters ( = case studies?), in which the author overviews the state of evidence from archaeology as well as historical sources, for selected cultures which have produced some form of ‘civilization’ (as loosely defined in Chapter 2), within the region of tropical Africa. These include the middle Nile (Nubian Meroe and its antecedent); the Ethiopian Highlands (Axum etc.); the West African savanna states of the ‘Sahel’, and forest states of Benin and Ife; cities of the East African coasts; and Great Zimbabwe and related sites in present day Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). I launched into these chapters with renewed enthusiasm, thinking ‘surely this is going to be interesting’. The material presented certainly is, but it is distanced by language laden with expressions like ‘in the light of’, ‘to some degree’, ‘considerable’, ‘indeed’, ‘appears relatively’ and so on and on. The only time the subject comes to life is when the author lets old historical accounts of African cities speak for themselves.

Nor is it simply a matter of expression. Unfortunately the interesting particularities of the sites and cultures presented is immediately smothered by the author’s concern to generalize in terms of the various ‘factors’ (geography, technology etc. etc.) listed above. Maybe it is just that I am a ‘historical particularist’ from way back, but I can’t see the benefit to the reader (or to scholarship), of watering down viable bits of archaeological evidence with unenlightening tautological generalisations which give an illusion that the process is understood when of course it is not, especially in terms of such limited concepts as are presented here! I present a random selection, the like of which can be found on any page: ‘…provide us with a very persuasive example of trade as a major stimulus toward the develop- ment of social complexity…’, ‘…the direction of such a labour force on a mas- sive project of this sort must. indeed. have implications of the very greatest significance for our enquiry into state formation…’ and my favourite: ‘With the emergence of an elite … social stratification became inevitable’.

The reason for the forced generalisations becomes clear by the concluding chapters: the author’s arguments are aimed at demolishing previously held theories which prejudicially supposed that all evidence of civilization in Africa must be the result of external (= ‘civilizing’) influences from the Classical, Christian, Arabic, Indian, or European colonial spheres. This is a noble, and perhaps long overdue, aim. However, rejecting ethnocentric external explanations in favour of shallow sociology is a little like going from the sublimely ridiculous to the gor blimey.

Chapter 9, ‘The problem of archaeological visibility’, deals rather more sensibly with the unevenness of archaeological fieldwork to date in this region of Africa. Neglected areas include large parts of the Congo, Zaire, Angola, Zambia, Rwanda. Burundi and Uganda. Connah cites the problems posed by the relatively ephemeral nature of many substantial settlements, In contrast to large scale stone ruins. His statement that ‘The whole history of archaeology can be seen as an ever-widening realization of what constitutes data and of how such data can be obtained and analysed’ will strike a cord with students of Australian and Pacific prehistory. He does not, however, go on to discuss recent techniques such as aerial photography which might prove fruitful. Another of his concerns is the tendency in African research to use archaeology merely to prop up assumptions derived from existing historical reports. A parallel in the Australian context may be the lack of adequate archaeological research done into Macassan and other Indonesian sites in Arnhem Land, where work has mainly been done to check out the evidence of written records.

Inevitably, in the final chapter, ‘What are the common denominators?’, the author returns to his previous list of factors, and reiterates generalizations which are supposed to explain how and why it all happened where and when it did. So, the environment is seen as not a key determinant, but providing both opportunities and limits or challenges to human habitation. The story goes something like this: A good subsistence base leads to agriculture or pastoral activity or both, and provides a basis for surplus to store and/or trade. Thence there is an ability to support ‘dense aggregates of population’, often by some improved technology such as irrigation or metal working. The next step is towards functional specialization, and differential access to resources, whether they be land or produce or technical skills. By extension come hierarchies, social control, kings, palaces, royal tombs…the whole catastrophe.

It is not that any of this analysis is likely to be terribly wrong, but simply that it is of such bland generality that it doesn’t really tell us how and why what happened, happened as it did in any particular case. Many questions are begged: Why, In other parts of the world, for example, Australia, did an equally good subsistence base (at least in some areas) not lead to this kind of developmental sequence? Why did intensive agriculture and functional specialization in some parts of Asia not lead to large scale urbanization and hereditary kingships? These questions cannot be answered without a better understanding of particular cultural options, and the congnitive frameworks within which choices may be made. (This belies another of the author’s generalizations: that ideology or religion will automatically come to the aid of the material aspects of culture.) Rationalizing the status quo does not, in short, represent real explanation.

In support of his main theme, Connah is able to emphasize, validly, that the pre-existing conditions of environmental diversity in which these things happened could and did lend itself to significant internal trading networks in Indigenous commodities such as salt, copper, and iron, as well as in surplus produce such as nuts and fish (and slaves). He suggests that the later boom in some centres, though stimulated by external demand for goods such as ivory, gold, and again slaves, basically built on pre-existing trade networks, which were an indigenous achievement.

My concluding thought about this book was: Are African archaeologists really such an unenlightened lot that they need such a heavy handed demonstration of the obvious? The general public may be so unenlightened, but I doubt that they will be motivated enough to ‘get the message’ in this form.

Review of ‘The Archaeology of Contextual Meanings’ edited by Ian Hodder and ‘Archaeology as Long-Term History’ edited by Ian Hodder

‘The Archaeology of Contextual Meanings’ edited by Ian Hodder, 1987, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-32924-8 (hbk)
‘Archaeology as Long-Term History’ edited by Ian Hodder, 1987, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-32923-X (hbk)

Review by Matthew Spriggs

Sent two Ian Hodder (ed.) volumes to review over a year ago I read them with interest which soon turned to disgust. Hodder’s atrocious Reading the Past (1986) I had hoped was a one-off aberration from a scholar with many challenging ideas to his credit. It was reviewed in AA somewhat generously I thought by Bruno David (Australian Archaeology 28: 155 – 8) and more cogently elsewhere by Chris Gosden (1990). These two collections, by a herd of largely Cambridge contributors corralled to provide exemplars of the approach Hodder was attempting to define in that earlier work, seemed pretty dismal on first reading. I put off the responsibility of that review for a year, but the papers en masse still leave a nasty taste on re-reading.

Making two books titled differently and published simultaneously out of material which is interchangeable is close to fraudulent, especially when the papers worth reading could conformably be fitted into a single volume and to buy both will set you back $180 for just under 300 pages of not always enlightening text. Even the editor of the volumes admits that ‘volume two’, Archaeology as Long-Term History (henceforth LTH) addresses one aspect of contextual archaeology, the general breadth of which is covered in ‘volume one’, The Archaeology of Contextual Meanings (henceforth CM). Still, after the outrageous description of Hodder and his students as ‘Childe’s offspring’ in Symbolic and Structural Archaeology (Leone 1982) it is at least good to see the real father unmasked who did the dirty deed: R.G. Collingwood. This seems, however, as woeful a choice of preferred progenitor as Binford’s early seizing upon Carl Hempel and his philosophical father figure (Carl who? as a bemused philosophy of science lecturer once said to me when as a young student I breathlessly explained that we archaeologists too had seen the light and were now becoming real scientists. Shanks and Tilley, whose own approach to similar questions seems increasingly disengaged from Hodder’s program, seem much more on the right track despite their somewhat Stalinist mode of exposition which appears increasingly out of step in these days of glasnost and perestroika (see the review by Tim Murray in Australian Archaeology 28:151-3).

This somewhat intemperate introduction off my chest and the nasty taste therefore somewhat abated, it has to be admitted that since the mid-70s Hodder and his students have shown themselves to be some of the brightest sparks in an otherwise long starless night of archaeological conceptualization after the giddy days of the 1960s new archaeology. The challenge of structural and symbolic anthropological approaches had to be faced and assimilated by archaeology (as pointed out by Leach in 1977) if it was to engage in serious dialogue with current sociological and anthropological thinking. Some archaeologists had already gnawed at the edges of these approaches (and that of Marxist anthropology too, at which I’d had a nibble myself in the mid -late 70s), but Hodder et al. really brought archaeology up against them and ultimately through them. There must be few archaeological theorists around today who have not been influenced importantly by Hodder’s work, even if only by reaction to it as in the cases of Binford, Renfrew and Trigger.

But is contextual archaeology getting us anywhere? If it is to stand as a viable archaeological approach, not just an anthropological one pushed back a bit in time with a strong dose of ethnohistory, it has to cut its teeth on prehistoric contexts without easy direct historical analogies or texts. It is exasperating to find in these works as in previous Hodder volumes the preponderance of straight ethnographic, modern material culture, and historical studies, some with and some without any attention to archaeological data. Also, by his own admission, contextual archaeology as currently practised presents only a partial view: ‘The analysis of symbolic meanings in only part of contextual archaeology, but it is at present an important part given archaeology’s recent emphasis on behavioural contexts’ (CM: 2).

The meanings of cultural objects are earlier dis-cussed as being of three types ‘First, there is the object as involved in exchanges of matter, energy and information. We can talk of how the object is used, and how it conveys information about social characteristics, personal feelings and religious beliefs … The object’s meaning is the effect it has on the world’ (CM 1).

Hodder situates processual and Marxist archaeology as concentrating on this particular context ‘Second, we can say that the object has meaning because it is part of a code, set or structure. In fact its particular meaning depends on its place within the code’ (CM 1).

This is seen as the domain of structural and other semiotic approaches ‘Third, there is the content of meaning … the historical content of the changing ideas and associations of the obiect itself, which makes its use non-arbitrary’ (CM 1).

Hodder notes (CM:2) that though neglected of late, this third type of context was the concern of earlier culture-historical and historical idealist archaeologists, and this is where Collingwood slips in the back door and up the stairs. It is concluded importantly that a material symbol has all three meaning components – action, structure and content. We have yet to see an analysis by Hodder et al. where all three are fully integrated and this is why I suggest that so far we have only been presented with one third of the picture. This may on the surface seem an odd conclusion because in distancing himself from context one and two Hodder can often be ‘read’ as simply dismissing those who investigate them rather than putting forward context three as an additional meaning. At times he seems to be replacing the technological or environmental determinism often associated with the first type of context with a cultural determinism argued from the third, theorising complementarity whole practising a new determinism. This apparent tension in his stance has yet to be resolved.

In considering the substantive papers In CM and LTH I don’t intend to present them in order, but rather to examine them in two parts – those with a place in the single volume they should have formed (‘Division One’) and those which either should never have been published or should have been published elsewhere (‘Division Two’).

Division One

The volume within the volumes would include papers from CM by Hodder (Ch.1), Jameson (Ch.6), Ray (Ch.7), Gibbs (Ch.8), Sorensen (Ch.9), Therkorn (Ch.10), and Taylor (Ch.12); and from LTH papers by Helskog (Ch.3), von Gernet and Timmins (Ch.4), Collett (Ch. 10) and Greene (Ch.11). This would give a total of eleven papers and be equivalent in length to one volume of the two under review.

Hodder’s introduction to CM, ‘The contextual analysis of symbolic meanings’, would largely stand as the introduction to the volume containing the usual set of definitions of terms, while the mercifully short Chapter 1 of LTH, ‘The contribution of the long term’ could be further cut to provide about two paragraphs for insertion therein.

The volume would then have three parts: Prehistoric archaeological studies, Continuity and change from prehistory to history, and Historical archaeological studies. As already pointed out, contextual archaeology is short on fully prehistoric archaeological studies and only two are found in CM and LTH, those of Gibbs and Sorensen. In CM Hodder claims three more studies as prehistoric but they all invoke historical textual sources as providing a major input into the interpretations offered.

Gibbs’ paper, ‘Identifying gender representation in the archaeological record: a contextual study’, examines changing gender relations as shown in the archaeological record of the Mesolithic to Bronze Age of Zealand, Denmark. The evidence is from hoards, burials, rock art and figurines. In different time periods females may be highly visible or invisible in particular types of data. Over time a symbolic association between males, agriculture, woodwork and warfare become less visible, while that between females and agriculture become increasingly visible at a time of agricultural extensification and intensification.

Whether or not one allows the particular explanations she invokes to explain this patterning, the paper demonstrates that a prehistoric perspective on gender generated by archaeological analysis rather than Mutterrecht mythology is possible when gender clues can be fairly unambiguously reconstructed as in burial data. Excellent stuff.

Sorensen’s contribution is the only other truly pre- historic paper in either volume, titled ‘Material order and cultural classification: the role of bronze objects in the transformation from Bronze Age to Iron Age in Scandinavia’. It overlaps in part with the concerns and time period covered in Gibbs’ paper. It is bad editing that Hodder did not consider any cross-referencing between the two, especially as there is at least the appearance of contradiction in relation to the conclusions about gender. Sorensen produces some very interesting data on bronzes, which become extremely standardized at the end of the Bronze Age. As this is not the case with pottery and stone tools, the bronzes can be seen as playing a different role than these other materials. During the very latest period of the Bronze Age the previously rigidly formalized material culture becomes fragmented and disappears at the beginning of the Iron Age. This change is attributed to the disappearance of a complex of associated ideas, objects and con- texts (CM:92) seen as, ‘stressing traditional structures and values focussing on the reproduction of society as opposed to facilitating necessary adaptation of the system in response to internal and external changes’ (CM:99).

My only real complaint about this well-reasoned and written analysis is the breathless way in which it finishes, tantalizingly hinting at a ‘transformation of the economic basis and in particular … changes in organization and relations of production’ (CM: 101), to which the bronzes and their ascribed meanings/ functions fail to ‘adapt’ (that dangerous word again!). As the paper purports to deal with the Bronze Age to Iron Age transition, introducing the latter period effectively only in the two concluding paragraphs is insufficient. Despite this it is still a very good piece of research.

Part two of the ‘ghost’ volume, Continuity and change from prehistory to history, consists of papers where the interpretation of the archaeological material relies on direct historical analogy involving usually sketchy and somewhat later historical accounts from the same or adjacent areas. Thus, continuity between prehistoric context and that recorded historically, and differences between the archaeological and the written databases can be used to see how much change has occurred within this general continuity. Two papers each from CM and LTH would make up this section, which again stresses how the two books contain papers making essentially the same points.

Helskog’s ‘Selective depictions: a study of 3500 years of rock carvings from Arctic Norway and their relationship to the Sarmi drums’ makes a plausible argument for some level of continuity between rock art beginning about 6000 years ago an Sarmi concepts as represented on 17th and 18th century AB drums. The methods of comparative analysis used here will be of interest to Australian rock art specialists.

Von Gernet and Timmins’ paper, ‘Pipes and parakeets: constructing meaning in an Early Iroquoian context’, is a fairly conventional essay on the use of direct historical analogy reminiscent of Bindford’s early ‘Smudge Pits’ paper, although here the ideotechnic rather than technomic sphere is being addressed. This might suggest to some that much of contextual archaeology could be subsumed in Renfew’s new phase of processual archaeology as examples of ‘cognitive-processual’ archaeology (Renfrew 1989:39), a conclusion I’m sure Hodder would reject with horror. About 500 years separates the contexts discussed in this paper and the conclusions are plausible if prosaic. This latter judgment, however, may only be showing my ignorance of North American prehistory.

Ray’s contribution, ‘Material metaphor, social inter- action and historical reconstructions: exploring patterns of association and symbolism in the Igbo- Ukwu corpus’, despite its inelegant title is one of the best papers in the two volumes. It also shows how much of a difference a detailed body of ethnohistorical material can make to the plausibility of contextual explanations. Here the gap between the archaeology and observed rituals is about 900 years and the argument for continuity is a strong one. Well worth a read.

Therkorn’s ‘Inter-relationships of materials and meanings: some suggestions on housing concerns within Iron Age Nord-Holland’ relates changes in housing to the sociopolitical / economic situation of Aoman taxation demands in this frontier area and also invokes Medieval and earlier historical sources to flesh out her interpretations. The paper comes to no startling conclusions but shows a promising research direction and the data are certainly there for a detailed consideration of male-female relations and economic and ritual changes. More information on later and earlier settlement patterns is clearly needed as the author recognizes.

The third section of the book would be Historical archaeological studies, the justification for which might be that when dense contemporary historical accounts are available then the plausibility of our concepts can be better understood (cf. Greene in LTH: 117). This would presumably be Hodder’s position. I would prefer the justification to be that a contextual approach has something to offer those dealing with more recent periods, that the archaeologist can contribute an understanding beyond that gained from the written record alone. That said, it is a bit of a ragtag army bringing up the rear.

The point that similar themes are covered in both CM and LTH is again shown in comparing Taylor’s ‘Flying stags: icons and power in Thracian art’ (from CM) with Greene’s ‘Gothic material culture’ (from LTH). Greene states that his paper, ‘attempts to explain the adoption, transmission, and eventual abandonment of certain forms of artifacts and artistic idioms in early Medieval Europe. It will examine ways in which tribal identity could be defined, reinforced or abandoned, and will argue that abstract concepts about society were displayed by decorated metalwork’ (LTH:117).

Strike out ‘early Medieval Europe’ and replace it with ‘4th century BC eastern Europe’ and that is what Taylor’s paper is about. This was presumably recognized, at least at the level of practical consciousness, by Hodder who places both papers as the last in their respective volumes. These two papers present very interesting analyses of somewhat ‘difficult’ material. Taylor makes a point in relation to the depiction of ‘fantastic’ animals that our own rock art experts seem to find hard to comprehend on occasion, that the a priori divide we are likely to make because of our own cultural background between ‘the here-and-now and the mythical, the real and the fantastic’ is inappropriate in discussing other systems of representation’ (CM 128).

Also in this section would go Collett’s ‘A contribution to the study of migrations in the archaeological record: the Ngoni and Kololo migrations’ (can’t these people come up with catchier titles?), another skillful melding of archaeological and historical sources this time relating to a series of migrations in southern Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries. Collett makes a number of good points about the way in which archaeologists should investigate the migration of political and ethnic groups. The moral outrage shown’ by some processual archaeologists in the Pacific at the very suggestion that migrations may have occurred in the past, I am thinking here of Terrell and particularly Groube, leads precisely to the situation described by Collett that, ‘ignoring the problem of migration may mean that an archaeologist is in the unfortunate position of explaining how one culture develops into another when the reality is that one culture system has been replaced by another which developed elsewhere’ (LTH: 105 – 6).

Nothing necessarily contextual here but that comes in later with his point that migrations can only be recognized from changes in material culture when it is seen to be part of systems of belief. The archaeologist needs to, ‘establish the cultural significance of different aspects of material culture and then try to show that the new system of beliefs represented in the material culture is more easily derived from elsewhere ‘(LTH:115).

In line with the particularist slant of contextual archaeology he argues that any particular migration should be understood in its own terms and not In terms of a general model of typology of migration. Much food for thought here for Lapita archaeologists.

The choice of Jameson’s ‘Purity and power at the Victorian dinner party’ as the last paper to be included is mainly because it is fun and pretty heavy fare has been served up so far. Etiquette manuals are the data source and thankfully we are not presented with the menu of simplistic cooked/uncooked contrasts but a quite subtle dish of the redefinition of the basis of social ranking in Victorian England through a widened notion of gentility. This uses a recipe derived from Miller’s (1982) analysis of ’emulation’ in an earlier Hodder (ed.) volume. To a messy eater the whole meal was very easy on the stomach although the sex/food link was only vaguely articulated, some Victorian prudery perhaps staying the author’s pen. My response to the food as served was ‘Please Sir, I want some more’, which would, I realize, have gone down like a lead artichoke at one of the gatherings under study.

Division Two

If we were to construct a second ghost book, the ‘out-takes’ of a contextual archaeology volume in ’60s sound recording jargon, five of the other papers in CM and seven in LTH would be included. None of these would represent our previous themes of Prehistoric studies or Continuity and change, four could loosely be labelled Historical archaeological studies, and six would have to be included in a category used in CM of Contemporary archaeological studies. This leaves the two Introductory theoretical chapters of LTH , categorized in that volume as The historical approach in archaeology.

I have already suggested that Hodder’s introduction to LTH should be drastically dismembered and inserted as a paragraph or two in the introduction to the ‘Division One’ volume. The second paper in this section, Whiteley’s ‘Art history, archaeology and idealism: the German tradition’ should simply, like the Bismarck, be sunk. Hodder’s introductory blurb to Whitley’s paper claims that, ‘Anglo-American archaeology would benefit from an Incorporation of these more humane yet scientifically idealist aims and methods within a broader contextual approach’ (LTH:9). I would claim on the other hand that Hodder is off his rocker if he sincerely believes that. Whitley does a workmanlike job of presenting a totally outmoded and boring approach best forgotten. Next time give the lad a better seminar topic!

If we look at the Historical archaeological studies, they are a mixture of half-formed ideas (albeit interesting-Vestergaard), conventional historical archaeology (Sinclair), mildly interesting history which more usefully could have been presented elsewhere (Pratap), and ethnic prejudice (Merriman).

Vestergaard’s ‘The perpetual reconstruction of the past’ would have been a fascinating pre-fieldwork seminar, some good ideas on reconstructing anthropological history from the Scandinavian Volsunga cycles and the German Neibelungenlied with interesting archaeological expectations. She hasn’t yet got as far as distilling what these might be though, if that was her aim. If it wasn’t, then what is this doing in an archaeological publication?

Sinclair narrowly wins the prize for the longest title in the two volumes with his ‘All styles are good, save the tiresome kind. An examination of the pattern of stylistic changes occurring among silver candlesticks of the eighteenth century (1680 -1780)’. Surely the collective authors of CM and LTH must have been having a contest between them for the longest and/or most boring title? One assumes Sinclair won. His paper is O.K., a fairly conventional analysis which would not have disgraced a specialist historical archaeology journal. Hodder’s introductory blurb suggests we are in for much more than actually meets the eye when Sinclair illuminates these particular candlesticks.

Pratap’s paper, Shifting cultivation in the Rajmahal Hills of India’, is equally misplaced in these volumes, contextual only in that it makes the point that to use groups of modern shifting cultivators as simple models for the neolithic is naive, given their over- whelming links to the world economy (in this case through money-lenders). That said, it would have been better placed in a historical journal or a special issue of World Archaeology decrying mindless ethnographic parallels.

Merriman’s paper ‘Value and motivation in pre- history: the evidence for “Celtic spirit'” starts well with a description of said spirit which can only have been ghost-written for him by a well known Canbera- based Welsh archaeologist in a mood of mild self- congratulation: ‘… brave and excitable, boastful and vain, yet with strong notions of honour and etiquette, dynamic, With a great sense of adventure and progress, and quick to assimilate new influences, yet at the same time a poetic, dreamy, romantic people with a strong spiritual nature‘ (CM:113).

Merriman concludes that the Celts never really existed except as a piece of Roman propaganda and later as a romantic eighteenth century invention of local ‘noble savages’. What all this tells us about archaeology I’m not quite sure. It seems to tell us even less about Celts, real or imagined, and is a very superficial sketch of a set of much more complex issues. What does the La Tene style mean in cultural terms if it is not a unity at some level? How did the Celtic language group develop? Could a putative ‘Proto-Celtic’ or set of closely related Celtic dialects have served as lingua franca over a wide area of Europe at anyone time? How might archaeology seek to integrate with the historical study of language and ethnic groups? Is there widespread similarities in social structure over widespread parts of north- west Europe at the time of Roman expansion? On the basis of Merriman’s argument I’m not at all convinced that such a ‘spirit’, perhaps better labelled a cultural style, could not have existed at one time.

It is of course the role of the conqueror to denigrate the culture of those s/he is oppressing, even unto denying the existence of their culture. As a Cornishman and therefore a member of the fourth world, such a ‘white’ view of our history by Herr Merriman does not surprise me. I thought though that Hodder was calling for a self-critical approach to archaeology?

The remaining six papers were dismissed from ‘Division One’ more out of sorrow than in anger. Contextual archaeology seems to throw up endless pop sociology or superficial ethnographic accounts masquerading as important contributions to archaeological theory. Those of a cynical bent might suggest that second rate anthropologists find it easier to publish their stuff in less-critical archaeological journals and publications than they would in the dog-eats-dog world of anthropological publishing. I wouldn’t myself go so far but of the six papers in question there are some of extremely marginal interest to archaeologists albeit worthy pieces of research in their terms (Crawford, Moore and Nowakowski), I’m somewhat dubious about one other (Lane) an the papers by Hodder and Williams are simply frightful.

Crawford’s ‘Iconology, sacred and secular: visions of the family’ is about recent changes in what pictures are on the walls of Cypriot houses. All it seems to be saying is that a changing economy and a changing lifestyle are related. Nowakowski’s’ Staddle stones and silage pits: successional use in an agricultural community’ involved interviewing in- habitants of Bodmin Moor on their attitudes of old farm buildings and the re-use thereof. Moore’s paper ‘Problems in the analysis of social change: an example from the Marakwet’ deals with questions of modernisation in a comparatively isolated part of Kenya.

Lane’s ‘Reordering the residues of the past’ starts with a long-winded paean of praise of our old somewhat mouldy friend RG. Collingwood, ‘a work generally overlooked in contemporary archaeology’ (LTH:61) and, one might add after reading his exposition, ‘mercifully so’. This is followed by fairly standard Hodderian fare on how the Dogon of Mali represent the past and its bearing on the organization and use of settlement space today. What this all has to do with Collingwood’s maunderings, except by assertion that it does, escapes me.

Hodder’s ‘Bow ties and pet food: material culture and the negotiation of change in British industry’ is best passed over in silence. To find out why, one should compare it with the way Danny Miller (1987) gets stuck into modern material culture. Not in the same class at all. Williams’ (‘An “archaeology” of Turkana beads’) seems to have been the victim of one of those terrible creative writing seminars which semi-famous writers inflict on university students in order to keep above the poverty line. After gyn-Ecology we now have archaeology or reflections about writing about writing about Turkana beads. Really I’m jealous as I would love to be able to get away with writing like this about archaeology or about anything actually, but I can’t. Nor can Williams.

After rescuing one ‘ghost’ book from the ruins of two whose publication was unforgivable, can we conclude that there is something called contextual archaeology and if there is, is it going anywhere? If there is something distinct about contextual archaeology, as opposed to it being simply a more sophisticated form of processual, as opposed to it being simply a more sophisticated form of processual archaeology (perhaps the congnitive- processual archaeology of Renfrew), then quite clearly many of the papers in these two volumes would not qualify for inclusion. If we strip away the rhetoric and ritual invocations of Collingwood’s name (Childe as idol has presumably been snatched by the Shanks and Tilley mob), the methods used and the plausibility of the interpretations are generally ones any sane (?) processualist could approve of. In this sense Hodder’s theoretical stance does seem different than most of the contributors. The problem may be the one alluded to earlier, of the partial programme of contextual archaeology as practised so far. A more recent Hodder publication (1989) about material culture as text, called ‘This is not an article about material culture as text’ also seems to show some important changes in Hodder’s own position which may signal contextual archaeology’s coming to maturity. Let’s hope so, for the sake of all the far too many trees that have died to feed it during its wilful adolescence.


Gosden, C. 1990 Review of ‘Reading the Past’. Mankind, in press.

Hodder, I. 1986 Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Hodder, I. 1989 This is not an article about material culture as text. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 8:250- 69.

Leach, E.R. 1977 A view from the bridge. In M. Spriggs (ed.), Archaeology and Anthropology: Areas of Mutual Interest, pp.161-76. British Archaeological Reports: Oxford.

Leone, M. 1982 Childe’s offspring. In I. Hodder (ed.), Symbolic and Structural Archaeology, pp. 179 – 84. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Miller, D. 1982 Structures and strategies: an aspect of the relationship between social hierarchy and cultural change. In I. Hodder (ed.), Symbolic and Structural Archaeology, pp.89-98. Cambridge University), Press: Cambridge.

Miller, D. 1987 Material Culture and Mass Consumption. Blackwell: Oxford.

Renfrew, C. 1989 Comments on Shanks and Tilley, archaeology into the 1990s. Norwegian Archaeological Review 22(1):33-41.

Review of ‘Plants in Australian Archaeology, Tempus’ edited by W. beck, A. Clark and L. Head

‘Plants in Australian Archaeology, Tempus’ edited by W. beck, A. Clark and L. Head, 1989, Anthropology Museum, St Lucia: University of Queensland, 1213 pp. ISBN 909611-40-8 (pbk)

Review by Bill Boyd

Now here’s a book worth having! $20 these days is a reasonable price for a book. and all the more so when the book is of good quality. In this inaugural issue of Tempus, the editors have done an admirable job of compiling and coordinating a series of original reviews, and consequently have produced a volume which should, without doubt, be on the shelves of any archaeology library.

At the 1986 Australian Archaeological Conference, Anne Clarke met with Wendy Beck and Lesley Head to discuss their intention to write a book which dealt with the range of archaeobotanical methods used in Australian archaeology. There are two main reasons for such a book, and in my opinion, the book succeeds in addressing these. Firstly, those who taught archaeobotany found that textbooks rarely covered Australian material in other than a cursory manner: Secondly, a problem, not uncommon throughout the world, is that professional (and any other I presume) archaeologists did not have information about archaeobotanical methods. To overcome these problems, researchers were commissioned to write chapters, within a number of format and content guidelines, on their own speciality. Methods, and in particular the adaptation to Australian conditions are important, so these take precedence in each chapter. Examples of applications are abundant, and these are mainly Australian, with one from Papua New Guinea. This is a departure from other texts in which there are many good, but in the Australian context, irrelevant examples from the Old and New Worlds: To reinforce the applicability of the techniques discussed, each chapter finishes with a case study from the work of the authors, thus reviewing archaeobotanical work from this region.

So, what is in the book? Before we run through the chapters and see who’s doing what. here’s an interesting sociological comment which was not lost on the editors. In their preface, Beck, Clarke and Head comment: ‘One of the characteristics of Australian palaeoethnobotany that had struck us all was the predominance of women researchers. an aspect given a certain irony when the traditional Aboriginal division of labour is considered!’. Food for thought?

The first chapter, written by the editors, is titled Plants In hunter-gatherer archaeology. In this, Beck, Clarke and Head discuss some of the conceptual issues of Australian archaeobotany. Emphasis on hunter-gatherer communities provides another distinction from many texts, where the emphasis is on agricultural rather than non-agricultural societies. The authors argue that there are three levels of analysis which need to be identified and discussed should progress be made in Australian archaeobotany: (i) techniques for extracting plant remains from archaeological and other sediments, that is the immediate concerns of most excavators, (ii) theories which allow the translation of those remains into interpretations of human behaviour (so-called ‘middle-range theory’), and (iii) wider issues of change in prehistoric society that plant-based evidence can address. Clearly a wide range of issues can be dealt with under such headings. Just to provide a taster, let me quote: ‘The fact that plant use in Aboriginal society appears to have been overwhelmingly women’s work has undoubtedly contributed to its low profile until recently. Stone tools are obviously more widely found and better preserved in archaeological sites than plant remains, but we can be sure that if men were the primary gatherers, much more effort would have gone into increasing the archaeological visibility of this activity’.

I’ll refrain from too much comment, although I suspect that the phenomenon discussed here is not unique to Australia, and I am sure that there has been as much imbalance in, for example, European palaeolithic studies, without, I suspect, similar conclusions.

However, before I put my foot into my mouth too far, let’s hurry on to chapter 2. Plant use in a contemporary Aboriginal community and prehistoric implications. In this chapter. Betty Meehan discusses issues regarding plant use in so-called hunter- gatherer societies, using a study of the Anbarra people from Arnhem land to illustrate ways in which such a community uses plant resources. In doing so, the argument is put that plant resources represent an important, if not the most important input to the community resource economics. Importantly, this aspect of community economy has low visibility in the archaeological record. This is not an exclusively Australian problem, and one has only to look at the European archaeology where ‘paleo-social’ interpretation is based on the highly visible material remains of past societies; the most mundane aspects such as what ordinary people ate have only been addressed widely during the last decade or so. The Australian situation is clearly more extreme, given the relatively limited material evidence that is available. Consequently, the ethnographic record takes on greater importance in developing archaeological models.

Before interpretation of archaeobotanical evidence, one must understand how the evidence got there in the first place. In chapter 3, The taphonomy of plants, Wendy Beck discusses the main principles of taphonomy. Taphonomy is described here as the study of events between the death of a plant part and its discovery as archaeological evidence, and is illustrated in a simple diagram showing the stages and pathways, such as burial, exhumation, diagenisis, collection by the original users of the plants, and so on. It is important to understand these processes, since taphonomy controls the nature of the evidence, thus bearing directly on archaeological inference. Beck discusses these processes and considers how these factors allow us to predict the plant preservation potential at a site. So how is all this applied? This is briefly (perhaps too briefly?) dealt with by reference to environmental monitoring, measurement of decomposition rates, assessment of physicochemical variables and archaeological ethnography. The last application leads in to Beck’s case study, in which she discusses her own work on cycad seed processing by Aborigines, which renders a toxic food source edible. This case is probably typical of most taphonomic considerations, discussing plant food processing rather than issues such as post-depositional decay. In some respects this is unsurprising, since the primary interest in archaeology is the story that the evidence tells us about past people; the impact of soil decomposers, although critical, is just a little less exciting.

Anne Clarke deals with Macroscopic plant remains in chapter 4, providing a review of the use of plant macrofossils in Australian archaeology. Macro- fossils are defined here as those plants and plant parts large enough to be seen without a microscope, although for thorough identification, a low-powered microscope is often essential. Clarke draws attention to the few macrofossil studies here, which is in contrast to the ‘rest of the world’. Nevertheless, the potential value of this technique is reinforced by reference to six sites, Rocky Cape, Drual/Glenisla, Ken’s Cave, Cheetup, Puntutjarpa and, of course, Anbangbang, in which macrofossils other than wood have been analysed. Clarke provides a thorough review of techniques for the recovery, processing and identification of plant macrofossils, offering a range of methods to do the same job, for example, ‘no floatation – dry sieving’, ‘no flotation – wet sieving’ and ‘flotation’ for sample collection.

Chapter 5 continues the theme of macrofossils, with Debra Donoghue discussing Carbonised plant macrofossils. This really represents a special case of plant macrofossils, but since their taphonomy often differs from that of other macrofossils, it is reasonable to separate the two chapters. Consequently, Donoghue briefly discusses taphonomy, which is, in this case, related to past fire. Although all plant remains can be preserved as carbonised fragments, typically wood is the common such fossil, but as elsewhere in the world, systematic collection of carbonised wood for post-excavation archaeobotanical analysis has not been high on the list of excavation priorities. Following the discussion of methods of retrieval, identification and interpretation, Donoghue closes her chapter with a case study from her MA research into the use of pandanus is the Manim Valley, Papua New Guinea.

One of the most ubiquitous fossils used in palaeo-ecological studies is pollen. In chapter 6, Pollen, Lesley Head comments that ‘It is understandable that those of us interested in the relationships be- tween prehistoric people and plants are drawn to pollen [since] a microfossil that is abundant, widely distributed and, in the right conditions, resistant to decay holds much promise’. It is apparent in Head’s chapter, however, that pollen is a fossil not widely used in Australian archaeology. Most of the chapter deals with methods, and covers material published more commonly than for those methods described elsewhere in this volume. Nevertheless, it is useful to outline these techniques for the reader who may not have access to specialist texts, and thus allows the archaeologist to understand pollen diagrams produced in non-archaeological contexts. How- ever, as an introduction, Head discusses a theme which she considers to be of greater importance than the details of methodology: why should pollen be used? Set against the world situation, Head argues that the Australian scene is not very optimistic, partly due to preservation problems and partly due to the difficulty of interpreting the evidence in the traditional ways of the Old World. Nevertheless, application of this technique requires an especially critical approach in the Australian archaeological setting, and Head concludes that pollen analysis probably has more to offer than is often realised. That potential is illustrated in Head’s case study, which is based on her own extensive work at Discovery Bay, south-western Victoria.

Getting closer into the traditional material archaeological evidence, Jay Hall, Su Higgins and Richard Fullagar discuss Plant residues on stone tools in chapter 7. This is a quite different field from the previous few chapters. Rather than identifying plants by morphology, anatomy, and palynology, this technique relies on the chemical analysis. Given the relationship between tools and resources, stone artefacts often provide the most direct link between plants and their use in Australian archaeology, and such evidence may take one of a range of types: use wear, residues, ethnography, artefact morphology and archaeological context. Residues offer possibly the most direct link between tools and people, and it is argued that residues are more widely present than is conventionally thought. This chapter, therefore, looks at the methods of processing samples for residues (in particular starch) and analysing and identifying those residues found. These techniques have wider application that just starch analysis, and the authors provide a list of plant residues which have been previously identified on stone artefacts: cellulose, lignin, lipids, resins, amino acids, and so on. Clearly the potential is high. To illustrate the potential, a part of the Moreton Region Archaeological Project (Queensland) is described, in which a relationship between levelled pounders and a plant known as fernroot is demonstrated. This evidence, although still ambiguous in its conclusions, is then used within the context of archaeological hypotheses generated during this project.

I have a feeling that one of the potentially most useful fossils in the Australian archaeological context are phytoliths. In chapter 8, Phytolith analysis: introduction and applications, Doreen Bowdery provides the necessary introduction to this class of fossil and its use. In Bowdery’s review of some of the applications of phytolith analysis, it becomes immediately clear that phytoliths have been completely under utilised in the Australian context, this being emphasised by the very brief case study (which is not even headed as a case study) in which Bowdery’s own work is only mentioned in passing, largely, I suspect, because her work has not progressed sufficiently far for a full write-up at the time of writing. For anyone, however, interested in the potential of phytoliths, the section of applications, describing uses elsewhere in the world should be encouraging reading. How do you find phytoliths at your site? Read the extensive section on methods and find out!

The final chapter, The uses of ethnohistory and ecology, Beth Gott returns, in part, to Meehan’s earlier theme that interpretation of archaeological material can usefully apply ethnographic and ecological information. Gott briefly reviews the sources of ethnohistorical records, such as scientific journals, floras, herbarium lists, language lists, illustrations and so on, describing how they may best be used, and drawing attention to particular problems in their use. A major theme which she discusses is the problem of identification: Gatt quite rightly states that the proper identification of plant and animal species is essential if archaeology is to rest on a scientific base. This may seem rather obvious, but any non-botanical archaeologist who has, at some time, had to wrestle with botanic nomenclature, for example, will understand the importance of such a statement. To illustrate the use of ethnohostorical data, Gott reproduces a summary of her previously-published research on the use of a plant known as Murnong which provided a staple food for Victorian Aborigines, concluding that such a study, backed up by some field work, uncovered a range of information previously unknown, and raised issues of Aboriginal diet and health and the effects of the European invasion.

And that’s that. Altogether, an impressive collection of reviews and information. Anyone with an interest in archaeobotany will find material of interest in this book, and if they are not satisfied with the contents, they can use the extensive reference lists provided by all the authors. This is a book for the authors to be proud of, and a book for the reader to enjoy and use.

Review of ‘Records in Stone: Papers in Memory of Alexander Thom’ edited by C.L.N. Ruggles

‘Records in Stone: Papers in Memory of Alexander Thom’ edited by C.L.N. Ruggles, 1988, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-33381-4 (hbk)

Review by R.J. Lampert

The megalithic Sites scattered throughout Britain and Brittany are a source of fascination for archaeologists and laymen alike. Stone circles, standing stones, chambered cairns, stone rows and stone fans have been interpreted in various ways by their beholders throughout recorded history. Even well into this century, antiquarians saw the great stone circles of Britain as ‘druidical temples’ or ‘temples of the Beaker Folk’, but in recent decades many such romantic views of the past have been modified by scientific rationalism. For example, numerous radiocarbon dates show that stone circles date back as far as 5000 BP, a time well before the earliest beaker pots appeared in Britain. There is nonetheless a persistence of views among scholars today that stone circles, at least the best known examples like Stonehenge and Avebury, are ‘religious monuments’ or ‘ceremonial centres’. Some go beyond this and see the sites in terms of contemporary ideas about power structures and social change, the era of megalith building being seen as a time when a ‘collectivist ideology’ produced, and was reinforced by an incipiently ‘Stalinist architecture’, with its eventual decline being seen as a time when ritual-authority social structures gave way to those in which the proclamation of power lay in prestige goods. Small wonder that Jacquetta Hawkes’ comment ‘every age has the Stonehenge it deserves or desires’, is quoted often. However, such discussion falls outside the subject matter of the book under review which concerns itself more  with physical aspects of megalithic sites, notably the notion that megaliths contain calendrical alignments, having been laid out by their builders to predict such major solar events as the solstices and equinoxes, or the lunar cycle.

Alexander Thom, to whom this book is dedicated, held the chair in engineering science at the University of Oxford, but had a lifetime interest in megaliths. This became a full time pursuit after retirement until his death at the age of 91. Using his engineering skills, Thorn accurately surveyed hundreds of stone circles and stone rows to obtain a data base large enough to allow him to assess his ideas statistically. As well as examining possible alignments with celestial bodies, he used geometry to examine the shape of stone circles, many of which are in fact far from circular, and to suggest ways in which they could have been set out. By examining distances between stones he tried to determine whether standard units of measurement had been used, eventually arriving at a value for the megalithic yard, equal to 40 megalithic inches and 2/5ths of a megalithic rod. Published in some 60 papers and books, Thom’s interpretations of megaliths were controversial, sparking debates that continue today as shown by several of the 21 papers assembled in this book. .

Six of the papers are introductory, combining to give an outline of Thom’s life and work. One paper describes the Alexander Thom Archive held at the National Monuments Record of Scotland which includes notebooks detailing some 800 visits over 40 years to megalithic sites, while another reproduces a descriptive catalogue of more than 600 field drawings. A chapter by Chris Jennings which con- eludes this section is simply an extraordinarily beautiful photographic essay showing megaliths on the lonely upland moors of Scotland, Wales and Devon.

The real meat of the book lies in the remaining 15 papers which describe archaeological research inspired by the ideas of Thom. Some of this research is the mere, rather uncritical, application of Thorn’s techniques to other sites, but other papers portray an increasing analytical rigour as computers and more stringent statistics are marshalled to handle an expanded data base. In many papers however, particularly those dealing with astro-archaeology, fertile imagination has inspired special pleading and subjective assessment of the evidence. To name but a few examples: stone circles which do not align exactly with celestial bodies explained as ‘symbolic observatories’ (Aubrey Burl) or ‘reminders’ of events yet to ensue (Euan MacKie), and what about ‘Seventy men could have erected the heaviest stone … one might assume an adult male community of about 100 and a total population … of 400 or more’ (Aubrey Burt) for a piece of demographic sleuthing? We poor naive colonials obviously should not feel abashed at basing population estimates on midden biomass and land resources! These views might seem hard to beat, but the prize for lack of scientific objectivity must go to the statement, ‘difficult to find a probability level for this common sense point of view’ (Alexander and Archie Thorn).

As several writers point out, there are numerous possible alignments within stone circles, and quite a number of noteworthy calendrical, solar and lunar events,
making it likely that ‘significant’ alignments will be found
among several hundred monuments even if they are
oriented randomly. Thom and some of his followers
have increased the range of possibilities, and compounded the problem, by including also prominent
natural landscape features like notches and peaks on
the horizon as a foresight, aligned with a single stone
as a backsight. A better bet are stone rows which point
in only two directions and best of all stone fans which
point in only one. Indeed, among the more convincing
cases for celestial alignment is a paper by Leslie Myatt
analysing azimuthal data from 21 stone fans in Scotland
which show a significant clustering around the direction
of moonrise at the time of southern major standstill,
which has an 18.6-year cycle. In looking at other Scottish sites, comprising stone rows and ‘alignment pairs’
of menhirs, Clive Ruggles finds an identical orientation was favoured. A cluster analysis by Jon Patrick and Peter Freeman of a much larger body of Ruggles’ survey data, 276 megalithic alignments from western Scotland, reveals no clustering around any single astronomical direction. This the authors say merely supports the commonly expressed view that not all alignments have an astronomical purpose. However, the amount of overlap between the data sets reviewed by various authors is uncertain. Ray Norris also claims to have a body of Ruggles survey data from western Scotland under review but, unlike Patrick and Freeman, believes there is a significant number of alignments directed to lunar star rising.

While Thom’s megalithic yard as a unit of measurement in setting out sites receives cautious support from later writers, the megalithic inch suffers a probably lethal body blow from a well argued paper by Alan Davis. The megalithic inch (2.0725 cm) is based on the recognition of supposed integer values repeated many times for distances, both between and within, cup and ring carvings. Through remeasuring Thom’s sites and several additional ones, and employing a test statistic seen as more appropriate to the hypothesis, Davis shows that there is no quantum in the data approximating to 2.0725 cm.

Although Thom’s own research was confined to western Europe, his influence, particularly in astroarchaeology, was more widespread, as shown by the two concluding chapters, in which Anthony Aveni discusses aspects of the Thom paradigm in the Americas and Ed Krupp examines the supposed solar orientation of several Egyptian temples. However for Australian readers, the megalithic structures of Oceania remain mute as far as this book is concerned.

Review of ‘The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period’ by Darrel Lewis

‘The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period’ by Darrel Lewis, 1988, Oxford: BAR International Series 415, 426 pp. ISBN 0-86054-532-6 (pbk)

Review by Kim Sales

This BAR monograph deals with the chronology and styles of Arnhem Land rock paintings. It is based surprisingly, considering the amount of research undertaken (sixteen years of fieldwork) and the breadth of problems addressed, on a BA honours thesis, and sets out to assess previous work done in the region and provide a reinterpretation and social explanation of the data.

The book is divided into two parts. The first evaluates the methodologies, chronologies and nomenclatures used by two previous principle researchers in the area Brandl and Chaloupka. Then changes in material culture items depicted in the art are used to divide the corpus into four art periods and to name these. The second part critically examines Chaloupka’s chronological model and questions his assertions that the earliest Arnhem Land art style predates 20,000 BP, and that the x-ray art style with its emphasis on aquatic fauna documents the appearance of estuarine conditions in the region c. 9000 – 7000 BP Lewis provides an alternative chronological model for his art period, Interpreting change in terms of differing social strategies adopted in response to postglacial ecological shifts. However, the major volume of the monograph consists of illustrations, both photographs and, line drawings – a welcome visual presentation of a visual medium This allows other researchers to evaluate that first level of rock art analysis, interpretation of what exactly it is being depicted, and gives them access to the data for further analyses.

Much of this book is devoted to a detailed assessment an ultimate rejection, of Chaloupka’s identification and dating of Arnhem Land art styles. Lewis notes that Chaloupka’s methodology is to identify superimposition sequences, acceptable perhaps for polychrome over monochrome paintings, but much more controversial when it comes to assessing relative overlay of monochrome (here red ochre) motifs. Numerous examples are needed, but are apparently rare in Arnhem land; where good examples exist the resultant maze of red lines is too complex to be convincingly separated out; there is no way to assess temporal distance between superimposed paintings, and appearance of relative ‘freshness’ has more to do with pigment and matrix chemical composition that relative age. Lewis concludes that ‘… determining the sequence of overlays through visual means becomes difficult and unreliable’ (p.5), a technical point which does need emphasis, but disappointingly he does not consider the notion that overlay may be a deliberate, conventional strategy of motif and idea association implying cognitive continuity rather than temporal separation. Chaloupka’s methodology is also criticized for inconsistency, for example the lack of clarity over whether identified ‘styles’ are situated chronologically before or after their contents were analysed.

Inconsistency is also the major reason for rejecting Chaloupka’s nomenclature. Styles are labelled variously by their subject matter, the form of their subject matter, their presumed relative age or combination of these factors In addition some of the labels are value-laden, for example the so-called ‘decorative x- ray’ implies loss of interest in internal anatomy’, yet this is not borne out by contemporary Aboriginal informants.

Given that Chaloupka’s chronology is questionably based on his subjective assessment of superimpositions, and that his styles are defined using inconsistent variables, it becomes difficult to accept his dating scheme. Nevertheless Lewis does examine further Chaloupka’s correlation between well-documented prehistoric environmental changes in Arnhem Land from pre-estuarine, through estuarine, to freshwater conditions, and his art styles, and rejects each for varying reasons. For example, the presumed earliest ‘handprints and grassprints style’ dated by Chaloupka to anywhere between 35,000 and 18,000 BP, is criticized by Lewis because it lacks adequate criteria for designation as a style (technique and presumed superimposition are used), it assumes that economically important species necessarily form the subject matter of art, and it is shakily identified with grinding mortars dated archaeologically to 18,000 BP Similarly, Chaloupka’s later style which depicts species introduced to the region as sea levels rose and is associated with the development of estuarine conditions, is questioned. Firstly the ‘estuarine’ species referred to all also spend parts of their lifecycles in freshwater habitats, and so were liable to have been known to local inhabitants long before the onset of estuarine conditions. Secondly, the underlying assumptions that environ- mental and cultural change are congruent, and that art represents a literal record of prehistoric life, are rejected.

Lewis fairly convincingly demolishes Chaloupka’s model of Arnhem Land art styles and chronology, and then proceeds to set up his own schema. His methodology consists of analysing human figures and their associated material culture items, particularly hunting and fighting weapons. Artefacts are identified, associated figures thus grouped. The characteristics of other motifs found in association with these figures are noted and used to assign motifs unassociated with artefact-wielding figures to the initial groupings. This procedure would seem to be one which would obscure anything other than the most blatant intra-group stylistic variability, and which weighs artefact-type disproportionately. On the assumption that different artefacts can be temporally ordered, an idea unlikely to receive much criticism from mainstream archaeology, Lewis places his groupings In chronological order, identifying four main periods in Arnhem Land art. These are labelled the Boomerang. the Hooked Stick and Boomerang, the Broad Spearthrower and the Long Spearthrower Periods. In the ethnographic present in Arnhem land hand-thrown spears and boomerangs are not manufactured or used as weapons, whereas spearthrower technology is. So, following Brandl’s reasoning, Lewis places his periods in chronological order, with the spearthrower periods the most recent, and boomerang figures the earliest. However it is interesting to note that his line drawings of Boomerang period figures never unequivocally depict the boomerang as weapon. Instead we have boomerangs wielded by running or dancing anthropomorphs, decked out in costume and headdress (e.g. ‘dancing skirts’) which belles literalist, practical interpretation of these as hunting scenes, and depicted at least twice in what are seen as ‘ritual’ scenes (Figs 36 and 37) analogous to the rare usage of boomerangs in Arnhem Land in the ethnographic present.

In order to date these positioned periods Lewis looks at their characteristics and stylistic variability, correlating them with prehistoric climatic changes and their presumed social impact.

The Boomerang Period is characterized as highly formalised, widespread and dominated by a single style of depiction. Animated human figures with ceremonial accoutrements, boomerangs, single-piece uniserially barbed spears and hafted stone spears axes are common. This is interpreted as evidence that one widespread social identity existed at this time, with social and cultural stability, established tradition and a desire to express ‘sameness’, and hence reciprocity, in art. This style is said to occur plateau-wide, covering an area analogous to the size of the present day semi- arid and arid zone territories. Lewis concludes that the Boomerang Period was one when Arnhem Land in- habitants had large territories, emphasized links and reciprocity, and were living in a semi-arid climate as was extant during the glacial from c. 18,000 BP to c. 9000 BP.

In contrast. the Hooked Stick and Boomerang Period sees the development of regionalized human figure styles, with the persistence of a widespread element, the Rainbow Snake Complex of motifs. Here the unidentifiable (despite a chapter given over to that purpose) hooked stick and the multipronged multi- barbed spear join the artefact inventory, and confrontation scenes are depicted. The Rainbow Snake Complex motifs are assigned to the period on the (questionable) basis that one anthropomorph from this complex has a similar headdress to those worn by a few of the hooked stick wielding figures. The period is interpreted as one of social reorganization. development of smaller regional group identities Indicating mutual ‘differences’ yet bound by an overarching philosophy of conciliation as illustrated by the composite Rainbow Serpent motif. These changes occur because of demographic growth prompted by increased rainfall and land carrying capacity, together with the demands of environmentally-stressed coastal, near coastal and riverine populations following sea level rise c. 8000 BP

The Broad Spearthrower Period is characterized by the advent of unambiguous spearthrowers. both broad (which disappear later) and cylindrical (which continue through the next period), and the development of high degrees of stylistic variation without regionalization. To Lewis this indicates a period of rapid coastal change. Indeed turmoil. The paintings depict spears with hafted lanceolate spearheads reminiscent of stone spears points dated archaeologically to c. 5500 – 4000 B P.

The Long Spearthrower Period features a material culture assemblage paralleling that of the region’s ethnographic present, and the x-ray style is still produced today, albeit on bark. It is the most recent period, and reflects wetlands environment linked to the development of freshwater lagoons c. 2000 – 1000 BP

In this short space I cannot do justice to Lewis’ complex arguments, varied lines of evidence and sometimes frustrating admixture of critical analysis and interpretation. Nevertheless, although his arguments represent an advance, I have some misapprehensions about his model. For example. we may accept Lewis’ assumption that artefact change in art reflects temporal change, but this is still literalist and does not consider the possibility that artefact depiction has ideological and symbolic dimensions. and may not directly reflect contemporary assemblages. Similarly, the idea that art styles as indicative of shared conventions and concepts informs on social identity and affinity is quite orthodox. However the question of style, what it alludes to and how it is identified is inadequately discussed by Lewis. He purports to follow Hodder (1978) in seeing style as an expression of group identity, yet does not take cognisance of that author’s more recent position (Hodder 1982, 1986) that not all style is used to communicate ethnic identity (sameness v. difference), that style may mirror within-group strategies, even within household/ family strategies.

Lewis’ dating of his first two periods of Arnhem Land art is based on his interpretation of the spatial distribution and significance of styles within the periods I am not convinced that the existence of these styles has been adequately demonstrated. Analysis involving relevant, quantifiable, comparable criteria or variables, chosen for their potential to inform on degree of identity and affinity, is needed. This may not be an easy task, but is preferable to an intuitive assertion that various different styles exist.

Overall, this monograph is imaginative. audacious and ambitious. Lewis’ challenge to Chaloupka is well thought out and damaging. His interpretation of the cosmological significance of the composite Rainbow Serpent is fascinating, as are his speculations on the affinity of his Boomerang figures and the Bradshaw figures of the Kimberley. In addition he dares to move beyond description and taxonomy to provide a social interpretation of art change, even though his social adjustments have environmental spurs. However, his analysis does not include a clear demonstration of the existence of distinguishable styles within the corpus of red ochre paintings, exhibiting affinities or differences.

There is inadequate discussion of the theories dealing with style and its implications, despite the fact that his interpretation of stylistic variation is crucial to the model. This makes it difficult to accept his dating, although we may concur that his periods have validity. Future research can address this problem, and it does not detract from the fact that this is a stimulating book sure to provoke further debate.


Hodder, I. (ed.) 1978 The Spatial Organization of Culture. Duckworth: London

Hodder, I. 1982 The Present Past. B.T. Batsford Ltd: London.

Hodder, I. 1986 Reading the Past. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Review of ‘Our People’ Series

‘People of the Murray’ by Anne Bickford, 1982, Sydney: Methuen, ISBN 0-454-00351-X
‘The Tasmanians’ by Sandra Bowdler, 1982, Sydney: Methuen, ISBN 0-454-000353-6
‘People of the Sydney Coast’ by Federick McCarthy, 1982, Sydney: Methuen, ISBN 0-454-000349-8
‘People of the Lakes’ by Majorie Sullivan, 1982, Sydney: Collins, ISBN 0-454-000352-8
‘The Peopling of Australia’ by Percy Tresize, 1987, Sydney: Collins, ISBN 0-7322-7223-8
‘The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia’, by Australia’s Aboriginal Children, 1977, Adelaide: Rigby, ISBN 0-7270-0236-8
‘Exploring Ancient Australia’ by Wade Hughes, 1988, Sydney: Horwitz Grahame, ISBN 0-7253-0938-2
‘The First Australians’ by David Corke, 1985, Melbourne: Nelson, ISBN 0-17-00-6549-9
‘Peoples of Australia: The Aborigines’ by Howard Groome, 1981, Sydney: Hodder Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-26603-1
‘ Before the Invasion: Aboriginal Life to 1788’ by Colin Bourke, Colin Johnson and Isobel White, 1980, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-550589-9

Review by Anne Skates

This is a selection of children’s books that deal primarily with Aboriginal prehistory. It is by no means exhaustive, but I think it is representative. Many of the books also contain material on contemporary Aboriginal Australia. A few general notes need to be made here. When assessing children’s books (or any books for that matter) writing, illustration, design and general expertise need to be taken into account. It seems that the major emphasis of non-fiction books for children is in he illustration and design area. It is in the area of really good and careful writing that many books fail to come up to standard. The poor writing standard is reflected in inappropriate language levels and careless scholarship. There seems to be an attitude that good writing is not really necessary and rigour in factual writing not a major concern in children’s books. There are of course notable exceptions.

The Our People series is a good example of material produced with an understanding of children’s needs and an ability to communicate ideas and information on Aboriginal history in a positive and authorative way. These books were compiled with the assistance of the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group. There are four books in the series, three of which look at areas of New South Wales, and one on Tasmania. The iIIustrations are comprehensive and informative and enhance the clear and unambiguous text. The books, by concentrating on south eastern Australia, have helped to fill a gap that has existed in this area of Australia.

Another recommended book is Percy Trezise’s The Peopling of Australia. The wonderful illustrations give a rich and varied picture of the changing continent of Australia from the Gondwanan period, through Ice Ages, extinct megafauna, Aboriginal arrival in Australia and their long occupation here through to the arrival of the ‘First Fleet’.

However this book, like most of the ones viewed, falls down in the area of language. It is unnecessary to use words like ‘verdant’, ‘utilise’ and ‘abundance’ when ‘green/leafy’, ‘use’ and ‘plenty’ can do just as well, and the use of the term ‘race memory’? Is the author referring to oral history or does he mean the knowledge of past volcanoes has been handed down in some other way? A difficulty many authors have is with the use of the term ‘animals and birds’. Most often the author means mammals when the term ‘animal’ is used. This sloppy use of this term when birds are clearly animals is just another indication of lack of care when writing children’s books.

A further concern in the text of this book, as with others, is the distortion of geological time. In an effort to make it simple writers lose the sense of vastness and make Ice Ages and the geological consequences of them seem like events that occur overnight

Aboriginal Cl1ildren·s History of Australia is a delightful book sponsored by the Aboriginal Arts Board. It is beautifully illustrated with clear, simply written text. It was written and illustrated by Aboriginal children from all over Australia and reflects an Aboriginal perspective of Australian history from the remote past to the present.

The following four books have a more traditional ‘text book’ approach In their layout. They present the material in chapters which look at Aboriginal origins from both an archaeological perspective and some Aboriginal explanations of their origins. They are more suited to older readers.

Exploring Ancient Australia by Wade Hughes has too many errors and makes too many sweeping statements and generalisations to be taken seriously as a book to recommend to children. It starts badly with an inaccurate time chart of early history which confuses the major eras with the periods and misses out on Oligocene and Miocene altogether! The first sections look at Earth history from its beginnings and fits Australia into this. From page 40 we have suggestions about the ancestors of Aboriginal people arriving In Australia. It is written as a dramatic and speculative account. The book then looks at early vegetation and the fossil record. Again this is outside the scope of this review until we return to Aboriginal people hunting large animals that are now extinct. It is here that ‘Stone Age people’ and ‘primitive’ are introduced, and a page is spent speculating about why Aboriginal people didn’t become the world’s first major sea-power. The book is trying to build up a positive picture of Aboriginal adaptation to diverse environments but in the effort to provide the broad sweep It produces details which say the ‘young men roamed ahead of the main group, hunting larger animals like kangaroos. The women followed behind … ‘. It seems to deny that women independently went out on food collecting trips, not tagging behind young men as is implied here. It may not have been the author’s intention to give that impression but, if not, it is another indication of careless writing in books written for children.

Chapter 8 looks at the beginning of archaeology in Australia. The flippant writing style pokes fun at some of the earliest dates. ‘Five thousand years was popular for a while. Then 10,000. Someone came up with 15,000.’ Here was an opportunity to explain the process of dating and to give people some idea about the increasing information that the archaeological record has revealed within recent years but the author has chosen to use a light hearted style to almost ridicule the earlier proposed dates. However the writer goes on to promote a positive picture of archaeological endeavours in Australia so one can only suggest that the writing style helps form these inappropriate impressions. Given the numerous Inaccuracies a further disturbing point made at the end of the book is that the Australian Museum has been cited as the source of ‘expert advice’ used by the author.

By comparison the remaining books under review look wonderful. They all suffer from similar problems encountered by many authors trying to write books for the younger reader, but the texts are much tighter and more factual.

The First Australians, Peoples of Australia: The Aborigines and Before the Invasion all begin by looking at Aboriginal Dreaming explanations for human origins In Australia and a discussion of the archaeological record and the possible migration routes taken by ancestors of present day Aboriginal people.

Bourke, Johnson and White have written In a easy to read, almost conversational style, amply illustrated with drawings, maps and photographs. The book titled Before the Invasion, doesn’t really allow the authors room to imply continuity into the present and it is written in the past tense. This could lead to the impression that Aboriginal life was so radically changed at the point of invasion that nothing carried into the period after 1778, a conclusion which the authors would not want the young reader to draw. Despite this however, the book is recommended as both its style and presentation make it very accessible to children at primary level and as an introduction at the secondary school level.

The Aborigines (part of the Peoples of Australia series) is a small book written in a conversational narrative style. Of some concern are generalisations used such as ‘Wherever they lived all Aboriginal people were hunters of kangaroos, emus, lizards, and other meat, and gatherers of seeds, berries, roots and fruit’ (p.8). The author over-uses the term ‘tribal’ referring to tribal children, tribal Aborigines and tribal country, for example. On page 17 is a careless oversight by not putting ‘savage’ in inverted commas and ‘white man’s (sic) diseases’ reflects a careless use of English in the use of sexist terms.

The First Australians relies heavily on Josephine Flood’s Archaeology of the Dreamtime. It devotes more time to the archaeological evidence than the other books cited and introduces the idea of Australia being inhabited by both ‘gracile’ and ‘robust’ ancestors of Aboriginal people. The book comprehensively describes and illustrates the archaeological record. Ample photographs, charts and location maps help in the interpretation of data.

The author spends some time explaining archaeology and the work of archaeologists. The explanation of Aboriginal origins through the archaeological record is slightly counterbalanced by Aboriginal accounts of their origins from Arnhem Land. However the major emphasis is on prehistory from the archaeological evidence.

The book is very informative and tends to be a bit dense at times in an effort to convey an enormous amount of material. Although it makes some effort to explain the terminology when it is introduced there are many times when the text could be much simpler.

If it seems that I have been unduly pedantic about the texts it is because the examples cited were unfortunately very common. All the books tended to be well illustrated with attractive layouts. This is not enough. The accuracy of the text, the writing style and the choice of layout of other data should be as attractive and accessible to children as the illustrations. Language is a very powerful part of culture. It conveys strong ideas and images. It is especially important in writing about Aboriginal or any other people because careless use of language can convey unwanted and negative messages which may not be the author’s intention.

Review of ‘Prehistory and Heritage: The Writings of John Mulvaney’ by D.J. Mulvaney

‘Prehistory and Heritage: The Writings of John Mulvaney’ by D.J. Mulvaney, 1990, Occasional Papers in Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, the Australian National University, Canberra, ISBN 0-7315-1010-0 (pbk)

Review by R. J. Lampert

The recycling under a different guise of works published long ago is not without precedent. Recently I read J. Bronowski’s William Blake and the age of revolution and learned with some surprise towards the end that the book was simply a reprint of an earlier work by the author entitled William Blake to which a different Introduction had been added. Other examples that spring to mind include several repetitious papers by R.H. Mathews scattered widely among a number of, often obscure, journals.

Motives for republication are usually either to bring up to date a work which has become rather flaccid through advances in its subject matter, or to provide sought-after material that is not easily available, usually because it has gone out of print. While the latter motive is applicable to the work under review it is not the main reason. John Mulvaney, ever the historian of Australian prehistory, has assembled a selection of his writings that span four decades and reflect on various stages in his development as a prehistorian, providing not only a retrospective overview of his own career but also a commentary on how prehistory has progressed in Australia. In selecting the 44 articles presented, the author gives priority to those that explore issues and ideas. There are a few regional research syntheses, but detailed excavation reports are excluded. The articles are arranges thematically into six sections, each introduced by the author with a page or so of comments arising from his present day views on the material. Except for the omission of some illustrations the writings themselves have not been modified from their original form. To give some idea of their range I will briefly describe a couple of papers from each section.

Australian Prehistory, the first section, contains ‘The Stone Age of Australia’ (1961), a remarkable paper that explored and assessed a diffuse collection of early writings by amateur and professional field workers and by other commentators. It was the first major synthesis of Australian prehistory and marked a watershed between the days of such early battlers as Davidson, McCarthy, Mitchell, Gill and Tindale, and a newer generation of archaeologists who were beginning to fill academic positions in the early 1960s. Also in this section are two short papers I had not seen before. ‘Why Dig up the Past?’ and ‘A New lime Machine’, both written for general consumption during student days at Cambridge in 1952. Though introduced rather apologetically by the author, they are very well written pieces of popular science, displaying a freshness and enthusiasm that many later papers lack. Notable among other papers in this section is ‘Archaeology in Sulawesi, Indonesia’ (1970). Co-authored by R.P. Soejono, this reports on a joint Australian/Indonesian expedition to Sulawesi aimed at discovering early cultural links between Australia and lands to the north, a topic always of interest to archaeologists but quite an obsession in those days.

Reflections on the human past, the second section, contains another paper exploring past links with Indonesia. In ‘Beche-de-mer, Aborigines and Australian History’ (1966), Mulvaney looks at a combination of archaeological and historical evidence for visits by Macassan trepang fishermen to Australia’s north coast, a topic studied in detail later on by his student Campbell Macknight. An historian before becoming a prehistorian. Mulvaney always writes with particular confidence and authority when combining the two kinds of evidence, as a number of later papers in the volume demonstrate clearly. Changing views of Aboriginal culture, from Dampier to the present day, and their relationship to more general developments in social theory are discussed in ‘Discovering Man’s Place in Nature’ (1971). This is a paper that withstands well the test of time, being as enlightening to read now as it was when written. ‘What Future Our Past? Archaeology and Society in the Eighties’ (1981) on the other hand fails to enthrall today because, after the requisite historical introduction, it merely describes a stage in developments a decade or so age (eg the new Shepparton Keeping Place, the proposed Gallery of Aboriginal Australia, the recently assembled Register of the National Estate); all of it yesterday’s news, overtaken by more recent events but not yet old enough or sufficiently digested intellectually to be interesting as history, even though such withering broadsides as ‘… a plethora of moral superiority and surficial scholarship’ aimed at certain academic writings of the time may still be relevant.

The two sections that follow, Archaeological History and Anthropological History, have titles that indicate the historical perspective of the papers they contain. ‘Research into the Prehistory of Victoria: a criticism and a report on a field survey’ (1957), the earliest field report by the author, describes a time when the landscape was dominated more by implement collectors than by archaeologists. The limitations this placed on site interpretation are described graphically with appropriate expressions of disgust. ‘Prehistory from Antipodean Perspectives’ (1977) is one of a number of papers, appearing at intervals of a few years, that sum up the state of play in Australian prehistory at the time of writing. Placed together in one volume, much of the material they contain seems unnecessarily repetitive but this would not have been the case when read as originally intended. In this example the material has been selected to illustrate the essay’s main purpose, to honour Grahame Clark as long-time editor of Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. It concludes by developing further the theme of an earlier paper ‘Discovering Man’s Place in Nature’, by weighing views on Aboriginal society at various times against changes in ethnic and philosophical thinking.

‘The Anthropologist as Tribal Elder’ (1970) uses hitherto unpublished letters and notes to document attempts by A. W. Howitt to persuade partly-Europeanised Aborigines in late 19th century Victoria to re-enact a ceremony that had not been performed regularly for several decades. Accrediting Howitt the status of tribal elder seems a little far-fetched, particularly when one reads how he had deceived some of the older men by showing them a bogus bull-roarer, thereby claiming, falsely, to have acquired the secret knowledge enabling him to promote and witness the ceremony. But of course it was all for that noblest of reasons, the pursuit of science.

A better balanced and more penetrating account of Howitt’s contribution to anthropology follows in ‘The Ascent of Aboriginal Man: Howitt as Anthropologist’ (1971). This not only recounts Howitt’s own development – from initial contempt of Aboriginal society, to sympathetic paternalism, leading eventually to zealous interest which inspired the compilation of a vast, unique ethnography – but also evaluates his work both at the level of intellectual standards of his time and in the light of comments by later anthropologists. It is a paper in which Mulvaney displays well the breadth of his historical scholarship.

Section V, entitled Heritage and Conservation, is made up of papers intended to raise levels of national consciousness in both the value of cultural heritage and the need to preserve its material remains. ‘The Aboriginal Heritage’ (1981), written when the author was a commissioner of the Australian Heritage Commission, is a general survey aimed at showing the range of heritage material for inclusion in the Register of the National estate. While admitting that ‘The Proposed Gallery of Aboriginal Australia’ (1978) says many of the right things, I find it a less stimulating guide to the development of such a gallery than Stanner’s ‘Gallery of Southern Man for Canberra’ (1966). Even though many of his ideas are outdated, Stanner has the clarity and enthusiasm of individual vision, whereas Mulvaney echoes the rather dull consensus views of a planning committee trying to be all things to all men. In a national project of such exciting possibilities, where is the passion that uplifts the public imagination and guides the hands of politicians to the public purse? Perhaps it is as well that the gallery did not eventuate then. We might have ended up with something like the so-called National Gallery, poor cousin of the older state galleries and safe house for senior bureaucrats, where the visitor is impressed not so much by the exhibits as the range of heritage industry products sold in its shop and the vogue decor of its restaurant; that is, if not already overwhelmed, as the collections are, by a building of brutal massiveness that seems designed more for the aggrandizement of central government than the display of exhibits.

In the book’s final section, Letters on Heritage Themes, we read letters that provide a more lightly targeted defence of specific heritage matters: a letter to the Times (1977) berating cricket historians for ignoring the Aboriginal team which toured England in 1868; another to the Senate Select Committee on Southwest Tasmania (1981) lucidly arguing the archaeological importance of the Gordon-Franklin region, then threatened by inundation. The letters make a fitting conclusion to the collected works of a man noted not only as a pioneering archaeologist and sound scholar, but also as a tireless campaigner on behalf of Australia’s cultural heritage.

Even if you have read most of the papers before in their earlier incarnation, having them together in one volume can be useful. Adding to the value are the more recent, and often revealing, introductory comments by the author. Then there are the photographs – I have deliberately left the best bit until last – showing Mulvaney excavating at Fromms Landing (1958), at Kenniff Cave (1962) and at Ingaladdi (1966), guiding Francois Bordes and Lewis Binford around Mungo in 1974 and, most fascinating of all, standing deferentially to the right and one pace behind his mentor Charles McBurney in the Libyan desert in 1952, both men wearing World War II army surplus desert clothes including bombay bloomers. All who are interested in the history of our subject will find the book of value.

Review of ‘The Uses of Style in Archaeology’ edited by Margaret W. Conkey and Christine A. Hastorf

front.tif‘The Uses of Style in Archaeology’ edited by Margaret W. Conkey and Christine A. Hastorf, 1990, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 124 pp. ISBN 0-521-35061-1 (hbk)

Review by Robert G. Bednarik

The volume edited by Conkey and Hastorf is a result of a small weekend conference held at the University of Minnesota in 1985. It contains five papers by conference participants, as well as four solicited chapters providing additional views on the subject. They are preceded by a brief introduction by the editors, and the last chapter, by Wiessner, is a commentary summing up aspects of the preceding chapters that seem to relate to her own work.

A significant development in archaeology has been the realisation, during recent decades, that style, traditionally seen as an analytical tool of the discipline, also determines the way archaeology is conducted. Archaeology is generally about style, the perceived styles of artefacts, or of archaeologically perceived classes of data generally. Yet most archaeologists seem unaware of the fundamental dual role of style in their field of study, and of the effects of not adequately differentiating between the different concepts of style. On the one hand, style is perceived by the investigator, who manipulates apparent stylistic variables in order to determine what may have constituted a style, or, as Weissner suggests in this volume, what was communicated in the past – the purpose usually being to reveal social or cultural units in the archaeological record. On the other hand, there is style as an aspect of the cultural dynamics of a living society. This book is a timely and most welcome attempt to untangle the perceptions of the roles of style in archaeology.

Conkey’s competent exposition of the historical and theoretical issues of experimenting with style establishes a useful baseline for the book, but one which most authors fail to refer to effectively. Her perceptive analysis of the shortcomings of the New Archaeology is as clear as her academic candour (in admitting the accommodative nature of her own adaptationist thinking of some years ago) is impressive.

Davis, appropriately, offers an art-historical perspective, expressing a preference for descriptive flexibility to the check-list approach of the materialist archaeologist, and rejects perceived correlation between stylistic description and archaeological entities. The ‘happy ambiguity’ of style is also supported by Sackett, who presents a re-appraisal of his earlier concepts of isochrestic style. His dialectic with Binford remains unresolved, but the debate with Wiessner has led to constructive re-examination on both sides.

Among the difficulties to contend with are the definitions of style by specialists of differing inclinations and preoccupations. Hodder’s definition, ‘a way of doing’, seems of little help in this book, irrespective of its actual merits. It merely provides for Wiessner the opportunity to note that such a definition would embrace all behaviour and thus be meaningless. Hodder does indeed include genetically encoded forms of plant life (one might presume that plants lack the ability to ‘do’ things), so his concept of style differs significantly from that of other contributors. Since he is basically right in crediting the use of a scientific style of discourse with revealing archaeology’s lack of scientific status, it would have been of benefit to archaeologists if he had presented his model in terms of the dual role of style as perceived by the editors.

Four case studies follow. Macdonald presents a multi-level analysis of mortuary data from two American Plains groups. Plog addresses stylistic variation (as he perceives it) in pottery from the American Southwest, using materialist statistics. Earle sets out to demonstrate how style and iconography can be applied to legitimising systems of political control in complex chiefdoms, such as those of Hawaii and of the Olmec. Most of this is good, solid American empiricism and confirmationism.

De Boer presents a most informative contextual case study of stylistic variability, which more than any contribution in this volume provides a glimpse of the true complexities of style. His analysis of the ontogenic, social, skill-related, functional, structural and genealogical aspects of Shipibo-Conibo art (northeastern Peru) is both authoritative and highly pertinent. The production of this geometric art is the exclusive preserve of females (by the age of 10, males pretend almost complete ignorance about the world of art), and it appears to be broadly emblemic. However, the style is at the same time ‘assertive’, in Wiessner’s sense, with stylistic variations being attributable to factors such as striving for individual identity as a result of unsatisfactory relationships within family units: ‘learning may lead to similarity or difference, depending on context’.

Finally, Wiessner poses the question. ‘Is there a unity in style?’ Her ethnologically derived ’emblemic’ and ‘assertive’ styles are archaeologically ineffective concepts. Not only can ethnographically accessible styles have both functions at the same time, how would the archaeologist decide into which of her categories an archaeologically derived (ie merely postulated, not demonstrated) stylistic class fails? Wiessner, like Sackett, still seems to cling to a belief that archaeology can reliably locate ethnicity.

This volume demonstrates the existence of a healthy pluralism on the subject it seeks to explore, while providing comparatively little actual progress. The reader is left with the impressions that there are as many concepts of what style is, as there are writers; that the ‘reliable’ detection of style in archaeology is a subject from which it is best to steer clear if at all possible; and that one will meet vigorous opposition with whatever one decides to say about style. The book’s major omission is its total neglect of ‘prehistoric’ rock art (apart from a very brief reference in a footnote). After all, it is in the field of rock art studies that the ambiguity of stylistic analyses has been perceived most clearly, and that the most decisive measures to escape the gravitational pull of style have been taken. Leading protagonists now speak of a ‘post-stylistic’ era of rock art studies (Lorblanchet 1990:20). Surely when a discipline that had been almost synonymous with stylistic taxonomisation unceremoniously discards style, it would be timely for archaeologists to consider the reasons. It is the book’s silence on this subject that renders the volume essentially superseded.


Lorblanchet, M. 1990 The archaeological significance of the results of pigment analyses in Quercy caves. Rock Art Research 7:19-20.

Review of ‘Marine Molluscan Remains from Franchthi Cave’ by Judith C. Shackleton

‘Marine Molluscan Remains from Franchthi Cave’ by Judith C. Shackleton, 1988, Indiana University Press, x + 194 pp. ISBN 0-253-31976-5 (pbk)

Review by Moya Smith

This is one of a series of five fascicles dealing with the results of Indiana University’s excavations at Franchthi Cave in the southern Argolid, Greece, between 1967 and 1976. The other fascicles include maps, plans and sections of the excavated areas, and accounts of the landscape and people of the region as well as of the lithic industries.

This fascicle includes two separate reports. First is Judith Shackleton’s extremely detailed description and analysis of molluscan remains from excavations in the cave itself and from the nearby shore (Paralia). This section has eight chapters, five appendices (A-E), 20 figures and 19 tables. Of this, the actual text numbers about 50 pages. Following this is Margaret Deith’s and Nicholas Shackleton’s report on oxygen isotope analyses and the implications for determining seasonality. This continues as Chapter 9, with Appendix F, 10 figures, two tables, and three plates. Text numbers 12 pages. The bibliography is a joint one, and despite the publication date does not include recent articles on the same subject by Shackleton or Deith.

Before assessing the usefulness of this publication for archaeologists working in Australia I will briefly describe the contents of the two reports.

Judith Shackleton’s Introduction, provides the background to her involvement in the research project and gives an overview of the geographical setting, plans of the sites, comments about the value of water-sieving for retrieval of molluscs (expanded in Appendix A), and the difficulties of identifying archaeological marine shell to species level. An irritating feature of this otherwise lucid introduction is the site plan. This shows the location of the trenches from which her samples derived, four in Franchthi cave itself and four, or is it five? (there is some discrepancy between map and text), on the Paralia, some 12.5 m lower than the cave and 55 m NNW. However, if you want detailed plans and sections of the excavated areas, you will have to locate Fascicle 1 in the series (Jacobsen and Farrand 1987), which presumably also contains some information about precisely what the excavation ‘units’ are. I suppose the minor irritation or inconvenience these omissions create is reduced to proper perspective by accepting both editorial comment and author’s stress on the fact that this is not so much an archaeological treatise, but a bioarchaeologlcal analysis, presented as ‘a discrete entity’ because of the demands of ‘publication policy’ (p.4).

The second chapter presents the ‘zonation’ of the shells from the cave trenches. Shell is present from c. 26,000 BP, introduced by ‘natural factors’ (p.13), while human use of shellfish, predominantly as food, is evident from the Late Upper Palaeolithic, after 11,000 BP, through to the ceramic Neolithic. Five shell use zones are defined according to numbers and percentages of species occurrence:

Zone 0: 26,000 BP – 11,000 BP no indication of human use of molluscs.

Zone I: 11,000 BP – 9400 BP, Patella (limpet), Monodonta and Gibbula (trochids); late Upper Palaeolithic

Zone II: 9400 BP – 8500 BP, CycJope (gastropods); Lower Mesolithic and much of the Upper Mesolithic

Zone III: 8500 BP – 6900 BP, Cerithium (gastropods); end of Upper Mesolithic, Final Mesolithic, Aceramic Neolithic

Zone IV: 6900 BP – 5000 BP, Cerastoderma, Tapes, Donax, Donacilla (bivalves); Ceramic Neolithic.

Of interest is ‘that the marked change seen in material such as animal bones and botanical remains signaling the transition from Mesolithic to Neolithic is not observed in the marine molluscan sequence’ (p.20). The fluctuations in species occurrence in each trench, or profiles of ‘marine molluscan zonation’ (p.14) are clearly portrayed in Figures 3 to 6, and include the now-common but still desirable, convention of line drawings of the shell species.

What lifts this publication above prosaic lists of data comes in the ensuing chapters. In Chapter 3 Shackleton discusses the habitats of the Franchthi molluscs. Chapter 4 contains reconstruction of previous shorelines and attendant marine environments, with all the implications this has for resource availability and potential resource scheduling. Five periods were chosen for reconstruction: 18,000 BP; 11,000 BP; 9500 BP; 8OOO BP and 5000 BP; the first, midway through the zone of non-humanly derived shell, the last four, representing the different zones of molluscan remains. The maps are taken as representing an age range rather than a precise date. My only quibble with the maps representing this data is that the key/legend is only printed on the map depicting the current shoreline (Fig.8) and for Figures 9 to 13 this entails constantly flicking backwards for reference.

Following this outline of available habitats, Chapter 5 juxtaposes habitats of shellfish from the excavations against available habitats through time, raising the notion of ‘perceived edibility’ (p.41) s an explanation for some variation in exploitation patterns. This is expanded in Chapter 6 with discussion/comments of gathering techniques for different shellfish, and the role of shellfish in the diet both nutritionally and seasonally. In addition there is the valuable Table 3 (p.44) ‘Simplified Habitat Information for Marine Molluscs to Show Ease of Collection’. Chapter 8, the Epilogue ‘intentionally not headed “Conclusions”, (p.55) summarises the potential of analysis of marine shell assemblages. The bulk of shell data is summarised in table form in Appendix C, presenting for each trench, according to unit, the percentages of the nine principal groups of species, and including the number of specimens in each excavated unit.

Chapter 7, combined with the 31 pages of Appendix D (Cerastoderma bead making in Trench LS) and E (catalogue of worked shell from Franchthi cave), deals with the non-food or ‘non-utilitarian’ shell from Franchthi Cave. After comments about using the word ‘worked’ in the text, it is disconcerting to see it in the Appendix E title. In a sense I felt that the whole of Chapter 7 could have been included in Appendix E, with perhaps a brief covering comment in the Introduction, since it sits a little awkwardly with the analysis of past and present habitats and patterns of shellfish gathering.

Deith and Shackleton’s report of oxygen isotope analysis of Franchthi Cave marine molluscs follows as Chapter 9. This describes the principles of oxygen isotope analysis, sampling strategy, the comparative data from analysis of modern samples, problems in interpreting archaeological shells, and finally the seasonal implications of the research. The isotopic profiles of 119 samples are located in Appendix 4, and Table 6 indicates their position according to season and period (eg Upper Mesolithic). Table 5 lists the numbers of shell species analyzed according to trench and excavation unit. The small sample size (p.120) prevents the application of statistical analyses, but does act as positive indication of human presence in the cave. Unfortunately there is no information for the period before 10,500 BP due to problems of suitability of shell for analysis, however, the apparent seasonal patterning is interesting, especially when used in conjunction with botanical and faunal assemblages. In the case of the Lower Mesolithic, shellfish are the only indicators of human presence during winter.

What use are these reports for Australian archaeologists? The actual data, for example, details of zonation of shell species, presence of worked beads, seasonal use of the site etc. are perhaps not terribly relevant to an Australian audience. What is both instructive and emulatable are the depths of published detail and the potential application of these methods in an Australian context.

The main guides for archaeologists beginning work with shell remains and/or middens in Australia, remain Bowdler (1983) and Meehan (1982). Several points from the Franchthi cave report could usefully be added to these. Judith Shackleton presents an instructive example of the archaeological potential of analysis of (64.000) marine molluscs, and argues convincingly the benefits of water sieving for enhanced retrieval of material. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this work is the reconstruction of past shorelines and past molluscan habitats juxtaposed against habitats of the molluscan assemblage from Franchthi cave. While it is not always easy to obtain this type of environmental data, its application in this case provides a stimulus to attempt the same elsewhere. The discussion about species habitat goes further than simply listing ‘sandy substrate’ or ‘rocky shores’ (pp.23-4) and redresses the ‘curious absence in the literature of what might have been involved in the collection of species of shellfish found at archaeological sites’ (p.43). It is also gratifying for Australianists to note that some of Shackleton’s inspiration came from Meehan (1977; 1982). This model of reconstructed shorelines, which is arguably the most interesting aspect of Judith Shackleton’s section of this publication, has been published elsewhere (Shackleton 1988) though concentrating on only one of the cave trenches. I would suggest that if you’ve got the article you don’t really need to read the publication. However, if you are interested in the data bank itself, then the publication is invaluable.

Much the same argument applies to Deith and Shackleton’s oxygen isotope analysis. Their report has a well written appraisal of the technique which could bear reading if you’re interested in the field, and the body of data in the form of the oxygen isotope profiles is available if you wish to pursue issues specific to this site. Certainly the possibility of identifying seasonal patterns in shellfish exploitation is an exciting one, and this excitement is transmitted by Deith and Shackleton despite their warnings about the limitations of the technique.

Essentially this publication should probably not be read as a separate volume. It is part of a classic excavation report in the Grand European Manner, its main aim to make vast amounts of data publicly accessible. While at the time this report was published no-one had integrated all the data, at least it is in the public domain. The report should be interesting to those working in molluscan material though one would be more inclined to borrow it from a research library than rush out and purchase it. Shackleton’s and Deith’s 1988 articles probably provide a more easily available overview of the themes in this publication which are most relevant for Australian archaeologists.


Bowdler, S. 1983 Sieving seashells: midden analysis in Australian archaeology. In G. Connah (ed.), Australian Field Archaeology: A Guide to Techniques, pp.135-44. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies: Canberra.

Deith. M.R. 1988 Shell seasonality: an appraisal of the oxygen isotope technique. In R. Esmee Webb (ed.). Recent Developments In Environmental Analysis In Old and New World Archaeology, pp.37-49. British Archaeological Reports: Oxford.

Jacobsen. T.W. and W.R. Farrand 1987 Franchthl Cave and Paralla: Maps, Plans and Sections. (Excavations at Franchthi Cave. Greece, T.W. Jacobsen. general editor.) Indiana University Press: Bloomington and Indianapolis.

Meehan. B. 1977 Man does not live by calories alone: the role of shellfish in a coastal cuisine. In J.Allen. J. Golson and R. Jones (eds). Sunda and Sahul: Prehistoric Studies In Southeast Asia, Melanesia and Australia, pp.493-531. Academic Press: London.

Meehan. B. 1982 Shell Bed to Shell Midden. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies: Canberra.

Shackleton, J.C. 1988 Reconstructing past shorelines as an approach to determining factors affecting shellfish collecting in the prehistoric past. In G.Bailey and J. Parkington (eds), The Archaeology of Prehlstorlc Coastlines, pp.11-21. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Review of ‘Documentary Archaeology in the New World’ edited by Mary V. Beaudry

‘Documentary Archaeology in the New World’ edited by Mary V. Beaudry, 1988, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521-3033435 (hbk)

Review by Tim Murray

Twenty volumes in this series and things show no sign of letting up. By now we are quite used to the high price and the uneven intelletual product, nonetheless it is still worth remarking that the series could be cheaper (without sacrificing quality), and that editorial control should be more consistently exercised, But why go on about it? The volumes in this series provide a window onto the concerns of contemporary archaeology unmatched by any other publisher. Best of all, the expanded editorial board is doing its job and enlarging the catchment of volumes away from the traditional sources at Cambridge and its academic colonies.

This book is a case in point. Apart from being the only volume in the series specifically concerned with some of the core issues of 18th and 19th century historical archaeology, its authors all reside in the United States, that powerhouse of historical archaeology. All this might only be a passing fascination if it were not for the fact that contextual archaeology of the structuralist / structural Marxist / post structuralist / hermeneutical / postmodern kind (ie the work of Hodder, Leone, Miller and TIlley – to name a few) has, in large measure, been derived from the efforts of North American historical archaeologists such as Deetz and Glassie. Given the multiplicity of data bases – what Schuyler once misleadingly called ‘the spoken work, the written word, observed behaviour, preserved behaviours’ historical archaeologists have set sail to explore many elements of a theory of material culture that have for so long eluded their prehistoric colleagues. One need only turn to pathbreaking investigations of ethnicity and status/class representations such as Deagan’s work at Spanish St. Augustine and Geismar’s study of Skunk Hollow to see why.

This volume contains a number of papers which continue this process. Lag time for ‘technology transfer’ notwithstanding, we should see their incorporation into the contextualist prehistoric agendum in the not too distant future – albeit with a much reduced empirical content and much increased posturing about principles. But then most of the papers in the volume are feisty and frankly unapologetic – a welcome change from the usual behaviour of historical archaeologists cringingly looking for attention from either historians or ‘proper’ (prehistoric) archaeologists and begging to be taken seriously. Most historical archaeologists would have had the experience of being patronised by one (or both) group or other and of resenting it hugely.

You can feel the increased sense of self-confidence in Beaudry’s Introduction, when the usual obsession about uncharitable behaviour by historians and prehistoric archaeologists is given a fresh twist. Beaudry dispenses with past fears by convincingly staking out the need for distinctive methodologies and research strategies. Whilst I disagree that these differences are of a sufficient order to justify historical archaeology assuming the mantle of a discipline, she is right enough that crucial distinctions do exist.

The following seventeen papers (count them) are divided into four parts. Part I: Archaeology is not enough (5 papers); Part II: Documents and the archaeologist: the data base (7 papers); Part III: Ecological questions in historical archaeology (2 papers); Part IV: Consumerism, status, gender and ethnicity (3 papers). Clearly I am not going to be able to do justice to them all, but I want to make some general points and exemplify them in terms of several of the papers.

The first thing to note (apart from the feisty tone of the volume) is that Beaudry and her authors are absolutely convinced that historical archaeologists must find a way of using documentary evidence more effectively – in other words to maximise what they consider to be the significant advantage of the field. Hence the argument that archaeology is not enough. Yet the examples presented here (especially Anne Yentsch’s paper on Massachusetts farmhouses) tend to go the other way – in demonstrating the primacy of the written document, because of its supposedly greater information content. This is not the place for a thunderbolt against incipient positivism (never far from the postmodern psyche), but one is simply left with the question: why excavate the bloody stuff if the answers are in the written documents or the oral histories?

I see little understanding here that the material record is another way of telling and that these data require deep consideration when framing questions and research designs. Nonetheless the kernel of advice offered to the reader, that source criticism is important because written documents and people do not always tell the truth (and what is truth anyway?), was probably worth hearing again.

The second thing to note is that in the better papers (Beaudry’s own ‘Words for things: linguistic analysis of probate inventories’) we really are given the basis of a genuine integration of the written document, oral history and material culture in a way which grants real insight into folk taxonomies and the comparison of those taxonomies with the material record. Certainly the age-old hassles with establishing context of discard (a kind of archaeologists’ source criticism) took on a more rosy aspect!

Another paper, Kathleen Bragdon’s ‘The material culture of the Christian Indians in New England 1650-1775’, exemplified this approach through the use of probate inventories to establish the extent to which what she calls acculturative influences began to structure the material lives of native New Englanders. This kind of approach to contact archaeology would appear to have real potential for investigating the material characterization of Aboriginality in post-contact times – especially in the south east of Australia.

The third point is the demonstrated primacy of the probate inventory itself. Without the inventory the vast bulk of what we consider to be points of access to emic categorisation (by extension, access to Plog’s palaeo-ideology) would simply be lost. Nonetheless such documents, and the ease of their translation into the status of decoders of the emic, should be utilised alongside a deep understanding of the ways in which such documents would have been ‘read’ by the people involved. Mind you, this process affects some sacred cows, such as the concept of seasonality. Joanne Bowen’s paper (Chapter 14) presents a delightful cautionary tale about the need to research patterning in faunal assemblages in terms of market documents and account books.

The final point is that the feistiness and chauvinism are, in the end, probably pretty well founded. Experience has been a great teacher and the earlier (over-optimistic) studies on the archaeology of ethnicity have been replaced with a more measured, programmatic, exploration of dominant material culture as a standard against which to observe anomalies which may be the result of ethnicity in action. I admired the candour Praetzellis, Praetzellis and Brown (Chapter 17) managed to inject into their wide-ranging discussion of urban archaeology.

This is a big volume full of bits and pieces to delight, instruct and to irritate. The message is direct, perhaps not filled with the startling insights the authors seem to want to claim, but well and truly exemplified. It should be compulsory reading for all archaeologists, but more than likely it will do its best service as a reminder to local historical archaeologists that the world did not stop with the publication of South’s Research Strategies in Historical Anthropology, and that they should stop apologising.

Review of ‘Social Theory and Archaeology’ by M Shanks and C. Tilley

Gosden Book Review Cover 1991‘Social Theory and Archaeology’ by M Shanks and C. Tilley, 1987, Oxfird: Polity Press, ISBN 0-7456-0184-7 (pbk)

Review by Bruno David

Shanks’ and Tilley’s Social Theory and Archaeology is at once a wonderful treasury of important archaeological thought and a contorted mish-mash of what Clegg (in press) would call gobbledegook. By this I mean that amongst the clatter of unnecessary jargon are some fascinating discussions on archaeologically important issues dealing with time, individuals, the politics of archaeology and social stability and change. Central to Shanks’ and Tilley’s argument is the notion that Western understandings of these concepts are not universal but particular to today’s outlook on life in Western societies.

Perhaps the central theme to re-appear throughout the book is that archaeology is a social endeavour. It is a statement of a way of looking (and re-creating) the past. As such, archaeology is a mediation – it is not an absolute entity frozen in space and time, but involves a relationship between observers (archaeologists who act within particular social frameworks) and observed (the things and ideas we analyse). The games archaeologists play, the conclusions we come up with, are not inevitable nor are they absolute – in other words, as perceptions and values change, so do our perceptions of the past. Re-creating the past is indeed a creation of the past operationalised through the value-system(s) of the present. As such, archaeology is inherently political, and Shanks and Tilley repeatedly stress that our first role as archaeologists should be to acknowledge this. Archaeology, therefore, should be consciously used towards the creation of a social consciousness.

The strengths of the book are composite. In Chapter 1 (Theory and Method in Archaeology), for instance, the points are made that the theory of archaeology is not separate from its practice, as the methods we employ are a statement of what we should and should not do. As such, the past that we recreate through the material record and our epistemological frameworks are created, written texts which express as much about today’s views of the past, as they do of the past itself (in the sense of Foucault’s, [1982] document). In this way archaeology is at once theoretical, social, political and autobiographical (pp. 25-6). And as reconstructions of the past are dependent on socio-cultural ways of perceiving reality (the concept of the past being an element in this reality), no universal truths can be found in the past, whilst subjectivity must be seen as being involved in all objectivity (a central theme to have appeared in Sartre’s [1968] Search for a Method) (subjectivity identified ‘the object and archaeological experience of it’ [p.23]).

Shanks and Tilley re-iterate these points in various ways, concluding that since the past is gone forever, and that archaeology establishes and expresses particular relations between archaeologists and what they study (and, through the dissemination of ideas. these relations also involve the wider public), we should always be conscious of the way such relations affect the people around us. For example, the study of skeletal material by archaeologist is more than that; it is a statement that archaeologists have a right to study such materials, and, unless proper consultation is undertaken, that ‘science’ is a value-free practice detached from social concerns. In essence the main value of the book is that it forcefully dispels any such notion, and argues that archaeologists should always keep in mind that what they do is a form of power: it dictates how the past is to be seen (and that the past can be seen as distinct from the present and the future), and that it is accessible to everyone so long as they can get their hands on the archaeological texts.

These points are repeated throughout the book, with further important issues raised to question established concepts in archaeology. For example, Chapter 2 (Social Archaeology) raises the point that in talking of the function of an object, we are merely describing it, not explaining it (a point raised previously in numerous structuralist writings). Issues dealing with style and meaning are also discussed in this chapter.

Chapter 3 introduces the concept of the individual in archaeology and as social agent, an often neglected part of modern archaeology. The authors make the point that the individual is continuously created as a relation to the ‘other’, to other individuals (the process of identification). The individual (subject) is signifier (in the Saussurian sense) to another signifier (identified as subject in process of mediation). Therefore, through symbolisation, the subject is articulated as a ‘network rather than a point in a social field’ (p.65).

A further point which the authors make, to show that our concept of the individual is not universal, is that in ‘Capitalism’ the subject is identified as the source of subjectification; in Classical thought, however, an outside God was the source of subjectification, and therefore the individual subject was kept separate from the process of being (subjectification). In modern thought, the subject is the source of subjectification.

But is it? A central theme of Christianity is that the individual is imbued with the essence of the Godly outside (‘Holy Spirit’), so that the process of subjectification becomes a mediation between the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’. Similarly, in modern thought the self is, as noted by Shanks and Tilley, continually created as a relation to the ‘other’ (p.65). Although the authors may be correct in asserting that the concept of the individual is not universal, the examples they use to illustrate this point, in effect, both situate the process of subjectification (creation of a concept of self) as a mediation between an identity and what it excludes. It is not evident to me that this process is not universal.

Chapters 4 and 5 (Material Culture and Time and Archaeology) repeat many of the points previously made, emphasising that, in interpreting archaeological materials, ‘there is no original meaning to be recovered as the meaning depends on the structured and positioned social situation of the individual’ (p. 117). In this way, interpretation is a translation transforming material items into ideas, rather than a recovery of ‘original meaning’. The Truths that we create in archaeology do ‘not reside in a recovery or reproduction of some supposed original meaning but in the process of the transformation of the past’ (p.117). These transformations take place in contexts that are not universal temporalities. Rather, our perceptions of the past as distinct from the present and analysable as such is a recent construct of Capitalism.

Chapter 6 (Social Evolution and Societal Change) contains the central point that ‘it is stability rather than social change that needs explaining’ (p.212). In this Shanks and Tilley argue that societies are networks of relational systems, and that to understand any given social system, we have to understand what makes it a system, what gives it a particular identity. To do this, we should turn to those systems themselves, and look at the forces which regulate change. It is in understanding power structures that the directions and forces of change will be understood (including an understanding of the contradictions inherent within the systems). In this sense, both stability and change are intricately connected.

Chapter 7 (Archaeology and the Politics of Theory) discusses the issues introduced in the beginning of this review, whilst the book ends with an important five page Appendix (Notes Towards a New Problematic) pin-pointing the central tenets of Shanks’ and Tilley’s views (in the spirit of Marx’s [1970] Thesis on Feuerbach).

In short, this book is not for the archaeologist who is not interested in social theory. This is unfortunate because the authors have much to say – it is the way they say it that makes it difficult to recommend to all archaeologists. The language throughout the book need not have been so heavily contorted with jargon. Jargon can be useful when new ideas need to be expressed, and/or when old ones need to be broken down, or when, for lack of publishing space, complex ideas need to be summed-up in a few words. But Shanks and Tilley over-do it.

To those who are interested in social theory, this book is a must. Although the writing is painful at times, it is by no means unique amongst academic writings. The ideas presented do not address humans in deterministic, ecological terms (the authors treat human behaviour as a mediation between actors and contexts of action), and are often directly relevant to current social (and archaeological) concerns. More than anything else, it is a book about the politics of doing archaeology and of being an archaeologist. It questions some of the things which many of us take for granted, and, as such, makes us re-think many of our assumptions. For these reasons it is worth reading.


Clegg, J. in press Pictures, ethnography, jargon and theory. Records of the Australian Museum.

Foucault, M. 1982 The Archaeology of Knowledge. Pantheon: New York.

Marx, K. 1970 The German Ideology. International Publishers: New York.

Sartre, J-P. 1968 Search for a Method. Vintage: New York.

Review of ‘Social Theory and Archaeology’ by M. Shanks and C. Tilley

Gosden Book Review Cover 1991‘Social Theory and Archaeology’ by M. Shanks and C. Tilley, 1987, Oxfird: Polity Press, ISBN 0-7456-0184-7 (pbk)

Review by Chris Godson

Consider the problem. Since the beginning of this century philosophers and social theorists with a philosophical bent have been obsessed with problems of language. Disparate philosophers such as Russell, Ayer and Wittgenstein all consider the structure, status and social use of language to be central to our understandings of ourselves as human beings. In the post-war period Saussure’s synchronic view of language as a structured set of differences became the central metaphor for structuralists in a range of disciplines. While in the last twenty years post-structuralist thought has been reacting against this particular linguistic view of human activity and has replaced it with other, although still linguistic, metaphors which give a more central place to history, the ambiguity of meaning and the role of the analyst. By contrast, those interested in our relations with the object world, such as economists or human biologists, have deliberately excluded all social factors from consideration.

These broader trends of thought have left archaeology in a dilemma. Anyone interested in a social archaeology, which concentrates on the relations between people and things, confronts the asocial theories of economists and others, who are also supposed to be interested in such relations. The alternative is a temptingly rich and tantalising obscure body of social philosophical theory, the core concern of which is language. Two choices derive from this dilemma. The first, and by far the hardest, is to develop a rounded theory of material culture and its use in the long term, which makes a break with language-based philosophies. The second, easier, choice is to borrow wholesale from language-based theory in the hope that some of it will be applicable to archaeology. Social Theory and Archaeology represents one outcome of the second choice. Other outcomes can be seen in a number of recent articles by Hodder, viewing the archaeological record as text, in which the linguistic metaphor could not be more clear.

Consider the second problem, internal to archaeology. On both sides of the Atlantic there is tremendous dissatisfaction with archaeology as it is currently practised and there are glimpses of what archaeology could be: a discipline whose unusual database could disrupt our common sense view of the world. The paths taken to realise this vision go off in opposite directions. The American response is to develop new, more sophisticated methodologies which will allow us to understand the disturbing palimpsests of the archaeological record; whilst the British (or some of them) are looking for new and subversive lines of theory which will cause a general re-evaluation of the archaeological project. This book forms part of the spearhead of the British theoretical approach, which is against method, against common sense and against most of archaeology as it is currently practised.

Shanks’ and Tilley’s books are becoming difficult to review as it has been done so often, bringing out a range of responses from applause to vilification. It seems to me that any book which can upset so many people cannot be all that bad. The question is, however, ‘is it all that good?’ The answer to this must be a qualified ‘no’. Here are the reasons for my opinion.

Firstly, the book is characterised by cliché rather than originality. It is easy at present to pick books from a range of disciplines off bookshop shelves and know in advance the authors they will refer to (eg Barthes, Derrida, Foucault, Lacan), the topics they will tackle (agency, discourse, history, meaning, practice, text) and the language they will use. This book follows these well-worn formulae, often with little discussion or justification. For instance, a major debate within history, sociology and anthropology at the moment, particularly written by those using Marxist theory, is how to incorporate and allow for the actions of individuals within an analysis of social structures as a whole (see Callinicos 1987). This subject is taken up by Shanks and Tilley but without adequate justification as to whether the terms used to discuss this problem within other areas of social sciences are appropriate to archaeology. Does Foucault’s discussion of the manner in which people have been made subjects over the past few centuries, or Lacan’s critique of Freud’s views of the individual have direct relevance for the manner in which we can fit individual agents into our understanding of prehistoric social structures? If such discussions cannot be transplanted root and branch, then the suspicion must arise that they have been included because they are found in many similar books found within other disciplines and that Shanks and Tilley are writing to some sort of formula rather than considering their particular subject matter deeply.

If consideration of the individual sneaks in without proper announcement and justification, then other subjects which are obviously central to archaeology are not given full or critical attention. The chief of these is material culture. Material culture is seen by Shanks and Tilley as a form of communication, as the process of signification and as a play of meaning and signs. Although its relationship to language is viewed as problematical, the material world plays a similar role to that assigned to language in post-structuralist thought. Language for the post-structuralist is an arena of meaning where writers, speakers, readers and listeners negotiate and positions in society, their access to social resources and to forms of power. Shanks and Tilley see this field of meaning constructed through thought and language as being reified and reinforced through material culture. There is no acknowledgement given to the possibility that material culture may operate in a manner quite different to that of language, and material things, simply because they are material, may interact with social forms over long timescales, just as language is given over to transience and the insubstantiality of meaning.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, language is central to so much of twentieth century thought, that if we ignore insights drawn from its analysis we must also give up many areas of ready made social analysis. This is a lonely theoretical position to adopt. However, if archaeology is the study of long term social change through material objects it may be that we have no option but to turn our backs on much current social theory and to develop our own. Such theoretical development necessitates having a long term plan and critically evaluating other areas of social theory, instead of incorporating them straightforwardly into archaeology.

This is a hastily written book, containing a small number of useful insights and an awful lot of well-known social theory better discussed by others. It ends with a call for a morally committed archaeology; relevant to the problems of the present which I find sympathetic and for this reason I thought that the last chapter was the best. Archaeology can provide insights into long term structures underlying human societies that other disciplines can not. Exactly how we are to arrive at an understanding of these structures is not clear from this book. Social Theory and Archaeology thus provides us with a future direction to travel in, but no reliable means of transport, the conveyances of other disciplines being unsuited to the particular road we are on.


Callinicos, A. 1987 Making History. Polity Press: Cambridge.

Review of ‘Time, Energy and Stone Tools’ by Robin Torrence

Witter Book Review Cover 1991‘Time, Energy and Stone Tools’ by Robin Torrence, 1989, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 124 pp. ISBN 0-521-25350-0 (hbk)

Review by Dan Witter

This volume of eleven essays is part of a revolutionary approach towards stone artefacts. It recognises that the conventional treatment of artefacts as ‘types’ is static and of limited value. A broader context of middle range theory is needed. Reduction strategies, material flaking properties, artefact mass, distance to stone source, and the capacity of an implement to carry information are dynamic elements with theoretical implications. In this book, the approach is analogous to optimal foraging strategy studies, as indicated by the reference to time and energy in the title.

An optimsing approach involves concepts which are not normally associated with stone artefacts. The terminology is largely derived from the literature on evolutionary ecology. Some of this may be unfamiliar to Australian readers, and perhaps dismissed as jargon. However, to use the necessary concepts, it is important to be fluent in the language. For example, ‘currency’ refers to factors such as time, energy, material or information which identify what kinds of costs and benefits are under analysis. Another term is ’embeddedness’. This refers to an activity taking place in the context of a broader process, such as stone material procurement in the process of travelling from one camp to another (rather than by special trips or exchange).

Most essays in this volume were originally presented at a conference in 1982, and are listed below.

Torrence: The introductory chapter calls for a unifying body of theory. Torrence presents a case for stone tools functioning as optimal solutions (eg within a subsistence strategy) as a central theme. She also defines much of the terminology used in the book and outlines the conceptual framework.

Hayden: This is an evolutionary approach which addresses global changes in stone technology. It is concerned with strategies for stone tool resharpening and raw material conservation which progress in regular stages.

Camilli: This is an attempt to use survey data from Utah which are thought to represent upland sites of pre-ceramic seasonally mobile horticulturalists (1800 to 1600 BP). The objective was to use stone artefacts to indicate if a site was a single event, overlapping occupations, or reoccupations in exactly the same place.

Morrow and Jefferies: This study uses the Black Earth Site (Middle Archaic =8000 to 5000 BP) in Illinois to determine if chert procurement processes were from trade, special trips, or embedded within seasonal movements.

Jeske: The example here is a Middle Woodland/Hopewell occupation (2400 to 1400 BP) in Ohio near the Black Earth Site discussed by Morrow and Jefferies. Economising strategies at the Mount City Site are analysed in terms of expenses for material acquisition and artefact production.

Lurie: This study is on the Koster Site in Illinois in the same region. It examines changes in mobility and stone economising strategies during the Middle Archaic (8200 to 4900 BP) in terms of stone source, material quality, technology and edge types.

Torrence: This paper is concerned with the ‘decline’ of technological excellence in the British Neolithic or the American Late Woodland. Torrence presents risk minimisation linked with reduced mobility as an explanation.

Boydson: This paper uses eight sites in the central United States (including the Koster Site discussed by Lurie) which have a Late Archaic (1000 to 3000 BP) component. The problem is to explain the presence of both flaked and ground hafted axes. Boydson concludes that the flaked axes represent low cost but low benefit, whereas the ground axes are high cost – high benefit.

Myers: The problem here is to explain a change from Early to Late Mesolithic in Britain (11,000 to 5000 BP). This is the shift from projectile heads of antler and large blades to those with microliths. A time stress model is used to consider the effect of reliable and maintainable technologies in respect to hunting risk.

Gero: This article was primarily concerned with the information carried by stone artefacts and its social implications. Gero looked at raw material rarity, tool size, tool longevity, number of production stages, and specialist manufacture from the Huaricote ceremonial centre in Peru (4000 to 1000 BP).

Jochim: This study is further to that presented by Myers, but 600 km to the southeast in Germany, where microlithic spear heads were replaced by large blades and antler. This reversal of the change discussed by Myers above was explained by different vegetational changes.

Four of the essays deal with central United States (Morrow and Jefferies, Jeske, Lurie and Boydson). This is a region where limestone from the carboniferous Period provides an abundance of cherts. The high flakability and distinctiveness of some of the sources make it a favourable theatre for studies on procurement, manufacture and discard. This was used to measure processes such as settlement change, exchange systems. technological strategies and dependence on agriculture.

The work by Camilli in southwestern United States was concerned with settlement, but she encountered shortcomings in survey methodology such as a lack of control over the definition of site size, ground visibility and site formation processes. As a result she seemed forced to try what I consider some ‘statistical slights of hand’.

The two European examples include a number of sites where changes in artefact assemblages and the environment took place at the same time. Optimisation was used to explain the effect of the environment on culture.

The most ambitious paper was that by Gero who tried to use a ceremonial centre in Peru to indicate social factors from stone tools. Although the analysis seemed somewhat laboured, she used the information content of artefacts to interpret social complexity or levels of ceremonial activity at a site. This provided an alternative explanation of artefact variability in contrast to cost effectiveness or environmental factors.

Review of ‘Pacific Production Systems. Approaches to Economic Prehistory’ edited by D.E. Yen and J.M.J. Mummery

‘Pacific Production Systems. Approaches to Economic Prehistory’ edited by D.E. Yen and J.M.J. Mummery, 1990, Occasional Papers in Prehistory No. 18. Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, 277 pp. ISBN: 0-7315-1009-7 (pbk)

Review by J. Peter White

This volume consists of 15 papers some of which were given at the 15th Pacific Science Congress in 1983 and some of which are ‘essentially new’: which is which can only be guessed from the dates in bibliographies.

Of the four sections – Hunters and fishermen, Integrations with Agriculture, the Agriculturalists, and The animals, the plants – the last three deal entirely with the ‘traditional’ Pacific, whereas the first contains three papers discussing the Salish (and the Naskapi of Labrador!), the subarctic Pacific of Eurasia and Australian Aborigines.

All three hunter-gatherer papers are concerned with traditional, not archaeological, production systems, and in different ways stress the relationship between cultural constructions and economic systems. Rhys Jones’ paper, by far the longest, is a sustained polemic in support of the concept of a unique, Australia-wide, Aboriginal cultural pattern. He makes a passing attack on Butlin along the lines of if some or many Aboriginal cultural units were so badly affected by smallpox then the ethnographic records should show highly variable social structures as well as demographic characteristics unrelated to rainfall, which they do not. He feels thus able to argue that the structure of Aboriginal societies, along with their production systems, was the same throughout the continent despite enormous variations in population densities which were clearly related to water availability (following Birdsell). ‘Complexity’ in Aboriginal societies he sees as therefore independent of ecology or population density, as having been developed in the Pleistocene and remaining basically the same since then. Although, perhaps wisely, he does not explicitly discuss Tasmania in this context, this paper is a closely argued, elegantly written contribution. (I note, in passing, that he takes almost an exactly contrary view to Sutton).

Two other papers in this volume stand out. Bayliss-Smith’s discussion of fishing in Ontong Java demonstrates that on this atoll, as on some others, this activity is both highly and reliably productive and the factor limiting population is starch not protein. Nearly all fishing is done by men who are thus responsible for the staple, a situation with implications which Bayliss-Smith does not remark on. He also compares his findings from a detailed survey in 1970-71 with the archaeological data from Kapingarnarangi and Tikopia and concludes that not all atoll dwellers were as badly off as is usually supposed.

McCoy’s discussion of the peri-glacial adze quarry on Mauna Kea in Hawaii is an attempt to look at an archaeological production system from a broad anthropological perspective. Even if one does not entirely buy his view of the pilgrimagic context of the discovery and operations of the quarry, the paper displays a sophistication of archaeological and anthropological analysis that has rarely been seen in Pacific prehistory. Here are social landscapes in full bloom.

Somewhat less convincing, largely because of the poor archaeological sample, is Dye’s attempt to relate changes in the fish represented in the archaeological record of the Marquesas to social structural changes in the islands. He seems to me to push the data too hard and too far, but his argument is interesting.

These three papers, like Jones’ and Kirch’s on Hawaii, demonstrate that post-processualism is alive in the Pacific, though without the deep layer of verbal fuzz which blurs its usefulness in some other parts of the world.

The remaining papers are an f.a.q. crop, ranging from the straightforward surveys of Bourke and Ayres and Haun to more musings from Golson about what might have happened at Kuk. Overall the book does have a strong, if broadly defined, theme, even if I still want to know what constitutes a ‘production system’. And it’s good value at 8.9 cents a page.

Finally, the volume is a bibliographic curiosity. The title page has it edited by Yen and Mummery (and I wish someone had edited Yen’s own convoluted text), but the foreword by Golson says the volume is ‘an acknowledgment of the major contributions made by Doug to the study of cultivated plants and agricultural systems’. No one will deny the contribution, but who really edited the volume?

Review of ‘The New Archaeology and Aftermath: A View from Outside the Anglo-American World’ by K. Paddayya

‘The New Archaeology and Aftermath: A View from Outside the Anglo-American World’ by K. Paddayya, 1990, Pune: Ravish Publishers, 71 pp.

Review by Tessa Corkhill

I should have been warned! When 10 pages of a 71 page book (and that includes the Index) are devoted to references which range from ancient Indian proverbs to the 18th century Scottish philosopher, Hume, and on through Heisenberg, Russell, Einstein and the ubiquitous Collingwood and Hempel, not to mention the entire flock of 20th century theoretical high-fliers (archaeologically speaking), the reader is in for a fast and furious ride.

To mangle a few more metaphors, or perhaps analogies, seeing this is archaeology, in some ways this book reminded me of a precious stone: small, multi-facetted, full of value and colour. In other ways of a typical archaeological site: a thousand tantalizing clues to a rich and vibrant history, no longer visible, but there for the finding, if only one had the Rosetta Stone and the time. Or as Paddayya calls it (p.54) – the ‘Roxana’ premise: The archaeological record that is available to us is the entropied version of the material fallout of past cultural systems…. [To recreate the systems] is a job that requires the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes, the analytical abilities of Darwin and Einstein, and of course the wisdom of the Buddha.’

The aim of Paddayya’s book is to evaluate recent trends in processual and post-processual archaeology and relate these trends to research in his own region – the Indian sub-continent. He feels this to be necessary as: ‘almost all existing reviews … emanate from the Anglo-American world and are, therefore, rarely free from regional and personal biases.’ (p.ix)

He concedes that debates along these lines have already been set in motion in some areas, such as West Germany and in his own country, but seeks to carry the examination ‘one step forward’ (p.ix). His specific aim is to offer: ‘clarifications at the conceptual level rather than … from empirical research.’ (p.ix).

Now, as a consultant archaeologist, constantly up to my neck in empiricaJ research and with very little time to keep up with the constantly changing ‘conceptual level’, a short book that aimed to clarify things, even if from outside the Anglo-American world, seemed just the thing. And so, to an extent, it was, although it left me with the wish that I knew more of the background (i.e. the works of Aydelotte, Berelson and Steiner, Copi, Entrikin, the elusive Ryle, the oft-quoted Wilhelm Dilthey, etc, etc) and a craving to come to terms with Hodder (of whom more later).

The book is divided into three chapters:

  1. Misconceptions about the New Archaeology
  2. The New Archaeology and Ideational Trends
  3. Contemporary Trends in Theory vis-à-vis Indian Archaeology

Chapter 1 starts by listing the numerous archaeological trends of the past two decades, all of which Paddayya sees as being extensions to, amplifications or critiques of New Archaeology – He divides the trends into three main groups:

  1. Specialisations such as settlement, ecological and geoarchaeology, which have roots ante-dating New Archaeology
  2. Applied studies like CRM, garbage studies, gender and psychological (not to be confused with psychic)
  3. Materialistic and mentalistic elaborations and critiques, which include Hodder’s contextual and Schiffer’s behavioural archaeology, plus Marxist and neo-Marxist trends.

I’m sure many would quibble with these divisions, for example, why is gender archaeology seen as applied rather than specialized? However, any book of this kind is bound to provoke endless debate among archaeologists, so we’ll press on.

Paddayya then goes on to discuss some of the misconceptions that have arisen concerning New Archaeology, starting at the top with the name, which, as he rightly points out, was not coined by Binford, but was invented by critics ‘as a brand name for lumping together Binford and his ”mafia'” (p.3). It is impossible here to discuss the manifold misconceptions, their origins and evolution, however the headings of each section:

  • Why the label ‘New Archaeology’ at all?
  • Which fundamental changes?
  • Why the hypothetico-deductive strategy?
  • The ‘why’ and ‘what’ of laws,

will give some idea of the territory covered. When I add that the discussion ranges through numerous related disciplines, like a thread through tapestry, and arrives at the end of the chapter with the statement (from Scriven, 1969,208-9): ‘We must pay tribute to the revolutionary while avoiding the mistake of deifying his doctrine’  you may be up in arms but you should have an inkling of what is going on.

In Chapter 2, in a cast of thousands, Binford and Hodder loom large. Both are minutely dissected, examined, compared and even fitted into the inevitable kinship structure, Hodder as the reluctant child of Collingwood (and for this, see also Spriggs’ review of Hodder’s recent collections: Spriggs 1990:99-104) and Binford as the new-found descendant of Aristotle (p.27).

Like an uncle with a wayward but lovable nephew, Paddayya is deeply disturbed by Hodder’s approach to archaeology but obviously yearns to find value in it. In the end, the most he can do is adapt one of Hodder’s own phrases: ‘the symbolic and interpretive left leg’ (Hodder 1988:3) in his concluding remarks for the chapter: the discipline, while continuing to rely for the most part on its robust, materialist right leg, as typified by the New Archaeology, will have to be content with a hopping, symbolic left leg. (p.42)

Chapter 3 seeks to pull it all together and relate theory and practice to present day Indian archaeology, culture and politics. The Hodder approach is reincarnated; the political use of symbols of the past, such as the Puranic God, Vishnu, is seen as a menacing trend; even the late Pandit Nehru gets a look-in, with his definition of ‘scientific temper’ (Singh 1986:38). In the end Paddayya asks ‘what kind of knowledge do we want to have of the past?’ and suggests ‘it is time to initiate a full-fledged debate'(p.58). I would suggest you read the book first, It is a clear and concise exposition of complex ideas, beautifully written, a bright gem among many of our dull unpolished stones.


Hodder, I. 1988 Archaeology in the post-modern era. Paper submitted for the conference on ‘New Archaeology and India’, organised by the Indian Council of Historical Research: New Delhi.

Scriven, M. 1969 Logical positivism and the behavioural sciences. In P. Achinstein and S.F. Barker (eds), The Legacy of Logical Positivism: Studies In the Philosophy of Science, pp.196-209. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.

Sing, B. 1986 Jawahartal Nehru on Science. New Delhi: Nehru Memorial Museum and Ubrary.

Spriggs, M. 1990 Twenty-two authors in search of a paradigm in contextual archaeology: What’s in it for me? Australian Archaeology 30:99-104.

Review of ‘Rock Art and Posterity: Conserving, Managing and Recording Rock Art’ edited by C. Pearson and B.K. Scwartz and ‘Conserving Australian Rock Art: A Manual for Site Managers’ by D. Lampert

‘Rock Art and Posterity: Conserving, Managing and Recording Rock Art’ edited by C. Pearson and B.K. Scwartz, 1991, Melbourne: Australian Rock Art Research Association, vi + 153 pp. ISBN 0-646-03751-X (pbk).
‘Conserving Australian Rock Art: A Manual for Site Managers’ by D. Lampert, 1989, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 102 pp. ISBN 0-85575-210-6 (pbk)

Review by Christopher Chippendale

Most archaeological deposits are safely stratified underground, where they remain under stable conditions unless the water table moves or other environmental changes affect them. Most excavated objects, if they survive the shock of leaving the ground, should be amenable to museum storage under controlled conditions. Rock art offers a uniquely difficult combination: the decorated surfaces are exposed aboveground, which makes them vulnerable to natural and human impact, yet they cannot be removed to the controlled conditions of a museum.

The first and larger part of Rock Art and Posterity, a selection of papers from the 1988 Darwin rock art congress addresses aspects of the conservation and management of rock art sites. Ten good papers discuss case studies from Australian sites: Sullivan on conflicting interests that must be reconciled in presenting Kakadu sites to the public (NT); Caldicott on saving small painted sites in the Mount Lofty Ranges near Adelaide (SA); Walsh on protection and preservation in the Flinders Group islands (Old); Blanks and Brown on preserving the sand cover that protects the Mount Cameron engravings (Tas); Randolph and Wallam on planning for tourism at Padjari Manu, North West Cape (WA); Bednarik on regulating access to preserve engravings in Paroong Cave (SA); Thorn on removing new overpainting from art at Bunjils Cave (Vic); Clarke and North on pigment composition of recent Kakadu art, and on the chemistry of its deterioration; and Clarke et al on preservation of the ‘Lightning Brothers’ depictions at Yiwalalay (NT). As a varied group, with varied concerns, they together make up a fair mosaic of the technical and non-technical issues involved. Walsh and Bednarik illustrate what can be done – in difficult field conditions. Clarke’s papers, with the chemistry plainly stated for the lay reader, indicate just what conservation has to cope with. The Kakadu sites offer a great range of natural minerals, mineral mixtures and modern industrial materials used as pigments, often overpainted or mixed together, and which may then be much transformed in their place on the rock surface. Carbonate pigments, for example, are transformed by sulphur in the atmosphere (deriving from the Kakadu wetlands, rather than pollution) into sulphates, which water would wash off the rock. The scale of the conservation problem and its consequences are again illustrated by a further pair of papers (in French) by Vidal, Vouve and Brunet on the engraved caves of Combarelles (Les Eyzies, France). Conserving its art requires management of the surface use of the entire hill which holds the cave, and restricts the number of visitors to the cave to just 133 people per day.

Scattered amongst this group of instructive and coherent papers are shorter contributions on several subjects, from the record of recent paintings destroyed in Malaysia to the programme for a Getty Conservation Institute rock art course. Haskovec here offers a useful reminder that issues in rock art conservation are not confined to the technical questions.

The second part of the book, on recording and ‘standardisation’, is shorter, thinner and diverse; the weak interest in the topic at Darwin had been a surprise. Moore on the variation in the records that were made of the same site with the same and with different field methods I found particularly telling. There is no single theme, but questions do recur: what is the aim of rock art recording, and who is it for? Here, the Australian Rock Art Research Association’s view is visible that rock art studies belong in a domain of their own. I disagree. A history of estrangement between rock art studies and archaeology demands marriage, not divorce. Some common agreed terminology is useful for the common concepts. Otherwise, the first cousin to rock art studies in a given region and period will as often be the corresponding archaeological material as the pictures in some other, distant place. The vocabulary, and frames of research reference, need to follow local needs.

Together, the papers make a useful book, which would have been narrower and stronger if it had not spread out beyond the coherent core of conservation case studies.

Conserving Australian Rock Art is a practical manual for site managers in the AIATSIS report series. It is intended to enable managers to undertake for themselves straightforward conservation work, and – equally – to recognise more complex undertakings for which professional guidance would be required. Most of what it covers seems to fall in the second category. The aspects addressed are the destructive impacts of surface water, salts, soil and vegetation, microflora (lichens, algae and so on) , animals (from insects to cattle) , visitors (with and without good intentions), and vandalism in the form of graffiti. The nature of each impact is sketched, and practical responses set out, illustrated by examples from across Australia and reference to the few publications that make up the standard sources (eg Rosenfeld 1985; Sullivan 1984). Often, experience in this new field is rather limited, so no tested method is known; and the advice is sensibly cautious. The book is admirably clear, plainly written and straightforward; its large type means it has rather few words for a book of its length; the production and colour pictures are excellent.


Rosenfeld, A. 1985 Rock Art Conservation in Australia. Australian Heritage Publication: Canberra.

Sullivan, H. (ed.) 1984 Visitors to Aboriginal Sites: Access, Control and Management, Proceedings of the 1983 Kakadu Workshop. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service: Canberra.

Review of ‘Lapita Design Form and Composition: Proceedings of the Lapita Design Workshop Canberra, Australia, December 1988’ edited by Matthew Spriggs

‘Lapita Design Form and Composition: Proceedings of the Lapita Design Workshop Canberra, Australia, December 1988’ edited by Matthew Spriggs. 1990. Occasional Papers in Prehistory, Number 19. Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University. 142 pp. ISBN 0-7315-1150-6 (pbk)

Review by Jim Specht

The sub-title of this volume is misleading as only about one-third of the papers presented at the Workshop is included. The reader (buyer) is not being short-changed, however, for most of the omitted papers had little to do with the major theme, though it is particularly disappointing not to have Pat Kirch’s contribution. As a set of papers, the volume conveys little of the essence of the workshop experience, for the organising of which Spriggs was awarded his department’s Lady Godiva Award for Shamelessness.

As Spriggs notes in his Introduction (p.1), this is not a review volume – summary or otherwise – of ‘Lapita archaeology’, but a collection of papers mostly dealing with Lapita design and form. The volume divides into four parts: chronology (Spriggs); how to study decoration and form (Forge, Green. Anson, Siorat and Spriggs); how to study physical composition (Galipaud); and how to put some of this altogether (Sands).

Spriggs on chronology attempts to apply ‘chronometric hygiene’ (cf Spriggs 1989) to the western Pacific sites relevant to ‘Lapita archaeology’. The tabulation is more comprehensive than that of Kirch and Hunt (1988) and uses the Delta-R = 0 value for marine shell samples, yielding calibrated ages up to 120-140 years older than those of Kirch and Hunt. On both lists, however, few age results for materials associated with Lapita pottery are older than CAL 3500 BP, and most of these are on marine shell samples. This fits surprisingly well with data obtained from central New Britain since the Workshop was held. In that area Lapita pottery post-dates a massive volcanic event, the WK-2 event, of Mount Witori on the Hoskins Peninsula of the north coast, that devastated thousands of square kilometres of the island, including Talasea to the north and Kandrian to the south. A best estimate for the WK-2 event is about 3600 years ago, which would allow roughly a century for the recovery of the biota and stabilisation of the landscape prior to human recolonisation and the introduction of Lapita pottery. Earlier dates for Lapita pottery and evidence for its origins must be sought beyond the area seriously affected by the Wk-2 event (eg Manus, Mussau group, northern New Ireland and its eastern islands).

Mentioned in the date list, but not discussed in this volume is Spriggs’ idea of ‘Lapita without pots’ (pp.9-1 0), for which a maximum age of about CAL 3650 BP is indicated for Nissan Island in the North Solomons Province of PNG. This idea met with some resistance when first proposed in the mid-1980’s, reflecting the different views held by Spriggs and his critics about what is signified by the term ‘Lapita’ (cf Terrell 1989). This issue is not addressed in this volume, which generally treats it as a series of sherd collections with identical or similar decorative techniques and motifs, and (for Green, at least) vessel forms. This takes us back to Avias (1950), who recognised a likeness between sherds from the lie des Pins and Watom Island. Whereas Avias made his comparisons by general visual comparisons, later writers on Lapita design developed more analytical approaches (eg Mead 1973). Five papers in this volume deal with aspects of this topic, but from different points of view.

The late Anthony Forge’s paper summarises, in his inimitable way, how he and Sheila Korn handled comparisons between designs in different areas of the Abelam people of PNG. His paper is typically unpretentious and full of commonsense.

Forge and Korn approached Abeiam flat painting as if it were a set of archaeological data, and then compared the results of the analyses with his rich set of ethnographic information. Forge/Korn did not deal with meaning, but with structure and relationships along the lines of linguistic analysis. In this respect Forge’s approach originated from the same school of thought that gave rise to Mead’s ‘iconic analysis’ of Lapita design. Particularly interesting aspects of the study are his separation of main and minor design elements and identification of their contribution to an Abelam artistic system. This has great relevance to the study of Lapita design. Mead’s original study proposed recognising some design elements as zone markers, which implies that they separate different blocks of designs (‘meaning’). As such, they constitute main elements, for they function as a kind of ‘punctuation’. On the other hand, I would suggest that the allomorphs of triangles discussed by Anson (this volume) probably constitute minor elements in the sense that ‘meaning’ is conveyed by the triangle form, not the manner in which the triangle is depicted. The variant forms, as Anson attempts to show, are different ways of depicting the same design that reflect idiosyncratic behaviour at the individual or group level. Regrettably, Anthony never completed his analysis of Abelam art ‘as pressure of events and other research has intervened’ (p.30).

Much of the Workshop discussion focussed on whether we should analyse Lapita design through Mead’s ‘iconic analysis’ or Anson’s design element catalogue approach. This was really a non-issue, since it assumed a ‘correct’ way to conduct analysis. For some, this correct way was simply a convenience for inter-site and inter-areal comparisons, though no one actually dared to explain why these might be the only reasons for studying Lapita design. Mead’s original iconic analysis of Polynesian adze handles and Lapita pottery had very specific regional historical objectives, and neither fully explored or exhausted their potential, as Sharp (1988) has shown for Lapita pottery. Green’s ‘potted history’ of Lapita design analysis is a useful exposition of the subject, highlighting problems as well as results. Anson’s paper, on the other hand, explores why he adopted a catalogue approach which, as he himself acknowledges, addressed rather different issues to those of Mead. Underlying Mead’s iconic analysis was the search for structure and system; Anson, on the other hand, was interested in comparing Lapita sites within the Bismarck Archipelago and beyond to examine their temporal relationships and the development of Lapita in that region.

I can see great benefit in having a standardised descriptive scheme for Lapita design, but only if it permits each person to work at the level appropriate to the questions being asked of the material. For example, it would be inappropriate to use Anson’s approach if the question addressed were to do with design structure. A major challenge yet to be taken up is the question whether Lapita design structure changed through time. Does the incised component of Lapita pottery display the same structural system as that of the dentate-stamped? If there was a continuity between late Lapita and the ‘subsequent Incised and Relief’ styles (Spriggs, p.2) were the structural rules carried through? If we are to accept that the dentate-stamped designs are part of a design system that conveyed meaning, did meaning change? There seems to be increasing evidence that there was little long-distance movement of Lapita pottery (either in terms of space or volume). Are differences in design content matched by difference in the structural (and meaning) system? To address such questions we will need to employ both the Mead and the Anson approaches and, in some cases, that advocated by Siorat.

Siorat’s paper, presented in absentia, soon became known at the Workshop as the ‘forensic’ approach. His paper comprises two distinct parts. The first deals with the fine detail of design: what tools were used? How many? Were they re-used on several pots? His conclusions are very significant: a separate set of tools appears to have been used for each decorated pot, though there is currently no clear evidence as to the material from which the tools were made. In 1987 I carried out an experiment with several kinds of shell and wood, trying to make tools that replicate dentate-stamping. The best (because they require least preparation) were valves of Anadara antiquata. Wood was less successful, and bone was not attempted. The point to be noted, however, is that considerable labour is required to produce the tools, and even more to apply them. Yet even after several thousand applications, none was worn to the point where it had to be discarded (the test was rather casual and uncontrolled, consisting of school children impressing small blocks of clay). So why a new set for each dentate-stamped Lapita pot?

There is growing acceptance that plain (or incised) and dentate-stamped Lapita pots may have served different ritual or practical functions. Many years ago, I suggested viewing the Watom assemblage of sherds in terms of ‘different kinds of pottery for different uses, but made by the same people …’ (Specht, 1967:31), using an analogy with ‘fine’ and ‘course’ wares in Roman Britain. At that time the suggestion was ignored, for many viewed the dentate-stamped and incised and relief/plain sherds as originating from different industries or traditions, despite Golson’s (1971) attempt to bring a sense of balance into discussions of Lapita pottery. This echoed Otto Meyer’s division of his Watom finds into ‘non-Melanesian’ and ‘Melanesian’, with its inherently racist overtones unfortunately carried over by those who later saw Lapita pottery as a product of people ancestral to the Polynesians. We can now dump those outmoded and discriminatory views since they sought to interpret the Pacific past in terms of distorted views of the present.

While this short diversion into past attitudes does not answer the question ‘why a new set of tools for each dentate-stamped Lapita pot?’ it draws attention to the need for caution in seeking an answer. Siorat offers several, but before we rush in and choose one or another, we must ensure that we do not perpetuate outmoded attitudes. Given that the rate of production of dentate-stamped Lapita pots appears to have been at an extraordinarily low level, the answer must embrace both practical and social/ritual elements. It must be phrased, also, in terms that will allow a convincing dialectic to be developed, rather than a bald assertion of ‘ritual’ versus ‘utilitarian’ dichotomy.

The second half of Siorat’s paper presents a summary of a computer-based analytical scheme for Lapita design that shares aspects with both Mead and Anson. It is a pity that he does not provide an actual case of the application of this approach. Without this, and a more detailed description of procedures, it is impossible to evaluate whether his approach is worth pursuing further.

Spriggs’ paper on Lapita ‘faces’ is an entertaining attempt to come to grips with the complex curvilinear designs that are often avoided in detailed analyses. His paper is premised on the assumptions that (a) ‘designs would follow a progression from complex to simple over time’ and (b) designs progress from naturalistic to more abstract forms (p.84). No foundation is offered for either premise. If we accept them, however, Spriggs’ paper makes sense and reveals several possibly significant changes through time and spaces. The ‘face’ designs are almost entirely found in Far Western and Western Lapita sites. The temporal aspect is less clearly defined; they appear to be primarily a feature of Western Lapita. Some tabulations would have been useful here.

The remaining two papers by Galipaud and Sand address other aspects. Galipaud applies ‘physico-chemical’ analyses to New Caledonia Lapita pottery and argues for some movement of the pottery within the New Caledonian islands, but essentially it is near or at the production centres. His approach shows that there is a continuity between the Lapita pottery and the Paddle Impressed pottery in terms of raw materials, and he opts for the view (p.141) that the latter constituted the ‘common pottery used for everyday life’ – an echo of the ‘fine’ versus ‘course’ pottery referred to above. In other words, the different kinds of pottery reflect different behaviours, not different ‘people’ (p.140). This interpretation brings New Caledonia into line with Hunt’s (1980:198) re-evaluation of the Fijian evidence.

Sand’s paper adopts a more comprehensive overview of the pottery from the islands of Futuna and Alofi, extending the pioneer work of Kirch. Sand concludes that while the general history of pottery production and use on these islands broadly follows the trend of Eastern Lapita, there are particular local differences that cannot be accommodated by ‘the limits of a too tightly defined regional chronology’ (p.132). His paper is an invaluable contribution to the volume, for it presents material from ORSTOM reports that are not widely available, particularly in the English language.

Overall, this is an important volume that deserves to be read closely and used carefully. It offers no simple answers to most questions, or even an attempt to synthesise the varied subject matter. Rather, it identifies problems and some possible avenues for their examination. In that respect it reflects faithfully the tone of the Workshop. So, too, does the varied nature of the contents, both geographically and topically. I regret, however, that the Lapita-as-a-regional-phenomenon view permeates the volume, albeit at times implicitly. The time is rapidly approaching when we will need a critical appreciation of ‘Lapita archaeology’ along the lines that Kent Flannery did for early Meso-American villages. But who will be the Graduate Student?


Golson, J. 1971 Lapita ware and its transformations. In R.C. Green and M. Kelly (eds), Studies in Oceanic Culture History 2:67-76. Pacific Anthropological Records No. 12. B.P. Bishop Museum: Honolulu.

Hunt, T.L. 1980 Towards Fiji’s past: archaeological research on southwestern Viti Levu. MA thesis. University of Auckland: Auckland.

Hunt, T. L. 1986 Conceptual and substantive issues in Fijian prehistory. In P.V. Kirch (ed.), Island Societies; Archaeological Approaches to Evolution and Transformation, pp.20-32. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Mead, S. M. 1973 The decorative system of the Lapita potters of Sigatoka. Fiji. Journal of the Polynesian Society 82(3): 19-43.

Sharp. N.D. 1988 Style and substance: a reconsideration of the Lapita decorative system. In P.V. Kirch and L. Hunt (eds), Archaeology of the Laplta Cultural Complex: A Critical Review, pp.61-81. Thomas Burke Memorial Washington State Museum Re- search Report No.5. Burke Museum: Seattle.

Specht, J. 1967 Lapita-style pottery and Watom Island. South Pacific Bulletin 17 (2): 29-31.

Spriggs, M. 1989 The dating of the Island Southeast Asian Neolithic: an attempt at chronometric hygiene and linguistic correlation. Antiquity 63: 587-613.

Terrell, J. 1989 Commentary: what Lapita is and what Lapita isn’t. Antiquity 63: 623-6.

Review of ‘The Domestication of Europe’ by Ian Hodder

Rainbird Book Review Cover 1992‘The Domestication of Europe’ by Ian Hodder, 1990, Oxford and Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 331 pp. ISBN 0-631-17769-8 (pbk)

Review by Ron Paul Rainbird

This is one of Blackwell’s excellent series of social archaeology texts and perhaps the most exciting and controversial to date.

Hodder begins by taking a basic structural stance in an attempt to identify underlying oppositions in the early Neolithic of the Near East and of southeast Europe. The main focus is on Europe and we are told that a volume dealing exclusively with the Near East can be expected in the future.

His starting point, although Hodder denies having one (p.1), is the symbolism associated with the well known sites of Lepenski Vir, Catal Huyak and Hacilar. But this volume is much more than a simple structural analysis of these data. An initial identification of binary oppositions leads on to a post-structural discussion of the Neolithic in not only south east Europe, but also central, north and west Europe.

In the first four chapters Hodder identifies and explains the primary opposition of domus-agrios (that is, house, nurturing, female, culture,etc versus outside, wild, male, etc), as identified in the archaeological record of south east Europe.

The following two chapters discuss these underlying structures in relation to the central European evidence. With the introduction of a new structural concept of the foris, which is expressed by doorways, entrances and boundaries, central Europe for me has the ‘best fit’ scenario. Hodder updates his 1984 paper with the realisation that tombs are not merely copying houses but rather that the similarities (eight are noted) are actually products of a continuity of principles derived from the deeper structures (p.1S3).

Domus-Foris-Agrios are words with Indo-European roots chosen by Hodder as unfamiliar to the majority of readers and therefore not already loaded with meaning. But, he also notes that they are words with a long history themselves possibly dating from the Neolithic (pp.302- 5).

Chapters 7, 8 and 9 discuss and explain the poor fit in southern Scandinavia, the good fit in northern France and the climax of these concepts as seen in the monumentality and division of the landscape in lowland Britain (p.271).

The final chapter introduces a long-term perspective for the identified underlying structures. Hodder suggests that the roots can be observed in the scant evidence of the Palaeolithic in Europe. Furthermore, that the historical unfolding of these structures can be witnessed in the postglacial, the Neolithic and beyond. It should be noted that Hodder is not advocating structural determinism, but that structures have tendencies, which leaves plenty of scope for action and contingency (p.278).

For an Australian audience the interest of this book is probably in the practical application of post-processualism in many of its forms, including gender, contextualism, landscape, performance, domination, deconstruction and self-analysis. Also worth noting is the fact that warfare has re-emerged as a popular theme in European prehistory. Hodder does give consideration to the possibility that these underlying structures are not unique to Europe and may indeed be a worldwide phenomenon (p.300).

Although borrowing much from Bender’s (1978) social competition approach and the undoubted criticisms of misuse of poor data by those who like to be scientific, this broad and brave synthesis will surely sit alongside the economic, environmental and demographic explanations for the domestication of Europe.


Bender, B. 1978 Gatherer-hunter to farmer: A social perspective. World Archaeology 10:204-22

Hodder. I. 1984 Burials, houses, women and men in the European Neolithic. In D. Miller and C. Tilley (eds), Ideology, Power and Prehistory. Cambridge.

Review of ‘Nomads in Archaeology’ by Roger Cribb

 Review by Ron Lampert

Lampert Book Review Cover 1992‘Nomads in Archaeology’ by Roger Cribb, 1991, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-32881-0 (hbk)

Hunter-gatherers are not nomads? Nomads live in stone tents? Though always willing to learn something new I did find these two pieces of information surprising. But it is all a matter of how terms are defined of course, the author having chosen a definition for nomadism that excludes all except those pastoral nomads whose habitat extends from Turkey to central Asia. Actually there is some etymological support for this narrow definition, the word ‘nomad’ having been derived from a Greek word meaning ‘pasture’ (OED), though modern usage is usually more general.

The pastoral nomads who are the main subject of this book inhabit a mountain region that covers much of modern Turkey and Iran. In their choice of camp sites they often favour proximity to the ruins of caravanserai and such ancient monumental cities as Petra, where they recycled the blocks of building stone for use as low walls around their tents. In a few cases these stone walls extend upwards to the full height of the structure, the tent portion being reduced merely to a flattish roof consisting of a sheet of fabric or plastic on stick rafters supported by the stone walls. Being typologically continuous with real tents such dwellings are still classified as tents even though the main building material is stone.

In its aims the study is in the main ethno-archaeological, seeking, in the present day configurations of camp site and living space, underlying patterns that an archaeological investigation might also be able to decode. Much of the book is thus a detailed record of such material evidence as the alignment and grouping of tents, and how the spatial patterning is influenced by kinship, socioeconomic status, hereditary rank and the proximity and size of associated pastures; it catalogues also a wide range of portable domestic utensils; it plots the patterning of domestic activities within dwellings; and records the architecture of the dwellings themselves and notes how they vary seasonally. All potentially useful for an archaeologist, but what about that particularly valuable kind of observation, the way in which objects are discarded – and perhaps relocated later by site maintenance activities? Here ethnographic information is lacking. Although plans of settlements show middens and ash heaps, and there are photographs of discarded pot sherds, these observations are entirety archaeological.

An example of this approach may be seen in the treatment of Ali’s Camp, a temporarily abandoned single dwelling and its surrounds chosen for detailed investigation. A year previously the author had seen this site occupied by Ali and his family who had since moved to a new location. Some ‘on-site activities’ and the general pattern of spatial organisation had been observed during occupation of the site. However, the detailed patterning of site usage is adduced entirely by archaeological methods, specifically the plotting and spatial analysis of various classes of discarded object at the abandoned site. Emerging from this analysis is a spatial pattern consisting of a series of concentric arcs around an external hearth, each arc containing different types of discarded material to suggest specialised activity zones.

It seems to me that the author lost a golden opportunity in failing to check the validity of his archaeological interpretations with some of ‘ethnographic archaeology’ (using lain Davidson’s definition) that is testing them against the memory of informants. After all, why bother to investigate archaeological patterning at a site seen in occupation only a year previously unless to elucidate an ethnoarchaeological methodology? A possible reason for this perceived lapse emerges later in the book: in commenting on the Nemrut Dag site the author notes that although ethnographic archaeology is the usual practice it was not used by him because of difficulties in locating and interviewing those who had used the site recently and, even if this had been possible, ‘the memory of the occupation … would most likely have been hazy’. This is a weak excuse for not having tried. In my experience people who are taken back to a site and shown the physical evidence usually have a prodigious memory of events, a view supported by a number of other successful studies of this kind.

The main failing of this study generally is that it tends to be ethnography plus archaeology, each done well in its own right, but leaving some of the potentially more rewarding linkages between the two unexplored. This leaves the archaeological investigation of recently occupied sites rather without purpose apart from showing that material evidence for the habitation of pastoral nomads does survive, at least for a few seasons, and can have a patterned distribution. In a project claimed as being ethnoarchaeological this disassociation between the two kinds of evidence seems surprising but can be traced back to definitions given in the opening chapter. Under the heading ‘Ethnoarchaeology’ the author is more concerned to damn the overuse of ethnographic analogy and laud the advantages of middle range theory (also loosely defined and not used to any discernible advantage in this book) than to display his ideas on what ethnoarchaeology is and how it might be used with regard to pastoral nomads. I suspect that he would find Meehan and Jones’ excellent book, Archaeology with Ethnography: an Australian Perspective, Department of Prehistory, RSPacS, Australian National University: Canberra, 1988, salutary reading.

The strength of the book lies in its extensive catalogue of ethnographic observations slanted at future archaeological studies – or at least one presumes that the observations will be useful for this purpose.

Review of ‘First Light’ by Peter Ackroyd and ‘Motherland’ by Timothy O’Grady

‘First Light’ by Peter Ackroyd, 1989, Abacus, 328 pp. ISBN O-349-10132-9 (pbk)
‘Motherland’ by Timothy O’Grady, 1989, Picador, 230 pp. ISBN 0-330-31198-0 (pbk)

Review by Tony Smith

Politicians seem to enjoy reading political thrillers, and businessmen’ are the prime buyers of Wall Street pulp, so it is just possible that archaeologists might find relaxation in the adventures of Indiana Jones and other ‘colleagues’. There is probably some sort of catharsis in these works. They broaden the narrow professional horizons, add glamour to the calling, and even encourage practitioners to think that their science might actually be appreciated in the ‘lay’ community. So, two recent works of fiction may emerge as recommended reading for professionals who want to know how outsiders perceive their digging work. And in any case, these books may turn out to be the most entertaining if not the most significant discoveries of the year.

Peter Ackroyd’s First Light adds to the author’s established reputation as a writer of historical curiosities which dabble in the dysjunction of time. Hawksmoor dealt with architecture and the occult, and Chatterton with the ghosts of literature. First Light speculates about the very fabric of the universe and the properties of time, and especially about the role of movement in their relationship.

In a neat juxtaposition, Ackroyd plays with the possibilities of an astrophysicist whose body thinks it is a supernova, an archaeologist who fears his discoveries and a retired Vaudevillian who discovers the cottage and the earthy rural family from which he was adopted as a child.

The three, or at least their concerns are thrown together when the archaeologist Mark Clare begins a dig in a tumulus in the field of Farmer Mint of Pilgrin Valley. The good farmer and his son are but two of the delightful characters strewn throughout the book, and their meetings with the cynical Evangeline Tupper (of the Department) and her friend and ‘Assistant’ lighten the dark, brooding forces that lurk behind most of Ackroyd’s pages.

The dig is of more than passing interest to astronomer Damian Fall, because Pilgrin Valley is stone country. Here, prehistoric astronomers calculated the orbits of the very stars studied by today’s Druids, stars such as Aldebaran, which sounds suspiciously like ‘the old barren one’. Ironically, Mark Clare’s wife despairs of being able to bear or even to adopt a child. Her fate mirrors that of the astronomer’s star and indeed, of the silent character who plies the threads together.

First Light is full of mystery which is undone rather than solved. The archaeologist, in attempting to go back in time, immerses him self forever in his subject and makes changes which can never be undone. Questions are raised about whether the cost is too great. While we would usually argue that the knowledge justifies the destruction, Mark Clare lacks confidence that history will judge him favourably. These strains create an interesting climax, which defies description to anyone who has not followed the separate trails.

Motherland is an extraordinary first novel by Timothy O’Grady. Although the author begins by seeking his disappeared mother, the main character is the Irish land and his Celtic ancestry: and if that sounds like it should be two characters, this is not a distinction which O’Grady finds useful. Australian archaeologists who enjoy reading Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines will understand this view.

In many respects, Motherland may appeal more to geneticists than to archaeologists, but the key to the journey and the search are found in the eventual discovery of the Synnott family’s ancestral home. More particularly, as the latest Synnott searches for his mother, he conducts a frantic excavation while under fire from troops and helicopters. And it is the means of his escape from this predicament which gives the book ns wonderful metaphorical title.

Again, there is a fascination with time involved in this tale, because the Synnott line has always contained clairvoyants and visionaries. Accounts of medieval battle, sorcery and sexual imperative produce an intriguing and often moving glimpse of a compressed past – perhaps a kind of near-death experience.

But whether or not the reader associates so closely with the narrator, the questions posed in the book are unavoidable. How much of the past do we imagine, and how far is our knowledge restricted by the narrowness of our imaginations? To what extent do we assume modernity when making our estimations? Is it a circular illogicality to attempt to understand the present by projecting forward from the past?

In both of these novels, there is a skilful evocation of the adventure of burrowing deeper. Both raise ethical questions which will be appreciated by those who dig and who have pondered the ethics of their tasks. And while neither intends a critical examination of archaeology per se, they do place the science into very challenging perspective.

Archaeologists may not find First Light or Motherland to be the kind of harmless diversions that Indiana Jones might provide. They should, however, be delighted to discover such powerful notions about their science expressed in compelling fiction.

Review of ‘A Pictoral Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture’ by R. Apperly, R. Irving and P. Reynolds

Cheney Book Review Cover 1992‘A Pictoral Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture’ by R. Apperly, R. Irving and P. Reynolds, 1989, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 297 pp.

Review by Susan Lawrence Cheney

As someone who knows very little about architecture but who has a professional concern with understanding the built environment I was delighted to see that at last there is a book designed with people like me in mind. A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture provides detailed information on architectural components and styles in a way that is simple enough for the beginner to follow yet sophisticated enough to be applied in a professional setting. The authors, all architects, explain and describe architectural styles for those not specialists in the field. The labelled illustrations, numerous photographs, explanatory essays, and the comprehensive glossary make the book a useful guide for the heritage professional.

The authors set out to clarify and define stylistic terms that are commonly used when referring to Australian architecture but that are rarely discussed. Familiar categories such as ‘federation’ and ‘gothic’ are made much less ambiguous and much more precise. Each style is defined by a set of design components, assigned to a specific time period, and its geographic range given. The use of regular criteria for describing each style leads to a systematic scheme that can be readily understood and employed .

The book is divided into six major sections, each dealing with a particular historical period in Australian architecture . These are the familiar Old Colonial, Victorian , Federation, Inter-War, Post-War and Late-Twentieth Century. Within the periods various architectural styles have been identified, such as ‘Old Colonial Regency’ and ‘Victorian Tudor’. The Federation Period for instance is characterised by 12 different styles and 66 styles altogether are described in the book. The author and that some boundaries remain hazy. The way in which the classification system was arrived at is discussed in the introduction and it is recommended that this be read before attempting to use the book. Unless the reasoning behind the use of the period system is understood it can appear unnecessarily confusing.

Buildings are classified according to lists of components , called style indicators, that make up each style. For example, a building in the ‘Victorian Italianate’ style is characterised by a pyramidal tower roof, an arcaded loggia, and either stucco wall finish or polychromatic brickwork, in addition to several other characteristics. Style indicators accompany each style in the book and form a classification scheme that can be applied to any given building. As some of the terms used may be unfamiliar a glossary is provided that defines and illustrates all of the terms used. This is an invaluable aid as it introduces the reader to architectural terminology and enables researchers to accurately name the architectural components of any building.

Along with the style indicators the section on each style is composed of a brief essay, a description , and a listing of relevant references. The essay provides an architectural history of the style and its development in Australia, while historical context is provided in the short introduction to each period. Numerous black and white photographs accompany each section and some are numbered to correspond to the style indicators. The geographic extent of the style is given as well which will be of further benefit to researchers attempting to classify buildings themselves. Major architects that worked in each style are given and the book is indexed by architect, building, and location.

While all kinds of buildings are featured in the book from private homes to churches, warehouses and office towers, the authors have chosen to concentrate on academic rather than vernacular styles. All of the architecture described in the book is the product of conscious stylistic decisions being made on the part of the builder. No vernacular forms have been included that might reflect folk traditions or the need to adapt to materials at hand, as these ‘deserve a different book from this one’. This is unfortunate as it limits the applicability of the book but given the amount of work represented in the book the desire to limit its scope is understandable. It is hoped that that book will be written however because despite the fact that vernacular architecture forms the bulk of the built environment it is too readily overlooked in formal typologies such as Identifying Australian Architecture.

One of the major problems in the book is the lack of analysis of temporal variation. While styles are grouped broadly by date there is no attempt to discuss change through time or the evolution of styles. Each period is presented as discrete, with no reference to what influenced its development or to how it in turn may have influenced what came afterwards. Little differentiation is made between styles that cross period lines, such as ‘Victorian Filigree’ and ‘Federation Filigree’, and unless the date of building is known it is hard to see how one would know to which period a building belonged. While I realise that this may simply be because the style does not change it is unfortunate as it means that the book, and the architectural style, cannot alone be used to date a building of unknown age.

As an archaeologist used to dealing with ‘site specimens’ I guess my complaint stems from the fact that there do not seem to be any in architecture,- or if there are, that they are not described and utilised more in this book. To make the book more useful it would be helpful if certain features or building techniques were attributed to certain periods. On identifying that feature on a particular building one could then assign a rough date to the building, much as in the same way one can roughly estimate the age of a glass bottle if it can be seen to be mould-blown. In the absence of such neat associations one is left to determine the style so that the period can be determined.

It is in determining the style of a particular building that the other major problem of the book lies. While it is easy to go from the style to a building, it is harder to go from a building to the style. In other words while the descriptions in the book make it quite simple to find buildings of the same style, it is difficult to start with a particular building that must be described and to then try to use the book to identify it. As a ‘field guide’, the book would benefit by the inclusion of some sort of taxonomic system so that one could start say with the style of window on a building, and on finding that they are for example crenellated, one would know that that is a component of the styles Georgian Simple and Federation Gothic. Nevertheless there are enough photographs and descriptions that after a bit of trial and error the researcher can come to some sort of conclusion.

Identifying Australian Architecture is written by architects and the detailed technical knowledge that that implies is evident in the book. All of the authors have taught architecture or design and have previously published in the field, which is also evident. Discussions of design components and explanations of technical aspects of architecture are all presented in ways that are relatively easy to assimilate. The stylistic classifications and the formal definitions are useful and not too complex. This book is recommended to anyone involved in recording or describing historic buildings.

The management of archaeological resources in forested areas: A research project funded by the Tasmanian Forest Research Council Inc


Tim Murray, Richard Cosgrove and Andrew Warner


Late in 1989 the Tasmanian Forest Research Council Inc. (TFRC) agreed to fund research into the management of archaeological resources in forested areas of the northwest of the state. The research project, scheduled for three years, calls for the employment of an archaeologist for two periods of fieldwork and laboratory analysis during 1990/1991 and 1991/1992. The purpose of this short statement is to outline the nature of the research project, and to seek expressions of interest from properly qualified archaeologists who have specific expertise in either one or both of the following areas: (1) Rockshelter and open site excavation and analysis, and (2) Large-scale reconnaissance survey.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Conjoinder. A reconstructed obsidian core from the Talasea excavations

Richard Fullagar


In a recent issue of AA Paul Packard (1989:67) posed two questions concerned with fitting together prehistoric flaked stone artefacts to reconstruct the original core. In response to the first question, I do not know if a 47 piece conjoin is even an Australian record. As for Paul Packard, my ignorance is partly because results have not been fully published (but see for example, Luebbers 1978:Plate 6.1, following page 221; Witter 1977; and papers presented by Hiscock to the Technological Analysis and Australian Archaeological Conference at the University of New England, 1988). In response to the second question (does anybody care?) I do know how brain numbing the exercise can be and I am sure Packard would agree that the number of bits that fit is less important than what it all means.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

A brief word on Tangri’s refutationism

Ron Southern


The discussion between Tangri (1989a, 1989b) and Murray  (1989) raises issues that go beyond a consideration of the utility of refutation. Their debate effectively raises questions about what constitutes the socio-political context of discipline and how that context may effect the researcher’s ability to make decisions. Firstly, let me say that  I am surprised that the debate continues along the lines of an analytic refutationism. The crude singularity of refutationism can never deny the credibility of complex historical hypotheses, because the existence of negative results rarely negates the entirety of the sets of relationships which form any specific hypothesis. Equally even where refutation leads to minor changes in hypotheses, at what point, given the social and political relationships involved in the constitution of hypotheses, is the hypothesis no longer plausible?

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

What curators are not paid for: A response to Sandra Bowdler

Richard Robins


Sandra Bowdler’s response to my recent (1988) article about the Queensland Museum’s policy regarding the deposition of archaeological collections is a welcome one for two reasons. The first is that it opens up the debate and creates greater awareness about an area of cultural resource management that I feel (perhaps with some bias) is sadly neglected. The second is that it amply illustrates many commonly held misconceptions about the role of museums with regard to archaeological collection management.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

What are museum staff paid for? A response to Richard Robins

Sandra Bowdler


It has always been to me a matter of profound personal, if completely unprofessional, regret, that I was not able to keep the shell fish hooks from Bass Point (see Bowdler 1970, 1976). They would have made a most attractive display, on red velvet perhaps, in a little rosewood cabinet in my drawing room, to be admired by visitors and tradespeople. As things stood, I was obliged by the conditions of my permit (very possibly the first issued for a professional archaeological) excavation in New South Wales) to turn them over, with the rest of the excavated material, to the Australian Museum in Sydney. Even without such a permit, I would probably have done so anyway. To make a few obvious points, they clearly should be kept with the rest of the Bass Point material, I might not look after them very well, and their fate on my death might be at risk, were I to die intestate, or not make specific provisions for them in my will. Most archaeologists with any professional sense of responsibility would want to take this sort of thing into account, whatever their personal inclinations.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Stratigraphy and argument at Koongine Cave

David Frankel


In reacting to my rather innocuous aside on the lack of a demonstratable antiquity for the wall-markings at Koongine Cave, Bednarik (1989) calls into question the integrity of the stratigraphic sequence and the value of radiocarbon dating of charcoal. While I would be the last person to deny the presence of easily identifiable animal burrows in Koongine Cave, there is no reason at all to suggest that there was any more profound disturbance. In so far as clearly distinct deposits with different colour, texture, matrix and inclusions constitute meaningful units of excavation and analysis, the site has well defined consistent stratigraphy.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Blowing in the wind: Site destruction and site creation at Hawker Lagoon, South Australia

Exposed artefacts (published in Australian Archaeology 40:60).

Exposed artefacts (published in Australian Archaeology 40:60).

David Cameron, Peter White, Ron Lampert and Stan Florek


The post-depositional movement of stone artefacts within sites by treadage and scuffage (e.g. Matthews 1965; Stockton 1973) and site-maintenance activities (Steele 1987), their movement by animals and especially birds (Cane 1982; Solomon et al. 1986), and their in situ alteration (Hiscock 1985) have all been recorded in Australia. Site destruction on a large scale, especially by wave action and erosion on the coasts, has been commonly invoked in explanations of prehistory and sometimes demonstrated (e.g. Head 1987; Godfrey 1989). We present here preliminary investigations into a further stage in these taphonomic processes. We demonstrate not only site destruction in a semi-arid environment but also the formation of a new ‘site’, incorporating disturbed cultural material in a new deposit which could be mistakenly interpreted as an undisturbed occupation horizon.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Before Dirk Hartog: Prehistoric archaeological research in Shark Bay, Western Australia

The Shark Bay study area (published in Australian Archaeology 30:49).

The Shark Bay study area (published in Australian Archaeology 30:49).

Sandra Bowdler


Since 1985, I have been carrying out archaeological field work at Shark Bay, for purposes of pure research and also as training for undergraduates from the University of Western Australia. This work has involved the location and recording of prehistoric archaeological sites, surface collecting to sample artefacts and also to provide dating materials, and test excavation of selected sites. The general aims have been to provide a chronological framework for prehistoric occupation of Shark Bay, to investigate the nature of that occupation and see what changes might have occurred through time. Only recently have we begun to put together some of the answers. One of the problems in this area was a lack of stratified sites, but perseverance has begun to remedy this.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Archaeological work in the Arawe Islands, West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea, December 1989–February 1990

Chris Gosden


The Arawe Islands study area (published in Australian Archaeology 30:38).

The Arawe Islands study area (published in Australian Archaeology 30:38).

The archaeological investigations in the Arawe Islands off the south coast of West New Britain carried out at the end of 1989 and the beginning of this year form the continuation of a project initiated in 1985 as part of the Lapita Homeland Project. Over three seasons of fieldwork we have built up a picture of the archaeological record over the last 6000 years, which can be combined and contrasted with information gained through interview and mapping of the form of society existing in the last hundred years. The results and finds from our latest season of work add considerably to our knowledge of the sequences of material culture in the area and the formation processes of the archaeological record. Our present excavations have also revealed a whole series of deposits with preserved organic remains which were hitherto unexpected and add a new dimension to our understanding of prehistoric subsistence. Because of the unexpected nature of some of these finds it appeared to us that rapid, preliminary publication of the results was worthwhile.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Memories of Gordon Childe

Laila Haglund


Another friend from earlier days was the Sydney Professor of Archaeology, James Stewart. Childe visited him and his wife, Eve, a number of times, for a week or so, at Mount Pleasant, their estate near Bathurst, just west of the Blue Mountains. He met there another guest, a young woman student of classical archaeology, and was greatly intrigued by the fact that she smoked a pipe. He insisted on teaching her how to clean a pipe with a blade of grass, as the most economical method. Great was his embarrassment when the blade broke and got stuck in the pipe stem, and had to be removed with fine wire! Childe also talked to her about his ideas for the endless possibilities for the study of Australian prehistory. He felt there was much to do in this neglected field, and he wrote to Mary Alice Evatt in August:
I could not at my age work up an interest in it myself but I’m sure it’s something worth studying and preserving. There are only 3 or 4 people working on it at all seriously with rather inadequate training and hopelessly inadequate resources. One university—probably ANU—ought to have a professorship or at least a readership in Australian or Oceanic archaeology. And antiquities ought to be preserved—particularly the ‘Aboriginal’ rock pictures.
(Green, Sally 1981 Prehistorian. A Biography of V. Gordon Childe, p.149. Moonraker Press: Bradford-on-Avon).

While I was staying with Eve and James Stewart at Mount Pleasant near Bathurst in 1956–57, Gordon Childe came to stay several times. The visits would last a week or so; the last visit was shortly before his death. At that time I was a student in Latin, Greek and Ancient History and not really aware of Childe’s greatness. But I did my best to entertain him as one would entertain a fellow guest. I remember being both amused and bemused at first.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

From ‘The Dawn’ to sunset: Gordon Childe in Melbourne, 1957

John Mulvaney


Only Gordon Childe’s death sufficed to alert Australians to his international reputation. His private return after an absence of 35 years was unlikely to be newsworthy, given Australia’s intellectual climate and regional isolation in 1957. I was totally unaware of Child’s return in April, or of his visits to universities in Sydney and Canberra, despite the fact that it was in that year that  I initiated Australia’s only course in the prehistory of this region. This was Pacific Prehistory, a final honours year course at Melbourne University’s History Department.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Australian Broadcasting Commission Guest of Honour

Vere Gordon Childe


As you have just heard, I am an archaeologist. Now, some people have the idea that archaeology deals with things so remote, that they could never possibly have any relevance to our present-day lives. But this, I assure you, is not so. Actually, the modern nuclear physicists, for example, who are achieving the transmutation of metals, owe more to the successful practice of metal workers in the archaeologists’ Bronze Age, than to the learned theories of Babylonian or Egyptian alchemists and their medieval disciplines in the so-called historical eras. For the Bronze Age metal workers smelted the blue-green crystalline ores of copper, and so reduced them to the tough, reddish metal, and this was the prototype of all the chemical and nuclear changes now deliberately controlled by man. And don’t forget that this startling change was regularly brought about, before anyone had devised a system of writing to record the smelters’ formulae.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Gordon Childe: A biographical sketch

Sally Green


This article describes the main features of V. Gordon Childe’s life. Biographical information on Childe is more difficult to obtain than his books and papers, and for this reason I have specifically excluded detailed discussion of his many publications. Aspects of his work are dealt with elsewhere in this journal, and in previous publications (e.g. Gathercole 1971 ; Green 1981; Trigger 1980).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Second Childehood? Gordon Childe and Australian archaeology

Tim Murray


I have been asked by the Editors to assess the impact of Childean archaeology on the profession of prehistoric archaeology in Australia, from the perspective of one who never knew him nor was taught by him. This distinction is important, as there are a number of senior Australian archaeologists who had direct contact with Childe, and who were beginning in the profession when his influence was at its zenith. Significantly, those same archaeologists also experienced the shock of his fall, and temporary banishment to the outer darkness of ‘honourable ancestor who had got it wrong’.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Gordon Childe: Paradigms and patterns in prehistory

Andrew Sherratt


Prehistorians, by the very nature of their task, must inevitably talk in metaphors. With no names or personal motivations around which to construct an account of past events, narrative accounts of prehistory can only describe the past by analogy. Equally inevitably, therefore, the metaphors of one generation seem inappropriate to the next one: prehistory is notable for the way in which it is constantly rewritten in the light of current experience.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Thesis abstract ‘Graman Revisited: An Analysis of Stone Artefact and Site Function at Graman Sites GB1 and GB4’

Phillip G. Boot

MA thesis, Department of Prehistory and Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, The Australian National University, Canberra, May 1990

This MA thesis is an analysis of function based on four levels of interpretation. Those of individual artefact use, relationships between artefacts within a functional assemblage, assemblages as part of a functioning site, and changing artefact and site function over time.

Well over 2000 stone artefacts from two rockshelters in the Ottley’s Creek Valley near Graman in northern New South Wales were examined for the presence of use wear and residues. One hundred and twenty-nine experiments were conducted in order to replicate likely stone tool functions at Graman. Previous ethnohistorical and archaeological research at Graman was reviewed.

The resultant data produced from this research have led to interpretations of tool and site use at Graman which indicate substantial change in function over time. The sites appear to have been base camps in which stone tools were manufactured, used (predominantly for plant working), and discarded in distinct activity areas. These activity areas and the ways in which stone tools were used appear to have changed over time at both sites (although not simultaneously). However, the general subsistence strategies appear to have remained relatively unchanged.

Several methodological problems have also been addressed, particularly those dealing with variations in fracture damage rates and transverse snapping. Both of these areas of research require further investigation but it appears that edge fracture rates are linked both to intensity and duration of use and to the mechanical properties of the stone materials used. Transverse snapping can result from a number of factors, but certain forms of transverse snaps appear to be indicative of barbing functions among backed blades.

Generally, the results of the research lend support to previous research conducted by McBryde (1976, 1977, 1984), which indicated that substantial functional change has occurred at Graman over a relatively short period. The research has allowed an examination of such change in great detail and has shown that functional analysis is an ideal method by which the minutiae of prehistory can be observed.


McBryde, I. 1976 Subsistence patterns in New England prehistory. Occasional Papers in Anthropology 6:48–68.

McBryde, I. 1977 Determinants of assemblage variation in New England prehistory. In R.V.S. Wright (ed.), Stone Tools as Cultural Markers, pp.226–250. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

McBryde, 1. 1984 Backed blade industries from the Graman rockshelters, New South Wales: Some evidence on function. In V.N. Misra and P. Bellwood (eds), Recent Advances in Indo-Pacific Prehistory, pp.231–249. New Delhi: Oxford and IBH Publishing Company.

Why plausibility matters

Tim Murray


Tangri’s contribution (AA29:61–66) deserves a short response, both to set the record straight and to attempt to move discussion of epistemic matters onto more profitable ground. Judging by the tone of his response, and given his singular reading of epistemology, the sociology of knowledge and of the history of archaeology, I hesitate to take issue with him again. But Tangri is right about one thing, the issues are important enough to at least try to salvage something from the exchange.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Early dates at Malakunanja II: A reply to Bowdler

The dates in question (published in Australian Archaeology 31:94).

The dates in question (published in Australian Archaeology 31:94).

Bert Roberts, Rhys Jones and Mike Smith


In the December 1989 issue of Search, Sandra Bowdler agreed with Jim Allen (1989), saying ‘that we need not, on present evidence, go beyond 40,000 years ago for the initial date of colonisation’ of Australia and announcing that she had ‘indeed advanced similar views (herself) in two forthcoming papers’—both now sadly out of date. Barely nine months later, in the present issue of Australian Archaeology her view is that ‘50,000 BP for a human occupation site in northern Australia is not in itself especially surprising’. Apart from the new information presented in our 1990 paper, what else could have caused her to change her mind?

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

50,000 year-old site in Australia: Is it really that old?

Sandra Bowdler


A date of ca 50,000 BP for a human occupation site in northern Australia is not in itself especially surprising, but the evidence recently presented by Roberts et al. (1990) does need further substantiation and clarification.

The paper does not discuss the crucial issue of the actual relationship between the event being dated and the evidence of human occupation. More detail is required as to the precise nature and location of the dated samples and their archaeological relationship to the artefacts, particularly given the sandy nature of the sediments, and the admitted possibility that the lowest artefacts may have been trodden into unconsolidated older sediments. One of the dated samples is, it is true, said to have been obtained from sediments overlying a small pit containing artefacts. Presumably however ‘treadage’ could have occurred at any time during the site’s occupation, with consequences not only for moving the artefacts about, but also for mingling the sediments themselves.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The Lightning Brothers Project: The 1988 and 1989 field seasons

Rock art and excavations at Mennge-ya (published in Australian Archaeology 31:89).

Rock art and excavations at Mennge-ya (published in Australian Archaeology 31:89).

Bruno David, Ian McNiven, Josephine Flood, Val Attenbrow and Robin Frost


In 1988 we began a research project in Wardaman country, Northern Territory (Fig. l). The project centres on the rock art located to the immediate northeast of the Victoria River and to the south of Katherine. The rock art itself currently forms an integral part of Wardaman lore, and is largely seen by Wardaman people not so much as ‘art’ but as an expression of the land and of the Dreaming beings which give identity to the land (cf. Frost et al. in press; Merlan 1989). As our research interests combined both archaeological and anthropological aspects, we were interested from the onset in documenting not only the rock art, but also aspects of the contemporary narrative tradition which today gives the art meaning to Wardaman people. This paper introduces the various research questions which have given rise to the project, outlines the fieldwork undertaken during the first two field seasons in Wardaman country, and documents some preliminary results of this research.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Backed blades from the McArthur River, Borroloola, Northern Territory

The backed blades under discussion (published in Australian Archaeology 31:85).

The backed blades under discussion (published in Australian Archaeology 31:85).

Michael Pickering


Increasing research in northern Australia continues to expand the known distribution of backed blades. It is now generally accepted that the distribution maps of 20 years ago reflect the distribution of research rather than of the artefacts themselves. The total number of such artefacts known from northern Australia is, however, still very small.

During ethnographic fieldwork in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria in August 1989 the author had occasion to visit a public facility 4 km south of Borroloola overlooking the McArthur River (Fig.1). During an early visit a light scatter of artefacts was noticed in an area denuded through vehicle and pedestrian traffic. A cursory examination located two backed blades, one broken bifacial point and one small grindstone fragment in close association. Subsequent visits failed to locate any other artefact of these types.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Legislating to protect Australia’s material cultural heritage: Guidelines for cultural resources professionals

Helen Parrott


During the last 25 years the Federal Government, the States and Territories in Australia with the exception of the Australian Capital Territory have legislated to protect both places and movable material of significance to Australia’s cultural heritage. While this legislation is uneven in its coverage and indeed in its effectiveness, little debate has been directed to the various possibilities and limits which are provided by legislation in protecting cultural heritage sites and movable material. It is proposed to deal broadly with these issues in this article while providing guidelines on the various approaches that may be used by professionals working in the cultural heritage field.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Blowout taphonomy: Non-cultural associations between faunal and stone artefact assemblages along the Cooloola coast, southeast Queensland

Pipi shell (published in Australian Archaeology 31:71).

Pipi shell (published in Australian Archaeology 31:71).

Ian McNiven


Taphonomic analyses of archaeological sites in coastal regions of Australia have made important contributions to our understanding of processes that create the archaeological record (e.g. Balme et al. 1978; Barker 1987; Bowdler 1984; Hope et al. 1977). Unfortunately, most of these studies have focused upon terrestrial faunal assemblages with the result that few insights have been made concerning the creation of marine faunal assemblages (cf. Colley and Jones 1987; Horton 1978; Jones and Alien 1978; Robins 1987; Stone 1989). This paper partly addresses this problem by examining the effects of carnivore behaviour upon the formation of marine faunal assemblages within archaeological sites along the Cooloola coast, southeast Queensland.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Background to changing cultural heritage legislation in Tasmania

Angie McGowan


With the election of a new Government in Tasmania in July 1989, a number of initiatives are underway in the realm of heritage legislation and administration. In this paper I outline the development and provisions of the existing legislation and discuss its use and limitations for cultural resource management, finishing with a brief look at the current state of play regarding the proposed new legislation. The legislation dealing with movable cultural heritage and museums is not covered.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Positions and policies of museums in Australian on human skeletal remains

John Stanton, Betty Meehan, Val Attenbrow, Amzad Mian, Barrie Reynolds, Richard Robins, Elspeth Wishart, Christopher Anderson, Julia Clark and Robin Watt


At the beginning of this year major Australian museums were asked by the Editors of AA to submit, for publication, a statement of their current policies on human skeletal remains. To date we have received responses from the following museums. We also include a contribution from the National Museum of New Zealand.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Pleistocene human remains from King Island, southeastern Australia

Stratigraphic section (published in Australian Archaeology 31:45).

Stratigraphic section (published in Australian Archaeology 31:45).

Robin Sim and Alan Thorne


In September 1989 during archaeological test excavations in caves on King Island, Sim discovered a human skeleton. The remains, which are those of an Aboriginal, have been dated to approximately 14,000 years ago. This Pleistocene date for human presence on what is now King Island is significant for a variety of reasons. These human remains are of similar antiquity to both the Kow Swamp and Keilor remains and thus among Australia’s earliest. They date to the period of lower sea level when King Island was linked to both Tasmania and the Australian mainland, and thus provide the oldest evidence of the general morphology of the early Tasmanians.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Prehistoric sites on King Island in the Bass Strait: Results of an archaeological survey

Robin Sim


Archaeological sites on King Island in the Bass Strait (published in Australian Archaeology 31:38).

Archaeological sites on King Island in the Bass Strait (published in Australian Archaeology 31:38).

During 1987 and 1988, six weeks were spent surveying for archaeological sites on King Island. The survey was undertaken as a La Trobe University honours thesis project (Sim 1988) and was sponsored by the Australian Geographic Society. During the survey, more than 20 prehistoric sites were located in addition to four historic sites. Previous archaeological investigation of King Island included a brief visit by Rhys Jones in 1979 when he recorded two artefact scatters (Jones 1979). A human skeleton which could possibly be prehistoric, had also been found on a small island offshore from King Island. Post-depositional contamination however, rendered radiocarbon dating of these remains problematic (Murray et al. 1982).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Aboriginal sites in a submerged landscape at Lake Jasper, southwestern Australia

Map of Lake Jasper (published in Australian Archaeology 31:29).

Map of Lake Jasper (published in Australian Archaeology 31:29).

Charlie Dortch and Ian Godfrey


Western Australian Museum diver/archaeologists have identified submerged Aboriginal sites at depths to 10 m on the floor of Lake Jasper, a 4 sq km freshwater lake located in the D’Entrecasteaux National Park, 6 km from the Southern Ocean coast in the extreme southwestern corner of Western Australia (Lat. 340 24’30” S. Long. 1 150 40’30” E.). The lake is in a swampy corridor of coastal sand plain between a low plateau (40–60 m asl) to the north, and, on its seaward side, high coastal dunes (150–195 m as1) having a massive calcarenite substrate. One of us (CD) first saw some of the sites (1–3: Fig. l) in April 1988. At this time severe 1987–1988 drought conditions had lowered the water level at Lake Jasper, exposing parts of its floor and revealing, above water and at shallow depths (ca 1 m), scatters of flaked stone artefacts and numbers of large tree and blackboy (Xanthorrhoea preissit) stumps in growth position. It was suspected that the stumps were essentially the remains of a pre-inundation landscape, since it is improbable that trees and blackboys could have become established in an inshore zone of fluctuating water levels. This probability seemed greater when, a few months later, wood samples from two submerged tree stumps—one from Site 3 on the southwest side of the lake, and the other at Site 1 on the lake’s opposite shore, 2 km east, yielded a pair of ca 3800 BP radiocarbon dates (Table 1; Fig. 1). No Aboriginal sites had been recorded previously around Lake Jasper, and there are no ethnohistorical or ethnographic data for the locality.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The linguistic prehistory of Australia: Opportunities for dialogue with archaeology

Patrick McConvell


Pama Nyungan languages (published in Australian Archaeology 31:6).

Pama Nyungan languages (published in Australian Archaeology 31:6).

Both linguistic and archaeological work in Australia have made great strides in the last  20 years. However, these developments have occurred in each discipline in isolation from, and largely in ignorance of, the methods and results of the other discipline. This situation is ripe for change: the links between the disciplines are demanding attention in order to answer questions about Australian prehistory emerging in both. Recent archaeology has drawn more and more on anthropology and social theory, and historical linguistics has begun to attune itself to the advances in linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics. By means of this bridge through anthropology, the divide between archaeology and linguistics can now be crossed and a common language—or at least a measure of bilingualism—can develop within the disciplines, in order jointly to construct models of social, cultural and linguistic change.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The World Archaeological Congress (WAC) and the WAC first Code of Ethics


Elizabeth Williams and Dave Johnston


The World Archaeological Congress (WAC) and its genesis should be well-known to members of the AAA through articles published by Jack Golson (1986, 1988) in this journal. As readers of AA are no doubt aware, WAC is a new organisation which provides an international forum for discussion about archaeological research and practice, and the management of archaeological heritage. It has a central academic role and aims to place universal issues in a comparative perspective. At present WAC has over 700 members from more than 65 countries. As well as having a major concern with academic study and research, WAC confronts the issue that archaeologists do not work in social and political isolation. It provides a forum for discussion on historical, social and political issues in archeology and aims to make archaeological studies relevant to the wider community. As well as its academic interests it is particularly concerned with the following themes:

  • education about the past
  • archaeology and Indigenous peoples
  • the ethics of archaeological inquiry
  • the protection, ownership and management of the archaeological heritage
  • the application of new technologies in archaeology.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Notes for a Code of Ethics for Australian archaeologists working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders heritage

Iain Davidson


At the annual conference of the Australian Archaeological Association  (AAA), held at the Wilderness Lodge, Burdekin Dam, outside Townsville in December 1990, there were discussions about the adoption of a Code of Ethics for Australian archaeologists working with Aboriginal heritage. At the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Association it was decided that a decision on the Code of Ethics would be reached at the 1991 AGM to be held at the annual conference in Canberra.  AAA members were presented with some proposals by Aboriginal and Torres Strait lslander people meeting at the AAA conference. These proposals started from the Code of Ethics adopted at the 1990 World Archaeological Congress (WAC) (see report by Johnston and Williams in this issue), and took the form of proposed amendments to that code. These proposals were then discussed at a session open to all participants at the conference. These discussions were conducted with a spirit of goodwill, and a recognition that it was the wish of archaeologists generally to add to knowledge of Aboriginal heritage by the unique methods of archaeology. In this light, a small group who had expressed a wide range of views at the open meeting, discussed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait lslander amendments and made suggestions for alterations within their original spirit.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Archaeology at the Northern Territory University: An introduction

Peter Hiscock and Ian Walters


Archaeology has been taught at the Northern Territory University (NTU) since the formation of the university two years ago. In 1987 Ian Walters was employed by the University College of the Northern Territory to initiate undergraduate courses in archaeology, based on the existing curricula of Queensland University. Peter Hiscock was hired in 1988 to increase the scope of archaeological offerings, and soon after the University College was converted into a small independent university. The first MA and PhD students in archaeology were enrolled in 1989 and in July 1990 archaeology staff and students moved into the newly constructed facilities. During 1989 and 1990 archaeology at NTU gathered momentum. This dynamism can be seen in the dramatic growth in student numbers. First year students increased from just over 50 in 1988 to more than 160 in early 1991. During the same period post-graduate students were enrolled for the first time, and in 1991 there are six post-graduate and four honours students researching degrees in archaeology/material culture. The purpose of this paper is to describe the teaching and researching of archaeology in Darwin.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Some sort of dates at Malakunanja II: A reply to Roberts et al

Sandra Bowdler


It is unfortunate when scholars feel the need to resort to illogical and personal vituperation, in lieu of being able to present a case which can stand on its merits. Roberts et al. (1990a) ask, what has caused me to change my mind? The answer is, nothing; I have not changed it, nor was there any need to do so. In  1989 it was my view that we need not, on present evidence, go beyond 40,000 years ago for the initial date of colonization of Australia. I also thought then, although 1 did not say so, that there would indeed not be anything especially surprising were earlier evidence to be demonstrated. That is still my view, on both counts.  I did (Bowdler 1989) mention two forthcoming papers in that context. Search made an editorial decision not to include the names or any other details of those papers. Obviously Roberts et al. can know absolutely nothing about them, except the fact that they contained a view similar to the one quoted above. Clearly, ‘sadly out of date’ is the new bullyspeak for ‘not in agreement with me/us’.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Reflections on refutation

Daniel Tangri


It is an episode of some consequence that a discussion on epistemology has erupted in the pages of Australian Archaeology. The debate has covered many of the thornier issues of philosophy in archaeology, ranging from the sociology of the discipline to the vagaries of methodology. This was quite an unintended consequence of an article which was originally aimed at elucidating only a small aspect of this spectrum. The larger picture has since been shifted into focus in the debate with Murray, most recently with greater clarity in AA31. It is clear that both of us previously had little understanding of each other’s views. For example, I attacked Murray’s argument on plausibility when he was talking about tradition, and Murray has chosen to discuss tradition when the focus of the original essay was on which of two advertised testing systems might be most appropriate; tradition and plausibility are relevant to this discussion, but all topics can be discussed independently. Murray is correct in noting that I focused overmuch on the context of justification without including the role of tradition in the context of discovery. After all that, however, it is fascinating to see that Murray (AA31:99) now agrees that ‘confirmation, because it tends to be conservative of existing approaches, is less useful than refutation’. As this was actually the point of my original essay, it is unfortunate that we have had to discuss other issues in such a foolhardy manner when simple correspondence might have saved a lot of trees.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Conjoins and challenges: A rejoinder to Packard

Bernard M.J. Huchet


In a recent article Packard (1989) documented his reconstruction of a 47 piece conjoin. In bringing his report to an end, Packard posited two questions: ‘is this a record? and does anybody care?’. Regarding the first query, the answer is NO. If one takes the world as a basis for comparison, it becomes obvious that larger conjoins have been refitted. For instance, Van Noten (1982: Plate 14) reported a 102 piece conjoin recovered from Gombe, Central Africa. Within Australia, conjoins exceeding 47 pieces have also been refitted. For example, a knapped boulder collected by Stephen Sutton near Mount lsa and conjoined by myself (Sutton and Huchet 1988) comprises, as far as I can remember, a minimum of 85 pieces and very possibly 100 pieces or more. The exact number is beyond recall since counting the number of pieces did not matter to me.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Reflections on the Townsville AAA Conference from the Women in Archaeology Conference

Robyn Bancroft


This is not an academic paper but an attempt to clarify erroneous assumptions and misunderstandings. Before I begin, there are a few points I wish to make. Firstly, I would like to thank Laurajane Smith and Hilary du Cros for having the vision to see the importance of holding the conference for women in archaeology.  I know that future support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women involved in archaeology will come from those who were present. Secondly, I make mention of the new title now given to us by the Australian Government – that is, ATSI or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We prefer to call ourselves by the name which is used in our own area – for example, Goori is the name used on the north coast of New South Wales, Murri in Queensland, and so on. I will use the ATSl acronym here. Thirdly, I would like to bring to your attention a future conference which will be held at Charles Sturt University in July this year called ‘Aboriginal Involvement in National Parks and Protected Areas’. For those of you who work with ATSl people and organisations I think this would be an excellent time for discussion, communication and participation on issues of relevance to you. Your response in the way of questions and constructive criticisms will be appreciated.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Marginal notes: A male view from the 1st Women in Archaeology Conference, Albury, February 1991

Iain Davidson


It will take some time before we can judge the full impact on Australian archaeology of the first Women in Archaeology Conference. But we can be sure there will be one. In style and content it was quite unlike any other conference in Australia and the participants I spoke to all described it as outstanding and above all stimulating. There will be much important work stemming from it and it is to be hoped the proceedings appear rapidly. Laurajane Smith and Hilary du Cros are to be congratulated for organising it, both for the ideas and for the efficiency of the arrangements.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Women in Archaeology Conference: A feminist critique of archaeology

Hilary du Cros and Laurajane Smith


The conference was held at Charles Sturt University, Albury, between 8 and 11 of February. There were 102 registrations. Overseas visitors included Dr Meg Conkey (USA), Dr Joan Gero (USA), Dr Alison Wylie  (Canada), Chris Jenkins (NZ), Pamela Russell (NZ), and  Beverly Parslow (NZ). Thirty-eight papers were given in eight sections:

  • Gender as a Dimension in Archaeological Theory
  • The Pleistocene and Physical Anthropology:  Removing the Stereotypes
  • Concurrent sessions: Gender Case Studies in Prehistory and Historical Archaeology
  • Concurrent sessions: Cultural Resource  Management and Gender Issues and Gender  and Art Studies
  • Women in the Archaeological Career Structure
  • Women in the Archaeological Workplace

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

A preliminary survey for Aboriginal sites in the Denison River Valley, March 1989

Sites in southwest Tasmania (published in Australian Archaeology 32:29).

Sites in southwest Tasmania (published in Australian Archaeology 32:29).

Steve Brown, Sue Kee, Angela McGowan, Greg Middleton, Mike Nash, Brian Prince, Nigel Ricketts and Darrell West

A preliminary survey for Aboriginal sites in the Denison River valley was undertaken in March 1989 by a team of eight people from the Tasmanian Department of Lands, Parks and Wildlife (now Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage). Seven confirmed archaeological sites, all almost certainly providing evidence of Pleistocene human occupation, were located.

Archaeological mitigation in the Perth metropolitan area

Sandra Bowdler, Lynda Strawbridge and Madge Schwede


The Perth metropolitan area (published in Australian Archaeology 32:22).

The Perth metropolitan area (published in Australian Archaeology 32:22).

We describe here recent efforts to structure the management of archaeological sites in the Perth metropolitan area, and some suggestions on future mitigation work based on recent and ongoing research. The ideas outlined here arise from several sources. One is a report on the management of Aboriginal sites in the Perth metropolitan region (Strawbridge 1988), commissioned by the Department of Aboriginal Sites of the Western Australian Museum and funded by a National Estate Grant. Another is Schwede’s PhD research on the prehistory of the Helena River valley. The other sources of information are a series of mitigation exercises, particularly those involving test-pitting, carried out as consultancies in the Perth metropolitan region.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Commonwealth/Telecom sites: Artefact cataloguing and analysis methods

Location of the study sites (published in Australian Archaeology 32:17).

Location of the study sites (published in Australian Archaeology 32:17).

Hilary du Cros and David Rhodes


This paper is a brief discussion d artefact processing methods used during the excavation of the Commonwealth Centre/Telecom post-contact archaeological sites.  It outlines the problems which were encountered in systematically cataloguing and analysing the large number of artefacts excavated within a short period of time. Some solutions are discussed below for the problems encountered during the artefact cataloguing and analysis on this project, as they may be of relevance to future cultural resource projects of this type.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The Double Island Point Aboriginal burials, coastal southeast Queensland

Map showing the study site (published in Australian Archaeology 32:9).

Map showing the study site (published in Australian Archaeology 32:9).

Ian McNiven


This paper reports on the excavation of two Aboriginal burials from near Double Island Point, Cooloola National Park, southeast Queensland. The work represents the first controlled excavation of Aboriginal burials in southeast Queensland since Haglund’s Broadbeach Aboriginal Burial Ground excavation in the 1960s (Haglund 1976). The examination of the two burials arose out of a larger regional study of settlement and subsistence at Cooloola (McNiven 1985, l990), which focuses on Holocene shell midden and stone artefact scatters. This project revealed that historically recorded resident groups of marine-oriented peoples across the northern and southern sections of the region probably developed during the last 1000 years. In that connection, this paper details two burials pertaining to this Recent Phase occupation of Cooloola. It provides a description of the antiquity and method of burial and documents consultations with local Aboriginal groups.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The antiquity of grinding stones in semi-arid western New South Wales

The Willandra Lakes study area (published in Australian Archaeology 32:3).

The Willandra Lakes study area (published in Australian Archaeology 32:3).

Jane Balme


Western New South Wales is well known as one of the largest regional data sets of Pleistocene archaeological material in Australia. Dating of aeolian sediments has been possible through the archaeological accumulation and subsequent preservation of organic remains within dune sequences associated with lakes and waterways. The identifiable stratification within these, produced by fluctuations in lake and river levels, has provided good potential to interpret the age of archaeological material within them. However, western NSW archaeological sites are generally exposed, and partially eroded, open sites. Once exposed, and during the process of erosion, non-contemporaneous materials become mixed. Eroded sites can be expected to exhibit both laterally and vertically mixed materials.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Thesis abstract ‘An Analysis of Mound Formation at Milligimbi, Northern Territory’

Andrew Roberts

Master of Letters thesis, Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, April 1991

This Master of Letters thesis presents a summary of archaeological and geomorphological research that has a bearing on the study area, Milingimbi, northeast Arnhem Land. It determines that the archaeological sites on the island are comparable to coastal sites found elsewhere in the north. In doing so it details the results of previous archaeological work undertaken at Milingimbi (McCarthy and Setzler 1960; Mulvaney 1975; Warner 1969) and presents data on six sites that were investigated on the island in 1989–90.

This thesis primarily reviews some of the agents of mound formation that may affect the interpretation of coastal archaeological sites in Australia. In particular it looks at features associated with the behaviour of some mounding and burrowing animals that are found at Milingimbi, including the orange footed scrub fowl (Megapodius reinwardt), the horn eyed ghost crab (Ocypode ceratopthalma) and the moniter lizard (Varanus punctatus). It also examines the discard and mounding behaviour of the Yolngu and Anbarra people of Arnhem Land in terms of interpreting the past (Meehan 1982).

Data are presented on 118 sites recorded at Milingimbi in 1989–90. Sites are assessed in relation to a number of factors including location, vegetation, species representation, condition, matrix, stone tools and hearths. Sites in the study area appear to have at least seven different manifestations and these can be attributed to a number of different variables (including the activities of scrub fowls).

Finally this thesis assesses the role of the scrub fowl in the formation of archaeological features at Milingimbi as suggested by Stone (1989, 1991). It suggests that a range of bioturbators operate on sites in different areas and that locational details are prime determinants. The evidence at Milingimbi for the creation of mounds by the scrub fowl is limited to areas that were or are thickly forested by semi-deciduous vine thickets. Deposits utilised by these animals for the incubation of eggs are however demonstrably different to the deposits built by hunter-gatherers although it is apparent that overlaps exist that need further clarification based on taphonomical analysis.


McCarthy, F.D. and F.M. Setzler 1960 The archaeology of Arnhem Land. In C.P. Mountford (ed.), Records of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land. Vol. 2, Anthropology and Nutrition, Ch. 5. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Meehan, B. 1982 Shell Bed to Shell Midden. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

Mulvaney, D.J. 1975 The Prehistory of Australia. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Stone, T. 1989 Origins and environmental significance of shell and earthmounds in northern Australia. Archaeology in Oceania 24(2):59–64.

Stone, T. 1991 Two birds with one stone: A reply. Archaeology In Oceania 26(1):26–27.

Warner, W.L 1969 A Black Civilisation: A Social Study of an Australian Tribe (Revised edition). Peter Smith: Gloucester. Mass.

Thesis abstract ‘Chronological Changes in Stone Artefact Resource Utilisation at Magnificent Gallery: Southeast Cape York Peninsula, Northern Queensland’

Silvano Jung

Master of Letters thesis, Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, November 1990

This Master of Letters thesis presents a technological analysis of stone artefacts from Magnificent Gallery, a Pleistocene rockshelter in southeast Cape York Peninsula. Changes in artefact technology were linked to changes in Aboriginal stone working behaviour. It is concluded that people were implementing more efficient knapping techniques in the past 1000 years BP probably in response to significant population increases.

The site was excavated in 1989 by Morwood (1989a, 1989b). The deposits contain archaeological material consisting of charcoal, grindstones, stone artefacts, bone, ochre, xanthorrhoea and items of worked wood. Art is also present at the site.

‘Cultural Layers’ were used as the primary unit of the analysis. Three technological artefact classes were examined within those cultural layers: cores, flakes and flaked pieces which established that:

1. People increased their use of fine-grained materials (e.g. chert).

2. More efficient flaking techniques were applied in knapping stone.

3. The sequence in which those knapping techniques were applied became more sophisticated. For the first time, retouch flaking was introduced.

Indexes of site use were also applied to the stone artefact assemblage. A comparative index of trampling intensity was devised so as to take into account the inter-related processes of flake breakage and sedimentation. This demonstrated that a decrease in the proportions of broken flakes, especially in the uppermost layer, largely reflected associated increases in sedimentation rates, rather than decreased occupational intensity. It is therefore concluded that not only did artefact discard rate increase late in the sequence, but also that people may have visited the site more frequently and/or for longer periods.


Morwood, M.J. 1989a The archaeology of Aboriginal art in SE Cape York: A research proposal. Rock Art Research 6(1):71–72.

Morwood, M.J. 1989b The archaeology of Aboriginal art In SE Cape York: Preliminary report on the 1989 fieldwork. Rock Art Research 6(2): 155–156.

Thesis abstract ‘Prehistoric Aboriginal Land and Resource Use in Southeast Cape York Peninsula: A Technological View’

Warwick Pearson

BA(Hons) thesis, Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, November 1990

This research for a BA (Hons) thesis was concerned with two issues of current debate in Australian prehistory. These were: the nature and timing of Pleistocene occupation of inland areas of the continent, and the nature and behavioural implications of mid- to late Holocene changes in the archaeological record.

To address these issues, a model of land and resource use throughout the period of Aboriginal occupation of a study area in southeast Cape York Peninsula was constructed. This was tested and refined using a technological analysis of Aboriginal stone artefacts from Sandy Creek 1, a rockshelter providing a dated occupation sequence from the early Pleistocene to European contact. Other, previously excavated, sites in the area provided comparative data.

In constructing a model of behavioural change during the occupation of the study area, an historical model was derived from ethnographic and ethno-historic studies of the area and from surveys of resource distribution in the area. Changes to this model in prehistory were hypothesized from discussions of climatic and environmental change in the area during the period of human occupation.

The issues concern behavioural change in patterns of land and resource use. It is well known that different patterns of land and resource use produce different spatial and temporal patterns of artefacts in the archaeological record. These patterns are particularly evident in prehistoric stone artefact flaking strategies. It is also well established that behavioural change in stone flaking strategies (e.g. efficiency of reduction, raw material use) may be reconstructed from technological analysis of the artefacts.

The study area is noted for a resident Aboriginal population throughout the arid phase of the last glaciation, and for a mid- to late Holocene increase in the intensity of exploitation of land and resources, visible simultaneously in a number of archaeological media. Aspects of mid- to late Holocene economic and demographic change in the study area differ from those described for other parts of the continent. This demonstrates that prehistoric behavioural change is best examined in a regional context.

Thesis abstract ‘Prehistoric Aboriginal Settlement and Subsistence in the Cooloola Region, Coastal Southeast Queensland’

Ian McNiven

PhD, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, The University of Queensland, February 1991

This PhD thesis examines Holocene Aboriginal settlement and subsistence behaviour for the Cooloola region, coastal southeast Queensland. It focuses upon methodological problems of systemic site interaction and theoretical issues of human responses to spatial variations in resource structure. The study is based upon the results of surveys (site and non-site) and excavations, and represents Stage 2 of the Cooloola Region Archaeological Project (CRAP).

Two major chronological phases are identified. Recent Phase sites (ca 900–100 BP) are represented by a complex of shell middens and shell scatters located up to 12 km inland from the present shoreline. These sites demonstrate specialized exploitation of marine shellfish and fish species. Stone artefact assemblages are dominated by local raw materials and bevel-edged tools (bevelled pounders). Early Phase sites (ca 5500–2300 BP) are dominated by large stone artefact scatters exhibiting exotic raw materials and a greater variety of implement types (e.g. bevel-edged tools, backed blades, bifacial points).

Recent Phase middens are restricted mostly to the estuarine resource-rich southern and northern parts of Codoola. These areas not only exhibit all of the recorded ceremonial/ritual (e.g. ‘bora ring’, burial) sites across the region, but also correspond to the locations of historically-recorded Aboriginal groups and activities during the 19th century. I argue that such site patterning demonstrates the potential effects of resource productivity upon spatial organization of Aboriginal social, ceremonial and subsistence activities.

A detailed land-use model, consisting of eastern (oceanic) and western (estuarine) settlement-subsistence sub-systems is generated for northern midden sites. Both sub-systems comprise coastal base camps and associated ephemeral rainforest and/or swamp plant food foraging camps scattered across adjacent inland areas.

Initial occupation of Cooloola some 5500 years ago is associated with a localized adaptation of an existing coastal settlement-subsistence system which had been advancing westwards across the continental shelf with the postglacial marine transgression. I suggest, based on the presence of bifacial points and tula adzes, that historically-recorded inter-regional social alliances between southeast and southern central Queensland may have had their beginnings soon after this time.

Recent Phase occupation of the region is associated with increases in both Aboriginal activity and the relative exploitation of local resources (e.g. shellfish, stone). Such changes may have followed changes in socio-political organisation which saw the development of more localized or regionalised residential groups culminating In the organizational patterns observed by Europeans last century.

Plastic pipes in field archaeology

Peter White and the 1988 Hawker Team


Stan Florek using a plastic metre square to sample at Hawker (published in Australian Archaeology 33:63).

Stan Florek using a plastic metre square to sample at Hawker (published in Australian Archaeology 33:63).

Stemming, no doubt, from the ‘fix it with fencing wire’ school of Australian bushcraft, Australian archaeologists have not been slow to employ various appliances in ways doubtless unconsidered by their makers. We report here on a lightweight set of materials which can make the field archaeologist’s burdens considerably lighter.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Refutation and tradition: An uneasy relationship

Roland Fletcher


When a statement is made we are entitled to appraise it in whatever way is appropriate for the kind of statement it is. We appraise statements of different kinds in different ways. Applying the pragmatic criterion of refutability is one way of making an appraisal. We simply ask whether the statement is couched in a form which would allow us to check whether it does or does not describe the aspect of reality which it purports to describe. The procedure is necessary when we must ask whether we ought to accept a proposition which, on other grounds of appraisal, we might prefer to accept. In essence we should use a refutation procedure if we consider that it may be unwise to believe what we would prefer to believe. This should not lead us to suppose that because the procedure is necessary it is either straightforward or simple. The debate about refutation has shown that it is neither. While refutation is plainly possible it requires adjuncts such as standardised calibration of instruments. Nor can refutation be reduced to a unitary practise which might either be comprehensively condemned or else must be universally supported. Like other human enterprises it can be improperly and dogmatically applied. For instance, what has become apparent over the past fifty years is that naive falsification, which specifies that a refuted (falsified) explanation must be abandoned, is both inherently conservative and counter-productive.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Urban archaeology: American theory, Australian practice

Damaris Bairstow

Urban archaeology is a recent development in Australia. Australian academics and practitioners turned to America for guidance but, it is alleged, took American arguments out of their context. This paper seeks to place current American theory into its contextual framework in order to test its relevance to Australian circumstances. After an introduction which sets out the basic problem, the paper provides a resume of sixty years of historical archaeology in America. The paper then turns to the current debate on archaeology in the urban environment and questions its applicability to Australian urban archaeology. Several Australian excavations are discussed in the light of American experience. The paper ends by suggesting future directions for urban archaeology in Australia.

Theories and Australian prehistory: The last three decades

Bernard M.J. Huchet


Several scholars have stressed that archaeologists in Australia have generally been adverse to discuss epistemological, theoretical and methodological issues  (e.g. Golson l986:6; Hiscock 1983:51–52; Mulvaney  1971:242; Murray and White 1981:258; Thomas 1982:4) and that there is a pressing need for further studies in these areas (Thomas 1982:4). This paper attempts to fill some of the gaps in the knowledge of such issues by documenting the changes in the types of theories used within the last thirty years. These issues are part of a broader study which aims to examine modelling approaches used in Australian prehistoric archaeology (Huchet 1990a). A detailed examination of theory was presented ten years ago by Thomas (198l), who discussed the use of theory in the prehistory of Tasmania only. Apart from what he calls ‘vulgar materialism’, Thomas did not document theoretical frameworks used. This paper therefore expands on these issues by adopting a greater geographical perspective which includes Tasmania, the Australian mainland, Torres Strait and New Guinea, and documenting the whole range of theories relied upon by Australian prehistorians to explain archaeological data. Changes in emphasis put on the use of particular theories through time are documented, although no consideration is given here to explain why a particular theory has assumed little or much importance, and why changes occurred through time. In the types of theories relied upon. It is shown that cultural materialism, with a deterministic emphasis, has been, and still is, the dominant theoretical framework adopted by Australian prehistorians, although some significant changes have recently occurred, reflected by an expansion in the range of theories used, and a gradual increase in the importance assumed  by cultural  ecology and historical materialism.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Rottnest and Garden Island prehistory and the archaeological potential of the adjacent continental shelf, Western Australia

Charlie Dortch


Location of Rottnest and Garden Islands off the WA coastline (published in Australian Archaeology 33:39).

Location of Rottnest and Garden Islands off the WA coastline (published in Australian Archaeology 33:39).

For several decades Quaternary investigators have examined the geology and fossil record of Rottnest Island, 19 km offshore Fremantle, Western Australia (Fig. l), and, more recently, have searched the island for evidence of prehistoric human occupation. My own sporadic searches over the past 12 years, including a week’s examination of deflation surfaces and other likely find-spots in August 1990, have yielded only two stone artefacts. These are as yet the only finds attributable to a human presence on Rottnest prior to its being cut off by glacio-eustatic sea level rise, c. 7000 BP (Churchill 1959; Playford 1983). This paper reviews relevant finds from Rottnest Island, as well as ones from Garden Island 19 km south-south-east, and from the adjacent mainland coast, and assesses the archaeological potential of this part of the submerged continental shelf.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Finger Point Archaeological Project: A brief report

Brian Egloff, Robert Paton and Marina Walkington


Location of sites within the proposed Finger Point sewerage works project area (published in Australian Archaeology 33:29).

Location of sites within the proposed Finger Point sewerage works project area (published in Australian Archaeology 33:29).

Preliminary investigations of the Finger Point area on the southeastern coast of South Australia, immediately west of Port MacDonnell, confirmed the presence of a number of sites with midden deposits of Subninella sp. and other reef gastropods, and artefacts made from locally derived flint (Fig. 1). As part of the mitigation phase for a development project five coastal middens, comprising four open sites and a small rockshelter, were excavated while four open sites were subject to systematic surface collection. One open midden site located outside the study area, in the vicinity of Port MacDonnell, was also excavated.  A detailed report of the investigations has been prepared (Egloff et al. 1989). This article relates the salient findings of the study.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Teewah Beach: New evidence for Holocene coastal occupation in southeast Queensland

The study area (published  in Australian Archaeolgoy 33:13).

The study area (published in Australian Archaeology 33:13).

Ian McNiven

This paper presents the results of excavations undertaken at Teewah Beach Site 26,  situated along the Cooloola  coast, southeast Queensland. The open site yielded a stone artefact sequence dated from 5531 BP to 316 BP (calibrated), with faunal remains (shellfish and fish) appearing at ca 900 BP. Major inferences drawn from the excavations are:

1. despite a human presence in southeast Queensland for at least 20,000 years, ca 5500 BP  marks the first major  human occupation of Cooloola. Such a pattern resulted from the localized adaptation of an existing coastal settlement-subsistence system which had been following the transgressing coastline westwards until its relative stabilization at ca 6000 BP;

2. fishing may have been of  equal or greater significance during the mid-Holocene compared to the last 1000 years;

3.  the distinctive southeast Queensland artefact type, bevel-edged tool (‘bevelled pounder’) has an antiquity of at least between 5000 BP and 4000 BP, not ca 1500 BP as previously thought, thus making it one of the oldest, continuously used plant food processing tool types known in Australia;

4.  increased relative use of local resources (shellfish and stone) across Cooloola and other parts of  coastal southeast Queensland during the last ca 1000 years corresponds to the development of regionally is dated settlement subsistence systems and associated socio-political entities similar to those recorded historically; and

5. while most of these conclusions complement Hall and Hiscock’s (1988) model of cultural change for southeast Queensland, I argue that their use of intrinsic population increase as a prime mover is theoretically problematic.

Archaeology on the anxious coast

Annie Nicholson and Scott Cane


Location of the study area and places mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 33:4).

Location of the study area and places mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 33:4).

In recent years a significant amount of archaeological work has been carried out on the Nullarbor Plain. This adds to previous studies done in that region about two decades ago (Pretty 1977; Wright 1971) and includes excavations at Allens Cave, preliminary ardaeological work at Oddea, the description and recording of  the Footprint Site at Bookabie, investigations into the distribution of flint at archaeological sites across the Plain, and mapping of the Wilson Bluff flint quarry (see Cane and Gara 1989; Gara and Cane 1988; Gara et al. 1988).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Peerage for archaeologist


Chris Chippindale


Colin Renfrew is coming to Australia in late 1992 to give the second in the series of Mulvaney Lectures, following the first in this new series of distinguished lecturers,  Desmond Clark on the significance of hunter-gatherer  societies for human evolution. The Editors of AA asked me, as a colleague of Renfrew at Cambridge University, to write a few words about him.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The Australian Museum, Division of Anthropology: Deposition of archaeological materials

Val Attenbrow


As a result of a recent review of its policies and procedures, the Australian Museum will be introducing new procedures for the deposition of archaeological materials in 1992. Our current view is that:

(a) all archaeological materials should be stored in standard-sized boxes, with consistent labelling and full documentation; and,

(b) some of the costs associated with management of these materials should be borne by depositors.

Costs to be borne by depositors will take the form of a deposition fee and payment for the standard boxes.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Teaching cultural tourism – Some comments from the classroom

Laurajane Smith, Anne Clarke and Alison Allcock


This paper offers some comments about the relationship between cultural heritage management and the tourism industry based on our experiences of teaching a subject called ‘Environmental and Cultural Tourism’ at Charles Sturt University (CSU). This is a third-year subject offered to students taking a tourism major as part of a Bachelor of Business degree course. Two authors (LS and AC) are archaeologists who have taught archaeology and cultural resource management to applied science students at CSU, and one (AA) has taught recreation and tourism at the same institution. All three authors have been involved with other staff at CSU in developing and teaching this subject over the last two years.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Colonising with style: Reviewing the nexus between rock art, territoriality and the colonisation and occupation of Sahul

Claire Smith


The role of material culture in the visual communication of information has been a focus of much recent debate in the international anthropological and archaeological literature (e.g. Conkey 1990; Davis 1990; Hodder 1985; Wiessner 1988; Wobst 1977). Central to this concern has been assessment of the role of information exchange in the occupation of particular environments (e.g. Brandt and Carder 1987; Gamble 1982; Jochim 1983). Recent analyses of Australian rock art (e.g. David 1991; David and Cole 1990; Franklin 1989; Lewis 1988; Morwood 1984, 1988; Tacon 1987, 1989a) have also approached this question, with varying degrees of success.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Climate change, sea-level rise and the archaeological record

Mike J. Rowland


Predicted impacts of climate change (published in Australian Archaeology 34:30).

Predicted impacts of climate change (published in Australian Archaeology 34:30).

There is an urgent need for heritage researchers and managers to address the issue of climate change and its impact on archaeological sites. Yet, it was apparent from discussions at the Australian Archaeological Association’s annual conference at Townsville in 1990 and a recent workshop in Canberra initiated by the Department of the Arts, Sport the Environment and Territories  (DASET) (May 1991) that few heritage researchers are  fully conversant with greenhouse issues, and that the  process of discussion has only just begun. The DASET workshop will result in a publication outlining a range of potential climate change impacts on heritage resources and a strategy for dealing with these. As a contribution to these discussions this paper attempts to provide an introduction to greenhouse literature and issues, and in particular outlines some of the potential impacts of greenhouse effects on Aboriginal coastal sites. Greenhouse impacts need to be considered in the context of other ongoing impacts and these will be addressed in an upcoming review of coastal sites in Queensland.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Prion Beach Rockshelter: Seabirds and offshore islands in southwest Tasmania

Gary Dunnett


Location of the study area (published in Australian Archaeology 34:23).

Location of the study area (published in Australian Archaeology 34:23).

Excavations in 1989 at Prion Beach Rockshelter produced a diverse faunal assemblage which has implications for our understanding of the economic role of offshore islands in southwest Tasmania. A prominent part of the faunal assemblage was a variety of seabirds, notably Fairy Prion, Short-tailed Shearwater and Common Diving Petrel. In this paper I will argue that seabirds constitute an important suite of resources in the southwest which require a relatively high risk procurement strategy.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Shell bed or shell midden

Locations mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 34:3).

Locations mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 34:3).

Val Attenbrow


Distinguishing natural accumulations of shell from Aboriginal shell middens is a problem often faced by archaeologists working in coastal regions (Attenbrow 1984; Ceci 1984; Dortch 1991; McBryde 1973; Statham 1 892). I recently investigated two buried layers of shell which their discoverers thought could be Aboriginal shell middens. One was in Cumberland Street in Sydney’s CBD and the other in St Ives, a northern suburb of Sydney (Figs 1, 2 and 3). My initial field examinations suggested the former was an Aboriginal shell midden and the latter natural shell bed material. It was obvious from their locations, well above the shoreline, that neither were in situ natural shell beds. However, because of the contexts in which they occurred, the question remained: were they, (1) in situ Aboriginal shell middens; (2) humanly redeposited natural shell bed material; (3) humanly re-deposited Aboriginal shell midden; or (4) in the case of Cumberland Street, food remains of early British settlers?

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Thesis abstract ‘Designed Dreaming: Assessing the Relationship between Style, Social Structure and Environment in Aboriginal Australia’

Claire Smith
BA(Hons), Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale, November 1989

This research tested the ‘information exchange’ theory of style in which the degree of homogeneity exhibited by artefacts is related to the nature of social interaction among the producers of those artefacts. The theory is based on the assumption that style is both functional and adaptive. Stylistic homogeneity is interpreted as an adaptation to infertile environments, low population densities and widely ramified social networks. Stylistic heterogeneity is interpreted as an adaptation to fertile environments, high population densities and closed social networks. A number of recent studies of the art of various regions (e.g. Brandt and Carder 1987 for the Horn of Afriia; Gamble 1982 for the European Upper Palaeolithic; Morwood 1984 for Central Queensland Highlands) have interpreted changes in the relative stylistic homogeneity of prehistoric art in terms of changes in the nature of social networks. There had been no explicit ethnographic testing of the theory.

This study tested the theory through a structural analysis of bark paintings from Arnhem Land and acrylic paintings from the Western Desert. Issues addressed within the study included the effect of the gender of the artist on the homogeneity of an art body, and whether art is more homogeneous in sacred or secular contexts. The methodology focused upon the distribution and frequency of variables, the consistency with which motifs are depicted and co-occur, and the clustering of variables.

The results of the analysis showed that the secular art of Arnhem land does show considerably greater heterogeneity than that of the Western Desert. These results generally support the information exchange theory of style. However, it appeared that the sacred art of both regions (and this was assessed through the literature) showed little difference in relative homogeneity. Art systems in which both women and men painted showed a greater potential for heterogeneity than systems in which only one gender produced art. It was concluded that the information exchange theory of style which this dissertation tested may well hold true for secular art, but that it may not hold in a sacred context. The relationships between style, social structure and environment are complex and not open to simple ad hoc application.


Brandt, S.A. and N. Carder 1987 Pastoral rock art in the Horn of Africa: making sense of udder chaos. World Archaeology 19:194–213.

Gamble, C. 1982 Interaction and alliance in Palaeolithic society. Man 17:92–107.

Morwood,  M. 1984 The prehistory of the central Queensland highlands. Advances In World Archaeology 3:325–380.

Developing a course in Australian prehistory and cultural resource management for tertiary Aboriginal students at Bachelor College

Michael Hermes


As a part of the Associate Diploma in Park Management which commenced in 1991 at Batchelor College, units in Australian Prehistory and Cultural Resource Management are being taught. The units are based on the Charles Sturt University course and are currently being adapted to make them more appropriate to the students’ cultural and educational backgrounds and learning styles. Although similar courses, catering for Aboriginal students, have been developed in southern Australia (for instance the Certificate of Archaeological Site Management for Aboriginal Site Officers conducted by the Victoria Archaeological Survey), these are not entirely appropriate for Batchelor students, given their different socio-cultural backgrounds.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Flat maps and steep slopes: How simple measurements can misrepresent site densities

Tessa Corkill


Under the heading Sloping Ground, A.L. Higgins (1970:9) writes:

Already, doubtless, you have been wondering how hills, valleys and undulations will affect your measurements. Over two thousand years ago government officials were worried about the matter, and quite possibly at this moment some contractor has a headache about it.

When I came across this statement (having been directed to the book by my encyclopaedic friend John) I had almost worked my way through just such a headache. The problem I had been pondering on was thus: archaeologists frequently compare numbers and types of sites in different areas, often by working out the number of sites per square kilometre, or some such unit. Measurements seem usually to be calculated from maps (i.e. horizontal plane, two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional topography). I wondered how local topography would affect or bias these calculations. It seemed logical that the actual ground surface area of sloping land would be greater than the apparent area calculated from measurements on a flat map. But how significant a difference was this likely to be?

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Tom Hayden 1938–1991: Film interpreter of Australian archaeology

Tom Hayden (left) and Rhys Jones (right) in Tasmania (published in Australian Archaeology 35:61).

Tom Hayden (left) and Rhys Jones (right) in Tasmania (published in Australian Archaeology 35:61).

Rhys Jones


Thomas William Haydon died on 6 July 1991 of cancer of the lymph system, aged 53. Many readers of AA will have remembered Tom in apparently vital good health at the Fourteenth Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association meeting in Yogyakarta, Java in August 1990, when he presented a paper describing his recent experiences with the Agta forest-dwelling hunting and gathering peoples of northeastern Luzon. He described how they had recently been dislocated from their prime coastal estates by an unholy alliance of the self-styled New People’s Army, a plywood company and land-hungry subsistence farmers. He saw the process as yet another, perhaps close to final, episode in the destruction of indigenous hunting and gathering societies within the Southeast Asian-Australian regions through the intrusive processes of colonialism and more recently, what might be termed ‘modernisation’. The paper, with a tilt of the hat to Sandra Bowdler. was called ‘Coastal de-colonisation’ and evoked images drawn from the Tasmania of the 1830s to the Philippines of today. Yet Tom, with his instinctive grasp of prehistory allied with an artistic freedom of thought, also felt that what he had observed had deeper historical cadences, with reflections back to the Pleistocene. In a bar down the street from our hotel, over some excellent Dutch-style Bintang beer and hot Sumatran side dishes, he expounded excitedly, hands waving in the air, on some vivid impressions he had had seeing for the first time in the bush, an Agta camp occupying a semi-circular shelter of light timber which had been thatched with palm fronds. ‘They looked like Melanesians’ he said, ‘in my imagination I was carried back to an earlier time’ (Rhys Jones’ journal entry: 29 August 1990).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The Great Mackeral Rockshelter excavation: Women in the archaeological record

Jo McDonald


View of the Great Mackeral Rockshelter (published in Australian Archaeology 35:33).

View of the Great Mackeral Rockshelter (published in Australian Archaeology 35:33).

The excavation and analysis of a shelter site in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (Fig. 1) has yielded evidence for change throughout the recent prehistoric past, as well as confirming some aspects of Aboriginal occupation immediately predating European contact. Both the art assemblage and the archaeological deposit indicate two phases of occupation at the site. During the latter phase the presence of women at the site is indicated. The shelter (NPWS # 45-6-1614) was excavated as part of a PhD. field programme and has been reported more fully elsewhere (McDonald 1989).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Aboriginal perceptions of their stone tool technology: A case study from the Western Desert

Scott Cane


Map of Australia (published in Australian Archaeology 35:11)

Map of Australia (published in Australian Archaeology 35:11)

The basic tools of subsistence used by Aboriginal people in Australia were made of wood and stone. Unfortunately termites, fires and the sun are harsh on wooden implements and none but the most recently discarded survive as evidence of prehistoric behaviour. Implements made of stone do survive and as a result are an important means of interpreting past Aboriginal behaviour in Australia. Not surprisingly, archaeologists spend much of their time trying to understand stone tools and so understand past human behaviour. In Australia, archaeological investigations of this kind have shifted from intuitive assessment of stone tools towards more sophisticated quantitive analysis of assemblages. Archaeologists employ a variety of techniques such as metrical examination of edge angles, edge shapes and stone tool morphologies (Jones 1971; White 1972; Lampert 1980) and there has been growing interest in techniques of stone tool replication and microscopic examination of use-wear, polish and residues (Kamminga 1978; Fullager 1982; Loy 1987). Ethnoarchaeological investigation has also contributed to the debate (McCarthy 1946; Tindale 1965; Gould et al. 1971; Hayden 1979) as have the relationships between intrasite and intersite variations and the environmental, economic and social characteristics of traditional Aboriginal societies (O’Connell 1977).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Visions of the Australian Pleistocene: Prehistoric life at Lake Mungo and Kutikina

Stephanie Moser


The archaeological vision of life at Lake Mungo (published in Australian Archaeology 35:iv).

The archaeological vision of life at Lake Mungo (published in Australian Archaeology 35:iv).

In addition to the vast number of historic images of Australian Aboriginal peoples, a number of archaeological images depicting life in prehistoric times in Australia have recently been produced (Attwood and Edwards 1987; Deiley 1979; Jones 1987a; Wood 1977). While the historic images include drawings, paintings and photographs produced in association with the early scientific expeditions to Australia and the European settlement of the country, the prehistoric images include drawings and paintings which have been produced in association with the excavation of major archaeological sites in the country. The historic images appear in colonial accounts and expedition memoirs, and have been used as a documentary resource in a wide range of disciplines including history, anthropology, archaeology and art history, and the prehistoric images appear in popular scientific texts and have been used as a resource for communicating archaeological findings to the wider public. While the historic images have been used to assess the ways in which the Europeans rationalised their invasion of Australia and their oppression of the Aboriginal population, the prehistoric images can be used to assess the way in which prehistorians have rationalised their reconstruction of prehistoric behaviour and their development of theories about how the continent was first colonised by human populations. In essence, both the historic and prehistoric visions of Australian Aboriginal peoples constitute a critical resource for understanding both the colonial construction of Australian Aboriginal identity and the archaeological construction of prehistoric Aboriginal life ways. Despite the fact that the prehistoric images or visual reconstructions are limited in number, they still make an important contribution to the rich iconographic tradition of depicting Australian Aboriginal peoples. Similar to the historic images, the value of the prehistoric images lies not so much what they tell us about what the Aboriginal peoples looked like and what they did, but also in what they tell us about ourselves and how we have constructed knowledge about Australian prehistory. This paper constitutes a preliminary attempt to outline the role that such images play in the conceptualisation of the Australian Pleistocene.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Initial results of PIXE analysis on northern Australian ochres

Bruno David, Eric Clayton and Alan Watchman


Preliminary analysis of 69 samples of red pigment from various locations suggests that ochres collected from archaeological sites can be sourced to particular geological formations via PIXE analyses. This paper reports on these investigations, presenting initial results of a long-term project on PUCE-PIGME analyses of north Australian pigments.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Uniformitarianism and prehistoric archaeology

David W. Cameron


Many archaeologists call on the use of uniformitarianism in order to invoke a ‘scientific basis’ for their use of ethnographic analogies to help explain the archaeological record. This paper argues that analogies, as used by most archaeologists, cannot be subsumed into an overall principle of uniformitarianism. This is because the principles within uniformitarianism, as used in geology and physics, are quite distinct from analogies as used by most archaeologists. While substantivism is testable and methodological principles are necessary if we are to make any meaningful statements about our data, associative uniformities are often not testable and may hinder our ability to make meaningful statements about the past. In order to identify and present testable hypotheses for the archaeological record, archaeologists need to distinguish between methodological, substantive and associative uniformities. Most archaeological interpretations that are based on ethnographic analogies are based on associative uniformities which may not be refutable. In order to test the archaeological record we must invoke refutation and not confirmationism, as confirmationism is incapable of identifying behavioural anomalies within the archaeological record.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Recent research in southwestern Western Australia: A summary of initial findings

Ian Lilley


Site plan of Rainbow Cave (published in Australian Archaeology 36:36).

Site plan of Rainbow Cave (published in Australian Archaeology 36:36).

The 38,000 year old Upper Swan site in southwestern Western Australia contains the most ancient evidence for human occupation found in southern Australia (Pearce and Barbetti 1981). Devils Lair, a site between Capes Leeuwin and Naturaliste in the extreme southwest, has deposits of similar antiquity (Dortch 1984). However, despite valuable work at this and a handful of other sites between the capes, an area I will also call the far southwest, little is known of early patterns of human activity or subsequent cultural developments in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste area as a whole. This report outlines the preliminary results of a project which intended to help redress this situation through systematic fieldwork in the Margaret River area, just north of Devils Lair.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Tula adzes and bifacial points on the east coast of Australia

Ian McNiven


Tula adzes (published in Australian Archaeology 36:23).

Tula adzes (published in Australian Archaeology 36:23).

The documentation and explanation of distributions of artefacts are of major concern in prehistoric archaeology. A fundamental component of this concern is the production of distribution maps. In Australia, a strong historical-diffusionist tradition using distribution maps in the interpretation of historical items of Aboriginal material culture flourished in the 1930s (e.g. Davidson 1933, 1934, 1936; McCarthy 1939–40). In contrast, major use of stone artefact distribution maps in Australian archaeology has only occurred in the last two decades following the professional establishment of the discipline in the 1960s and the ensuing accumulation of basic distributional data. During this time, most interest has been focused upon the distribution of backed blades, points, tula adzes and edge-ground axes (e.g. Davidson 1983; Hiscock and Hughes 1980; Morwood and Trezise 1989; Mulvaney 1975; Pearce 1974; Pickering 1990; Smith and Cundy 1985). In a few areas, historical information is available to account for the movement and distribution of these implement types (e.g. points – Davidson 1935; axes – Hiscock 1988a; McBryde 1978, 1984,1986; tulas – Hiscock 1988b; Roth 1904; see also McCarthy 1977; Mulvaney 1976). However, most of these studies involve trade and little detailed attention has been directed towards identifying other processes (e.g. diffusion of ideas, independent invention) which may account for the occurrence of artefact types in other parts of the continent (Davidson and McCarthy 1957; McCarthy 1977; Pearce 1974; Rowland 1987; Smith and Cundy 1985; Walters 1988).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Bottles for jam? An example of recycling from a post-contact archaeological site

Bottle from the Nettle Mill (published in Australian Archaeology 36:13).

Bottle from the Nettle Mill (published in Australian Archaeology 36:13).

Iain Stuart


The study of material culture from post-contact archaeological sites is a crucial and necessary component of Australian historical archaeology. Currently material culture is analysed as if it were unproblematic, a given, which is no doubt due to the closeness of the artefacts used in Australia’s past to the repertoire of contemporary material culture. This familiarity is seen as an advantage by historical archaeologists such as Stanley South (1977:84) who notes that some artefacts have ‘a clear indication of functional use as a result of the archaeologists familiarity with the objects from his [sic] own culture’.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Modelling and Australian prehistory

Bernard M.J. Huchet


Frequency of case studies concerned with the explanation of processes (published in Australian Archaeology 36:13).

Frequency of case studies concerned with the explanation of processes (published in Australian Archaeology 36:13).

This paper discusses the impact of scientific empiricism on Australian archaeology over the last thirty years. An assessment is made about the extent to which approaches to modelling conform to the methodologies espoused by the scientific empiricists. This is done by examining 105 case studies, published by Australian researchers between 1960 and 1989. The results show that there has been increasing concern with explicit modelling, as demanded by positivist descriptions of the scientific process. An increasing concern with the explanation of cultural processes, as discussed by the ‘New Archaeology’ is also evident. Other methods that are characteristic of scientific empiricism also become more prominent; these include: reliance on abstract entities, such as hypotheses, to guide research, reliance on deduction, the use of laws and the systematic testing of hypotheses.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Late Pleistocene environments and Aboriginal settlement patterns in Tasmania

Map showing locations mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 36:3).

Map showing locations mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 36:3).

Ian Thomas


A recent trend in Tasmanian Aboriginal studies has been the development of ecologically based archaeological models. Many of these have addressed the role played by forest distributions in regard to Aboriginal settlement patterns. The majority’s opinion is that forests of all kinds acted as barriers to settlement and communication. However, a close reading of the available ethnohistoric  literature and an analysis of inland site distributions reveals that most Aboriginal campsites and paths were located in forested areas (Thomas 1991). Thus, a situation has developed in which forests have been regarded on the one hand as barriers and on the other as corridors.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Thesis abstract ‘’Make ’em Bright’: Aboriginal Re-Marking of Rock Art in Past and Present Australia’

Katharine Sale

BA(Hons), Department of Prehistorical and Historical Archaeology, University of Sydney, Sydney, November 1992

This thesis investigated the Aboriginal practice of re-marking rock art. The re-doing of a particular act can be recognised in a range of different activities in the archaeological and ethnographic records. The re-doing of rock art has been identified as an important part of the artistic activities of some Australian Aboriginal groups (e.g. Elkin 1930. 1952; Crawford 1968; Blundell 1975, 1982; Mowaljarlai 1992; Mowaljarlai et al. 1987, 1988).

The primary aim of the research is to provide an overview of the occurrence of Aboriginal re-marking in prehistoric and historic Australia, and thereby provide a background to the contemporary re-marking of sites by Aboriginal people. Equally important was the synthesis of available information into a coherent form which will provide a comprehensive reference collection for on-going research. The data used in the analysis is derived from archaeological research, ethnographic studies and contemporary Aboriginal people. Data is organised onto sheets, each containing information (site name, geographic location, reference, photographic documentation, and details of the remarking event) on an individual site, group of sites, region and for state. The 108 data sheets are located in Appendix 2 (Volume 2).

A review of terms used in the literature to refer to re-doing rock art revealed the inconsistencies and inadequacies of present definitions and concepts. The term ‘re-marking’ is adopted, in recognition that the re-doing of rock art is not confined solely to paintings, but may also apply to stencils, drawings and engravings. Remarking refers to the re-doing of single painted and engraved marks.

It is proposed that the major criterion for defining re-marking is one of spatial association, and a preliminary typology which considers scale, technique and association (between new and existing marks) is constructed as a baseline for further research. Four components are identified as basic to the re-marking activity: medium, technique, process and results.

Analysis of the available archaeological evidence identifies the physical aspects of remarking. Issues examined include site formation processes, methods of identifying remarked surfaces (e.g. visual, technical), and geographical and temporal (prehistoric, historic, contemporary) distributions of remarked sites in Australia. There is archaeological evidence for re-marking in all mainland states of Australia, with a focus of activity in northwest Australia. Further, there is a demonstrated tradition of re-marking in some areas (e.g. the Kimberley, Western Australia, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory) which may date from as early as 6000 BP (based on stylistic analysis of a site near Jim Jim Creek, Arnhem Land).

The ethnographic evidence, based primarily on information provided by Aboriginal informants, focuses on the social aspects of the re-marking activity. This provides insight into the reasons for re-marking (e.g. ‘tapping’ into the Dreaming power, increase, sorcery magic), responsibilities for re-marking (primarily men/senior custodians), gender issues, and other functions of re-marking (e.g. reinforcing cultural group identity, enabling co-operative hunting). ‘The ethnographic and contemporary evidence suggests that re-marking is related to the expression of relationships between Aboriginal people, the landscape and the Dreaming; and between Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal people. There are also implications for the notion that re-marking may provide a medium for expressing socio-cultural change.

The issues concerning contemporary Aboriginal perceptions of re-marking, and their uses of this activity today are raised in two case studies: the 1987 Gibb River Re-painting Project, Kimberley, Western Australia and current re-marking by Aboriginal people in New South Wales. While there is a differing emphasis on the re-marking activity as revival (southeast Australia) and as continuity (northern Australia), both examples stress the importance of re-marking in ensuring the survival of Aboriginal culture and identity, and as a strong political statement regarding the rights of Aboriginal people to continue practicing their cultural activities as custodians of the land and sites. As David Mowaljarlai (Mowaljarlai and Peck 1987:72) stated:

the Ngarinyin have been fighting to keep the culture for many years … We know we are on the right track and believe the work done (re-painting) has brought our culture one step closer to survival.

The research demonstrates a valuable approach to investigating rock art as a means of exploring Aboriginal cultural practices and beliefs in the past, and provides a strong basis for addressing cultural heritage issues concerning the activity of re-marking rock art in the present.


Blundell, V. 1975 Aboriginal Adaptation in Northwest Australia. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin.

Blundell, V. 1982 Symbolic systems and cultural continuity in northwest Australia: A consideration of Aboriginal cave art. Culture II(1):3–20.

Crawford, I.M. 1968 The Art of the Wandjina: Aboriginal Cave Paintings in Kimberley, Western Australia. Melbourne and New York: Oxford University Press.

Elkin, A.P. 1930 Rock paintings of northwest Australia. Oceania 1(3):257–279.

Elkin, A.P. 1952 Cave paintings in southern Arnhem Land. Oceania 22(4):245–255.

Mowaljarlai, D. 1992 A Ngarinyin perspective of repainting: Mowaljarlai’s statement to the Symposium. In G.K. Ward (ed.) Retouch: Maintenance und Conservation of Aboriginal Rock Imagery. Proceedings of the Symposium on Retouch, First  AURA Congress, Darwin 1988, pp.8–9. Occasional AURA Publication 5.Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Toms Strait Islander Studies.

Mowaljarlai, D., P. Vinnicombe, G.K. Ward and C. Chippindale 1988 Repainting of images on rock in Australia and the maintenance of Aboriginal culture. Antiquity 62:690–696.

Mowlajarlai, D. and C. Peck 1987 Ngarinyin cultural continuity: A project to teach the young people the culture, including the re-painting of Wandjina rock art sites. Australian Aboriginal Studies 1987(2):71–78.

A recent excavation of an island Aboriginal site near Gisborne, Victoria

Hilary du Cros


One of the few inland late Holocene sites to be dated was investigated earlier this year. The excavation was one of very few to occur in Victoria during the last six years. The site (7822/488) is an open Aboriginal site situated on a meander bend on Kororoit Creek at Gisborne South, about 25 km northwest of Melbourne. The site occurs within 5 km of Sunbury (which is noted for its Aboriginal earth rings) and the archaeologically rich upper Maribyrnong valley where at least two sites have been excavated (Dry Creek and Green Gully).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Pleistocene date from archaeological excavations in the hinterlands of the New South Wales coast

Phil Boot


During 1992 and 1993 excavations were carried out at ten sites as part of PhD research into the nature of Aboriginal occupation in the ranges behind the New South Wales south coast. Prior to this only two sites, Sassafras 1 and 2, had been excavated. These rockshelters produced initial occupation dates of 3770±150 BP (ANU-743) and 2780±115 BP (ANU-744), respectively, indicating that occupation of the coastal ranges was relatively recent (Flood 1980:279–280). Preliminary results from one of the newly excavated sites now indicate that Aboriginal inhabitation of the coastal ranges extended into the Pleistocene.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Optical dating at Deaf Adder Gorge, Northern Territory, indicates human occupation between 53,000 and 60,000 years ago

Bert Roberts, Rhys Jones and Mike A. Smith


Excavations in 198 1 at the Nauwalabila I (Lindner Site) rockshelter in Deaf Adder Gorge revealed a 2.5 m sequence of sands resting on 0.4 m of compacted sand and heavily weathered sandstone rubble (Jones and Johnson 1985:172–183). Within this profile, all of 80 superimposed excavation units, each 3–4 cm thick, contained stone artefacts. Of a total of ~30,200 artefacts, 230 came from the basal layer of sand and interlocked rubble into which post-depositional movement of artefacts can be discounted. The density of charcoal declined exponentially with depth, with only tiny specks at depths of 1.75 m and none at all in the lowest metre. Radiocarbon dates obtained during the 1981 project, together with those from Kamminga and Allen (1973). provide a consistent age-depth curve back to ~27 kyr (calibrated to calendar years) at a depth of 1.78 m. Beyond this is a substantial time period which cannot be dated by 14C. One of us (RJ) wrote that this was a site ‘which must be tested to see whether or not we can obtain direct evidence for the occupation of Australia greater than the ca 35–40 kyr limits on conventional radiocarbon dating methods’, and suggested that ‘one potential area of enquiry might be via new developments in the thermoluminescence method’ (Jones and Johnson 1985:182–183).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Rich heritage – The transformation of archaeological knowledge of the human past in Oceania

Isabel McBryde


Friday 7 May saw many of Australia’s community of archaeologists gathered in the Coombs Building at The Australian National University to honour Jack Golson’s pioneering contribution to the study of Pacific prehistory. They were also honouring his leadership as foundation Professor in the Department of Prehistory in the Research School of Pacific Studies. The occasion was marked by the presentation of a special volume, A Community of Culture: The People and Prehistory of the Pacific, written as a tribute from his colleagues. This volume was edited by Matthew Spriggs, Douglas Yen, Wal Ambrose, Rhys Jones, Alan Thorne and Ann Andrews and published by the Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University in Canberra in 1993,

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

A comment on the WAC code of ethics

Malcolm McKay


The proposal to make the World Archaeological Congress code of ethics binding for all AAA members is a matter of some concern, especially as the issues of intellectual freedom and limits on scientific inquiry appear to have received little thought. Prior discussing the individual conditions I would like to examine what I see as the two basic assumptions that underly the code.

The first assumption, although in the terms in which it is expressed it might well be called an exhortation, is that archaeologists cannot separate themselves from the social and political conditions which surround them. It would be a very brave scholar indeed who claimed that they were totally objective and free from extraneous influences. But because it is nearly impossible to achieve this absolute detachment of the intellect, it is still no excuse for not trying to be as objective as one can. To suggest that an ideologically correct awareness of the present situation of indigenous people will make our work better or more accurate is a nonsense. We are archaeologists and our subject is the past. Anything we understand of the present political condition of indigenous people, while it might give a chance to help remedy existing injustice, is of no use to our discipline. This is because all the events of the past, all the good and all the evil, and all the permutations of human behaviour that lie in between cannot be effected in any manner by us. As archaeologists our contribution lies in our ability to investigate the past though its material remains and to present these data so that others may understand them. If we wish to address current social problems then we must ensure that however righteous our anger, it is not able to cloud our understanding of the past where social conditions were probably quite different, and where present conditions are irrelevant. We carry enough unavoidable intellectual and social preconditioning with us in our work. It seems irresponsible deliberately to acquire another set of preconditions, especially those as ephemeral as current political conditions, and carry thus into our work.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Biogeography, human ecology and prehistory in the sandridge deserts

Mike A. Smith


Stuart’s 1844–45 expedition was the first to enter the immense dunefields that ring the centre of the Australian landmass (Fig. l). Later exploring expeditions (e.g. Carnegie 1898; Giles 1889; Lindsay 1886; Warburton 1875) were to answer Mr Browne’s question. Such regions did indeed support small, and apparently flourishing, human populations. Had he known this, John Harris Browne, surgeon and savant on the 1844–45 expedition, might well have wondered how and when people had come to live in such inhospitable places. These are questions now central to current archaeological interest in the sandridge deserts.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Where the desert meets the sea: A preliminary report of the archaeology of the Kimberley coast

Map showing sites mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 37:26).

Map showing sites mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 37:26).

Sue O’Connor and Peter Veth


In May 1991 the authors undertook a survey for Aboriginal archaeological sites along an extensive portion of the arid Western Australian coast from Broome to Cape Latouche Treville (Fig. 1). While the anthropologists Elkin (1933) and Piddington (1932) both reported middens in this area in the 1930s, no sites relating to settlement and subsistence had been recorded in the Register of the Western Australian Museum’s Department of Aboriginal Sites. An initial finding of our investigation is that this entire arid coastal strip is likely to contain surface or sub-surface shell midden scatters. Spot checks at five locations along the coast where vehicle access was possible located 15 such sites. Radiocarbon dates were obtained for five of the middens. This paper provides a preliminary assessment of these sites and reports the dates.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Midden variability in the coastal portion of the Kakadu region

Map showing sites mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 37:19).

Map showing sites mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 37:19).

Peter Hiscock and Fiona Mowat


Shell middens in the Kakadu wetlands have not hitherto been described outside rockshelters. Along the eastern margins of the floodplains rockshelter sites such as Ngarradj Warde Djobkeng (Allen and Barton n.d.), Nawarnoyn, Paribari and Malangangem (Schrire 1982) have been well studied by archaeologists (Fig. 1). Throughout the vast wetlands to the north and west of these sites there are no comprehensive reports on middens. Woodroffe et al. (1988) have investigated the age and geomorphic context of middens along the South Alligator River, but there has been no detailed, quantified description of the archaeological components of those sites. Researchers from the Northern Territory University are currently undertaking an extensive survey of sites in the Kakadu wetlands and a picture of a rich and diverse archaeological record is emerging. This paper provides an initial record of the complex archaeological patterns on the wetlands by focusing on examples of dramatic inter-site variation in midden composition. The purpose of the paper is to document the diversity of middens which exist in the Kakadu region.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Shell mounds in 1972 and 1992: Reflections on recent controversies at Ballina and Weipa

Geoff Bailey


One of the investigated shell mounds (published in Australian Archaeology 37:3).

One of the investigated shell mounds (published in Australian Archaeology 37:3).

In 1972 I came to Australia for a year to gain a comparative perspective on shell middens as part of a larger Ph. D. research project into coastal prehistory, and spent two spells of fieldwork, at Ballina, on the north coast of New South Wales, and at Weipa on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland (Bailey 1975, 1977). Both areas had large shell mounds which seemed to offer interesting possibilities for palaeoeconomic investigation. My interest was inspired largely by research considerations, but it was apparent even then that sites in both areas were under threat of damage or destruction, a threat reinforced by local opinion that the shell deposits were natural accumulations of little or no Aboriginal significance. The Ballina shell mounds had been all but destroyed long before 1 arrived in Australia, while the remaining intact fragment of the shell mound which I investigated at Chiciba Creek came under renewed threat from proposed housing development before I left. At Weipa it turned out that the Comalco Mining Company, which runs one of the world’s largest open-cut bauxite mines, were reviewing alternative options for future development, some of which would have caused large-scale destruction of sites, and they therefore took a close interest in my views about whether the shell mounds were natural or cultural deposits. Sites in both areas were subsequently placed under the protection of State and Federal legislation.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Review of ‘Remains to be Seen: Archaeological Insights into Australian Prehistory’ by David Frankel


‘Remains to be Seen: Archaeological Insights into Australian Prehistory’ by David Frankel, 1991, Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 158 pp. ISBN 0-582-87040-2 (pbk)

Review by Annie Ross

In his introduction to Remains to be Seen, Frankel states that the book was written for teachers and students in senior secondary school, and for ‘anyone with an interest in Australia and in how archaeologists work’. It is a book about archaeological methodology, and about what can be, and has been, learned from archaeological study.

In many ways Frankel achieves his stated goal (Introduction): ‘My aim is … [to concentrate] on detail and the more practical side of archaeology. I hope that by introducing some of the complexities of archaeological procedures I will be able to demonstrate the challenge, as well as the products, of research’.

With chapters on approaches to research, Australian Aboriginal prehistory and society, nine different site types (including shell middens, burials, shelters, rock art and stone huts, but nothing on the most common of all site types the open campsite!), and general or regional prehistory, Frankel covers a wide range of the techniques employed by archaeologists. In the main he presents this information clearly and in an interesting, extremely readable style (but see below).

One of the most useful techniques employed by Frankel is to provide actual examples of site based research projects, often with alternative methodological approaches to site analysis outlined. These alternative approaches sometimes lead to alternative interpretations of the prehistory of the site, and it is both interesting and useful for students (including those at undergraduate level) to see this fact laid out in this way.

There can be, however, a problem with presenting data in this way. It is very easy for the examples to become confusing, especially for the lay reader. Frankel has fallen into this pit a couple of times in this book. The sections on Moonlight Head (Chapter 4) and Devon Downs (Chapter 5) are likely to be quite confusing to a teacher or student with little or no background in prehistory. Part of the problem here is that, although the concept of presenting alternative methodologies is a good one, Frankel has been too succinct in the presentation of the case to his audience, and his context is consequently unclear. Typographic errors, directing the reader to incorrect or nonexistent figure or table numbers, exacerbate this problem.

There are other examples of potentially confusing sections in Remains to be Seen. Succinctness is a general problem throughout the book. Clearly it is important that a work like this is not overly verbose or tedious. But brevity brings its own problems. A number of times in the book, complex topics are so briefly described that comprehension of the issue is likely to prove difficult for the audience for which the book has been written. The sections on MNI on pages 47 and 48, and on the dating of the Sturts Meadows engravings on page 134, are examples of this point.

The inclusion of new and unrelated information in some sections is also distracting and potentially confusing for the reader. Examples here are the inclusion of information about wooden artefacts from Wyrie Swamp in the middle of a section on changing resources (page 54), and the brief mention of Aboriginal burning in a chapter on Fishtraps (pages 103 to 104).

Another problem with the book vis-a-vis its target audience, is the lack of discussion of controversial issues in many places. There is obviously a fine line in a book of this kind between providing interesting insights into the complexities of the discipline, and making the book ‘heavy’ with details. Frankel is often very successful in treading this line. The chapter on Quarries (10) and the two introductory chapters (1 and 2) are excellent examples of this ability. The information is clear, and the issues are discussed in enough detail to be interesting, even quite exciting, without tedium or boredom. But the chapters on Middens (4) and Mounds (6) are examples of where there is too little discussion of interesting issues.

In the Middens chapter, for instance, the controversy regarding the change to mussels is mentioned at the end of a well described section on social explanations for the changes seen at Bass Point (page 54). What is the teacher or student to think when he/she reads that this well-described explanation has been challenged? ‘Well, what is the answer then? Who is right? How valid is this challenge?’. These are all questions that are likely to be asked, without there being enough evidence in the book even to begin searching for answers. I am not saying that the book should be one-sided, or that all the answers should be handed to the reader on a plate. But it is important that the reader is presented with enough information to enable her/him to make up her/his own mind about an issue. If there is to be no discussion at all of an issue such as described here, perhaps (for this kind of book) it is better omitted.

There is a similar criticism about lack of detail in tile section on heat retainers on page 82. Here the pattern at WiJIandra is described in the chapter on Mounds. Does this pattern apply to the mounds? What is the evidence?

A major concern about the book is its mjnimal inclusion of Aboriginal views about archaeology particularly in the chapters on Burials (3) and Ceremonial sites (9). In the 1990s, Aboriginal views and approaches to archaeological method and practice cannot be ignored. School teachers and students, and the public at large, need to be aware of Aboriginal perspectives on tile past, and on our profession. What do Aboriginal people think about tile archaeological study of burials? And what were the views of Aboriginal people regarding tile excavation of a ceremonial ground at Sunbury? These and other similar questions deserve to have been canvassed more fully in this book.

Despite the criticisms above, I found the book to be very well-written and informative. The exercises at the end of each chapter are stimulating, and I think would prove interesting to senior secondary students and to undergraduate classes too. The reading lists will be helpful for those who wish to find out more, and tile annotated bibliography and glossary at the end of tile book will be very useful to teachers.

I am not sure how wide an audience tile book will reach. The subject matter and examples are largely geared to Victoria, and it should therefore sell well in that state. It does not reflect the New South Wales syllabuses of History (where there are sections on archaeology in the junior years of secondary school) or Aboriginal Studies, and is nor therefore likely to he widely used in New South Wales schools. I do not know enough about curricula in other states to be able to judge this book’s relevance in schools across Australia.

Nevertheless the book is timely. A s archaeologists we need to let the general public see and understand what we do, and why. David Frankel’s book does this, and in the main does it extremely well.

The book is well illustrated, clear, interesting, informative and generally easy to read. The price makes it affordable. It would be a good text for first year university courses, and a good gift for friends, to show/them what real archaeologists do, as opposed to the treasure/adventure seekers of the movies. David Frankel’s book should set an example or us all to follow in making information about the history of Australia more widely available.

Review of ‘Maritime Archaeology: A Technical Handbook’ by J. Green

Stuart Book Review Cover 1992‘Maritime Archaeology: A Technical Handbook’ by J. Green, 1990, London: Academic Press, 282 pp. ISBN 0-12-298630-X (hbk)

Review by Iain Stuart

Maritime archaeology is one or the growth areas of archaeology. The advances made in the development of SCUBA in the 1950s made shipwrecks available to an increasing number of people. With this came the realisation that maritime sites had the potential to yield a huge amount of archaeological information. Veritable time capsules; from the Bismarck to the Sydney Cove.

Jeremy Green is one of the world’s leading maritime archaeologists. His work on Dutch-Australian shipwrecks in the early 1970s led to the growth in maritime archaeology to the stage where currently, each state of Australia has its own centre of maritime expertise. He has also undertaken extensive work on shipwreck sites in Southeast Asia.

Thus Jeremy Green is well placed in terms of expertise and experience to write a handbook that summarises his technical knowledge in maritime archaeology. Green views maritime archaeology as covering archaeology in the marine environment (i.e. including sites such as Port Royal in Jamaica, and presumably not those ships in the Murray River). But most of his examples are from work on shipwrecks.

This book is organised into five areas: site survey, recording sites, excavation, management of collections, research and publication. The coverage is, as Jeremy Green admits, a reflection of his career and experience in maritime archaeology. Naturally enough a technical handbook reflects an approach to maritime archaeology that emphasises the technical or methodological rather than the theoretical. Apart from a brief reference in Chapter 12, to some of the arguments on the nature of historical archaeology, the archaeological waters are not disturbed by processual or even the post-processual theoretical considerations. Indeed the issue of archaeological research is seen purely in technical sense. Chapter 2, Research, deals with research prior to undertaking archaeological fieldwork. The nature of this research is to allow more efficient use of archaeological fieldwork time. an obviously good idea.

In Chapter 12, Post-Excavation Research, post-excavation research is put forward as the raison d’etre of maritime archaeological research and the rest of the chapter aims to explain how to analyse and interpret the archaeological record. Inevitably with such a broad aim. what follows is a bit limited. Green identifies two theoretical frameworks used by maritime archaeologists. historical particularism and ‘an anthropological perspective’. He discusses artefact analysis, scientific analysis, historical material, experimental archaeology and integration of all these into a coherent whole. While these discussions are adequate, what is not clearly established is that archaeology, and for that matter history, has a broader range of theoretical approaches to a site or problem than discussed in the book. Green cannot be criticised for not discussing various theoretical stances in depth, but some mention of the alternatives available, beyond the positions currently taken by maritime archaeologists. could have been made.

What is also not strongly emphasised enough, is that the theoretical and research stance taken by an investigator determines the nature of archaeological fieldwork. The emphasis on post-excavation research as the place where the primary research questions for a project are asked must be questioned. It would seem logical for the material in Chapter 12 to have been discussed in Chapter 2.

As an aside, this reviewer disagrees with Green’s assessment (on pp.240-l) that historical archaeology cannot be used as a model for the integration of historical documentation into maritime archaeological research. Green argues this point on the basis that the jargon used by the historical archaeologists is difficult to understand! Surely this antique argument, from the early days of ‘New Archaeology’, leads nowhere.

The main strengths of the book are, the clarity of expression, the depth of coverage and the good integration of illustrations and text to explain the techniques. Most land bound archaeologists are not aware of how the marine environment changes the nature of archaeological work. Obviously everything is wet, but more subtle effects of water in distorting light rays and changing perspectives are not well known.

The basic land recording techniques of surveying and tape measurements are complicated by factors such as current, poor visibility and the lack of underwater surveying instruments. In many ways underwater recording is back to the basics of compass and tape surveys with 3, 4, 5 triangles, trilateration and an underwater version of Johnson’s water level to give depths. Green explains each technique as well as expanding on their usefulness and accuracy.

Photography, in many ways, replaces underwater surveying. It is relatively easy to get a photographic image that then can be manipulated to obtain to scale plans and drawings of sites. The book is strong in this area giving various formulas for correcting photographic images.

The chapter on excavation is best avoided by fanatical ICOMOS members as excavation techniques include dredging, and use of crow-bar, hammer and pick. an underwater chainsaw and explosives (great for removing corrosion!).

The subsequent chapter, Conservation, is a real weak point. Not because of its short length (Green rightly cites more comprehensive treatments of artefact conservation) but because the implications of having to conserve every artefact raised (basically due to immersion in salt water) are not discussed. These implications are enormous and surely impose severe limitations on the nature and amount of excavation that can be done.

Green does not discuss the impact of excavation on the archaeological site and its environment. Even small excavations to establish the nature of a site can be destabilising and destructive, resulting in a huge site conservation job for someone, usually the taxpayer. More attention needs to be paid to the issue of site conservation.

The chapters on artefact drawing, artefact photography and publication are good introductions to the subjects although limited by the book’s size. Obviously these subjects are better covered by the various specialist publications such as The Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology and the Australian Government Style Manual.

The delay between writing (c. 1988) and publishing has meant that recent advances in video and computer technology have outpaced the book’s treatment of these topics. In particular the capturing of images acquired by video or still camera, their storage on computer (so called desktop video) and the subsequent potential to manipulate and enhance them, are threatening to replace traditional cameras for recording and illustrating underwater sites. This is an exciting area of development which has much to offer the archaeologist. Certainly if a second edition appears, a much fuller treatment of these issues will be required.

Overall the book achieves what it sets out to do: to present technical information of maritime archaeology based on Jeremy Green’s experience. A more rounded treatment of the theory underlying archaeology would have been more satisfactory to this reviewer, but the book has great strengths in presenting the basics of underwater field techniques to the archaeologist.

The book will be used as a handy reference work that is ideal to take on a Held trip. However will anyone buy it? At $98.95 it is difficult to see the publishers selling more than a few copies in Australia, and difficult to see their owners allowing such a book out of the library into the field where the technical handbook belongs.

Review of ‘Quantifying Diversity in Archaeology’ edited by Robert D. Leonard and George T. Jones

Pardoe Book Review Cover 1992‘Quantifying Diversity in Archaeology’ edited by Robert D. Leonard and George T. Jones, 1989, Cambridge University Press, 160 pp. ISBN 0-521-35030-1 (hbk)

Review by Colin Pardoe

I struggled for some time to find a way to intrigue readers enough to consider reading this book. There isn’t any. This book is not for Australian archaeology, now nor in the foreseeable future. It covers themes that go against a historical train of thought in this country. At the business end of what is a theoretically coherent book, it assumes something actively discouraged in our discipline numeracy.

Intrigued? The book is a collection of thoughts and work on diversity, grounded in the richness of information theory and focused on the past. Many of the authors trace their intellectual genealogy to ecology rather than information theory, reflecting the relationship of archaeology to cultural ecology and evolutionary epistemology in America, from where all the authors hail.

The volume is logically set out and shows commonalty of purpose and extremely good editing. The openers introduce diversity from its ecological (Bobrowsky and Ball) and evolutionary (Rindos) bases. These set the stage for the following chapters and apart from historical overviews, concentrate on the many measures of diversity in which the authors bring out the range of diversity studies and theoretical underpinnings.

The middle order is an attacking line-up dealing with middle range theory in five chapters. They analyse components of diversity and factors such as sample size (Kintigh; Grayson), applied to spatial structure (Schiffer; Simek). ceramics (Schiffer), animal bones (Grayson) and lithic technology (Simek; Jones. Beck and Grayson).

The lower order covers application of diversity studies to the traditionally separate data sets of site structure (Thomas), faunal remains (Rothschild), lithics (Leonard; Smiley and Cameron), ceramics (Rice) and style in art (Conkey).

The tail end pair of Cowgill and Dunnell, perhaps paying some lip service to a post-modern age, separately provide commentary on the volume, inviting the reviewer to comment on their comments. Cowgill engages a detailed criticism of some chapters while trying to summarise diversity as richness, evenness, range and standardisation and its application to diet, raw materials, style and activities. Dunnell addresses archaeology as a borrowing discipline and the unease of applying a quantitative and explicit framework to a primitive notion of diversity that has existed in archaeology for decades. Both authors discuss the uses of diversity and sampling considerations.

In the way it proposes to look at data and in unifying archaeological notions of model building, this book is a landmark. Even though much of the writing may seem endlessly methodological, it is a book written to be used, applied to data and thought about. The outstanding contributions of Rindos and Conkey are best read as detailed pieces in their respective theoretical ontogenies. Rindos’ chapter is well placed in the volume, as it is a closely reasoned explanation of selection processes and diversity in an archaeological context.

While not ignoring (pre)historical reconstruction, most of the authors address comparison in a regional or analytical frame that is increasingly a dominant theme in Australia; for instance current research in Tasmania, central Australia or the River Murray, and in recent works such as Frankel (1991) and Witter (1992). The earlier use of diversity statistics by Vanderwal and Horton (1984) on Tasmanian data perhaps reflected their American and ecological influences.

Diversity is a way of measuring variation. Archaeology, as much as biology, entails the study of variation. The analysis of variation is approached through diversity, which can be thought of as a model bound method (Relethford and Lees 1982; Pardoe 1991). Model bound methods are used to examine models of population structure (and populations might be technological, economic or biological) and so allow us to test expectations. Model free methods, on the other hand assess the amount of difference between objects and seek patterns to observable variation.

An example of diversity studies, and one not mentioned in this volume is the work of Lewontin (1972) and Latter (1980) on the apportionment of human diversity. Their studies independently asked how much biological variation there is in humans and how it is structured. The finding of 80% within populations, 15% between populations and within regions, and 5% between continental regions was counter intuitive. Of more relevance however, it has set the stage for other analyses of variation. Following my earlier work on exclusion/inclusion as a concept unifying gene flow and social organisation, I have been working on apportionment of diversity in Australia. Preliminary results indicate that a pattern results much like that for the whole species. Most diversity is within populations. However two regions, the River Murray and the Top End of the Northern Territory, stand out with significantly higher diversity within regions. Diversity is caused, it does not just happen. In the case of biological diversity, I favour explanations of a social nature that are embodied in the concept of exclusion, which promotes diversity. Thus, we may look for causes of the patterns of diversity, going beyond model free analyses that look for pattern or differentiation. That is the heart of model bound methods, and it is the direction of this book.

This volume and the works of Lewontin and Latter taken together point to a unity of archaeological studies, be they stone tools, food resources, spatial structure, or biology of human bones. As the introduction and many authors stress, much of what we do is measure variation, and diversity is one tool to simplify comparison and, perhaps like Lewontin and Latter, show when intuition is not enough.

Buy the book at your peril. The ideas are demanding. The examples and data, as in any edited volume, are disparate but overall have relevance to every aspect of archaeology. The arithmetic may very well put off people, since a sublime simplicity of ‘diversity’ comes about only through detailed analysis of archaeology’s difficult and fragmentary data sources.

Perhaps if we realise that we all use numbers anyway, then the strength of this volume could be seen as a way toward simplifying analysis and ordering our thoughts. Archaeology is not about numbers, but that does not mean we should not use and interpret them.


Frankel. D. 1991 Remains To Be Seen. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire.

Latter. B.D.H. 19RO Genetic differences within and between populations of the major human subgroups. The American Naturalist 116:220-37.

Lewontin. R.C. 1972 The apportionment of human diversity. Evolutionary Biology 6:381-98.

Pardoe. C. 1991 Isolation and evolution in Tasmania. Current Aruhropology 32: 1-21.

Relethford. J.H. and F.C. Lees 1982 The use of quantitative traits in the study of human population structure. Yearbuok of Physical Anthropology 25: 113-32.

Vanderwal. R. and D. Horton 19R4 Coastal Southwest Tasmania. Canberra: Department of Prehistory. Research School of Pacific Studies. Australian National University. Terra Australis 9.

Witter. D. 1992 Regions and resoures. PhD. thesis. Canberra: Department of Prehistory. Research School of Pacific Studies. Australian National University.

Book Note on ‘The Northern Barbarians 100 BC-AD 300’ by Malcolm Todd

Megaw Book Note Cover 1993‘The Northern Barbarians 100 BC-AD 300’ by Malcolm Todd, Second Edition, 1987, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, x + 213 pp. ISBN 0-631-1519-1 (hbk)

Book Note by Ruth Megaw

This is really a reprint, rather than a revision, of the useful text published in 1975 by Hutchison on the subject of the peoples to the north of Roman frontiers. The amount of rewriting or additional references is small, and material published at the start of the 1960s is still described as ‘recent’ (e.g. pp.55, 60, 129). The text has been completely reset, the reference format has been changed, and notes moved from the end of chapters to the foot of the pages. Maps and drawings have been redrawn, but not essentially changed, and some additional drawings provided. The content, however. remains very much the same. The major chapters deal with ‘Germania and the Germans’ (virtually unchanged) ; ‘ the archaeological groupings’ (virtually unchanged); ‘settlements and agriculture’ (minor changes); ‘technology and crafts’ (virtually unchanged); ‘armament and warfare’ (minor changes) and ‘gods and sanctuaries’ (virtually unchanged).

Book Note on ‘Ancestors for the Pigs: Taxonomy and Phylogeny of the Genus Sus’ by Colin Groves

‘Ancestors for the Pigs: Taxonomy and Phylogeny of the Genus Sus’ by Colin Groves. 1981, Technical Bulletin Number 3, Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University, vii + 96 pp.

Book Note by Tim Flannery

One of the ‘hot’ topics at present in Australasian prehistory is that concerning the origins of human domesticates and commensals. An understanding of this topic can provide critical clues as to the nature of the human society that co-existed with the animals, as well as the timing of their arrival, the nature of their original habitat, and the extent and direction of trade. Groves’ work, while not directly addressing these questions, is a very rich vein indeed for archaeologists interested in them. It is a purely taxonomic work, but avoids the yawn that such tomes usually produce because it is so well, and indeed so humorously written. It provides in detail primary data regarding the pigs studies, and gives an excellent review of the relationships of pigs in general. Groves’ finding that the pigs of New Guinea represent a hybrid race is fascinating. Unfortunately, I have not yet heard of archaeologists incorporating this finding into their analyses of human movements in Melanesia.

Finally, it must be said that pigs are not everybody’s cup of tea, and few have toiled so mightily to unravel the taxonomy of such a difficult and unattractive group. Groves begins his account of the peculiar bearded pig of Borneo with the Shakespearian couplet:

Lord worshipped might he be
What a beard hast thou got.
The same might be said of the author of this work…

Incidentally, in my copy at least, the publisher has seen fit to include two pages of the page containing this fine couplet.

Review of ‘Australian Rock Art: A New Synthesis’ by Robert Layton

Review by Claire Smith

Smith Book Review Cover 1993‘Australian Rock Art: A New Synthesis’ by Robert Layton, 1992, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 284 pp. ISBN 021-34666-5 (hbk)

The focus of Australian Rock Art is the role that rock art plays today, and has played in the past, in Australian Aboriginal societies. This is approached from two perspectives: anthropological and archaeological. The author views rock art as a cultural artefact which visually encodes social information and his interpretations of the role rock art played in past societies are based on understanding the relationship between patterning in social behaviour and patterning in rock art.

In the opening chapter Layton states (p.2) that ‘the purpose of this book is to bring together the work of anthropologists and archaeologists and show how each can illuminate the other’. This chapter provides a clear discussion of the techniques used by anthropologists and archaeologists when researching Australian rock art and proposes a convergence of method.

This chapter also considers the on-going debate in the archaeological literature on the utility of ethnography for archaeological analyses of rock art. Layton’s own position is that the durability of rock art and its continued significance for Aboriginal communities makes it most suitable for collaborative effort between anthropologists and archaeologists (see also Morwood 1992 for cogent description of this general position).

On the other hand is the ‘pure archaeology’ approach of Clegg (1977) and Maynard (1979), who argue persuasively that neither the intended subject nor motivation can be securely discerned from rock art. In fact, Clegg (and Cleggians) use the typographic convention of an exclamation mark before their own categorisation of motifs (e.g. !track, !trident and so forth) in order to signal that they do not believe that their categorisation is necessarily indicative of the artist’s original intent.

So far, this convention has not been adopted en masse by rock art researchers, and I think this may be because information is being encoded at two levels and this inhibits easy translation of the primary message. In this volume Layton’s solution is to adopt the convention judiciously throughout the text: the general caution is thus formally communicated at intervals but this does not inhibit the flow of the written text. In any case, Clegg’s point has been well absorbed into the literature on Australian rock art: few people researching rock art today would argue that their interpretations of either subject or motivation are necessarily those of the original artists.

Layton does take issue with Maynard’s (1979) contention that rock art in most parts of Australia is a prehistoric artefact and he points out that her paper was written before land claims in the Northern Territory enlarged anthropologists’ understanding of the endurance of Aboriginal attachments to land and the continuing significance of rock art for many Aboriginal societies. I suspect that this is a point which Maynard herself might now be willing to concede.

On-going discussions throughout this book reveal the variety of ways in which rock art can be culturally significant to Aboriginal people. This theme is especially well articulated in Chapter Three which considers rock art as an expression of secular and subversive themes. The absence of detailed discussion of sacred rock art is notable: Layton has resisted (and possibly reversed?) a longstanding trend in general discussions of rock art to dwell on esoteric and sacred aspects of the art. This volume shows that discussion of rock art need not hinge – or impinge – on the secret/sacred in order to be interesting.

The author is well aware of the political dimensions of academic research into any aspect of Aboriginal culture. One issue which recurs throughout the text is the responsibility of academics to promote public understanding of rock art and Aboriginal cultures and thus encourage responsible behaviour and attitudes within the wider community.

The final chapter of the book deals with the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adaptation of Australia, with particular reference to the use of rock art sites. The author draws a distinction between graffiti which he associates with a casual disregard for the value of indigenous rock art and deliberate vandalism which consciously seeks to appropriate or even obliterate indigenous heritage. The comments on rock art vandalism are perceptive:

There is a grim form of logic in the denial of Indigenous rights through the destruction of artefacts that may have been constructed to proclaim people’s attachment to the land, actions which are a reminder that the integrity of Indigenous traditions, and the right of self-determination are still under attack, two centuries after the European colonisation of Australia began (p.247).

As the title asserts, this book is basically a synthesis of the research which has been conducted into Australian rock art. It is also grounded, however, in Layton’s own extensive fieldwork with various Aboriginal communities within Australia. The text is spiced with anecdotes about Aboriginal relationships to land, including rock art, and with direct quotations or stories from Aboriginal people. This technique works well to situate rock art within its cultural context.

Australian Rock Art is suited to both an academic and a lay audience as the subject matter is of inherent interest to a wide range of people. This book provides a comprehensive overview of both the anthropological and archaeological literature on rock art and it is an excellent resource book for academics. The clarity of expression and simplicity of structure make it especially suitable for students.

The table of contents and index are detailed and easy to use. Basic technical terms are explained clearly either in the text itself or in a glossary. Lists of illustrations and tables, notes, appendices and references are also included. All plates and graphic reproductions are monochrome. Most figures are clear and the maps are well drawn and useful. There is one very public production error – a photograph by Darrell Lewis of a well- known rock art scene at Mount Brockman in which a hunter is apparently spearing an emu has been printed upside down (p.14). Since this same scene, photographed by George Chaloupka, has been widely distributed as a poster this error is unlikely to go unnoticed.

Australian Rock Art provides a comprehensive survey of Australian rock art and presents detailed anthropological and archaeological case studies which show how rock art functions, or may have functioned in the past, in Aboriginal societies. The pervasive theme of the book is the value of Aboriginal knowledge to an understanding of rock art. This volume is a significant contribution to Australian rock art studies. At $49.95, it is most likely to appear on the text and reference lists of Australian anthropological and archaeological courses.


Clegg, 1. 1977 A Saussurian model of prehistoric art. The Artefact 2:151-60.

Maynard, L 1979 The archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art. In S.M. Mead (ed.) Exploring the Visual Art of Oceania. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Morwood, M. 1992 Introductory essays on ethnography and the archaeological study of art. In M. Morwood and D. Hobbs (eds) Rock Art and Ethnography, pp.1-6. Melbourne: Australian Rock Art Research Association. Occasional AURA Publication No.5.

Review of ‘The Cainozoic in Australia: A Reappraisal of the Evidence’ edited by M.A.J. Williams, P. De Deckker and A.P. Kershaw and ‘Lessons for Human Survival: Nature’s Record from the Quaternary’ edited by Paul Bishop

‘The Cainozoic in Australia: A Reappraisal of the Evidence’ edited by M.A.J. Williams, P. De Deckker and A.P. Kershaw, 1991, Geological Society of Australia Special Publication No. 18, 346 pp. ISBN 0-909869-76-6 (pbk)
‘Lessons for Human Survival: Nature’s Record from the Quaternary’ edited by Paul Bishop, 1990, Geological Society of Australia Symposium Proceedings 1. 92 pp. ISBN 0-909869-73-1 (pbk)

Review by Scott Smithers

The Cainozoic in Australia: A Reappraisal of the Evidence provides a critical overview of the evolution of the Australian environment during the last 65 million years, an era of vital importance in the earth’s history, and for which the geological record in Australia, compared to those of North America and Europe, is remarkably intact. In contrast, Lessons for Human Survival: Natures Record from the Quaternary examines only the last 1.6 million years, but with a global perspective. The former publication was inspired by the 1987 Cainozoic conference held in Warrnambool, Victoria, and contains expanded and revised versions of many papers presented at this conference, together with several additional contributions. The second volume results from a symposium held as part of the International Geographical Union Congress, held in Sydney 1988. It consists of seven papers delivered at this conference, albeit in some instances with different emphasis, as well as two solicited papers and a brief introduction by the editor.

The Cainozoic in Australia: A Reappraisal of the Evidence is clearly not a text compiled specifically for an archaeological readership. Consisting of three approximately equal parts covering the Palaeogene, Neogene and Quaternary, much of this book focuses on Australian palaeoenvironmental history considerably more ancient than that normally dealt with by archaeologists.

The interpretation of palaeoenvironmental conditions around Australia from Tertiary geological sequences, both terrestrial and marine, is a dominant theme of the first two sections. Early chapters concentrate on Australia’s gross geologic evolution, detailing major pre-Cainozoic tectonism and Cainozoic vulcanism in eastern Australia associated with Australia’s northward drift. Remaining chapters in the Palaeogene and Neogene sections examine the palaeoenvironmental consequences of Tertiary changes in sea level, climate and tectonic activity, with more a regional or local emphasis. Papers by Sluiter, Martin, and McEwan Mason add a palaeoecological dimension, reconstructing and/or re-evaluating vegetation histories derived from palynological evidence from Lake Eyre, the inland rivers of New South Wales, and Lake George.

The antiquity of landscape development and environmental change discussed in the ‘Tertiary’ chapters undoubtedly limits their archaeological relevance, however sufficient new information and perceptive re-interpretations are proffered for them to be intrinsically interesting and worth a read. Many of the more pertinent revelations for the specialist archaeologist are, however, concealed from easy view by the breadth and sheer volume of detail presented. The value of these chapters for the persistent archaeologist is that they present a long-term evolutionary perspective of the pre-Quaternary Australian landscape within which the vicissitudes of Quaternary environmental change and the onset of human occupancy can be viewed. Fortunately for archaeologists with less stamina, the concluding six chapters are devoted to the Quaternary and can be readily accessed.

Chapters by Williams et al. and Kershaw et al. which reconstruct palaeoclimatic conditions from two different types of evidence, and from different environmental settings begin the Quaternary section of this book. Williams et al. continue the theme of palaeoenvironmental interpretation from geological sequences, examining aeolian, alluvial and lacustrine landforms and sediments from a desert margin system in western New South Wales. They suggest that their study site, located midway between the arid desert and the wetter eastern Highlands, is sensitive to climatically driven erosion/deposition, and have reconstructed a palaeoclimatic history for the last 33ka based on geomorphic evidence. They identify the intimate nature of sediment supply sink relations between aeolian, fluvial and lacustrine systems; and conclude that much of the landscape is comprised of fossil landforms formed under climatic conditions without contemporary parallel. In contrast, Kershaw et al. establish the nature and chronology of broad palaeoclimatic change for eastern Australia during the last 100kaby comparing two of Australia’s longest pollen records, one from the tropical Atherton Tablelands, the other from the temperate volcanic province of western Victoria, and correlate their palaeoclimatic interpretation with that inferred from oxygen isotope analysis of deep ocean sediments. Prehistorians will be abreast of most of the palaeoclimatic reconstruction contained within this paper, and the real value of this work lies in the comparative exercise, most notably the excellent discussion of the problems entailed in correlating palynological (environmental) phases between distant sites. Indeed much of the content of both these chapters relevant to archaeologists will already be familiar, from earlier work by the same authors or from other work dealing with similar sites. To be fair however, both of these papers were aimed at a broader audience, and neither has set out to especially thrill archaeologists.

Chapters by Head et al., Gill et al., and Peterson are less equivocal in their contributions to Australian archaeology; all three papers are smacked with intrigue and innovation. Head et al. present both radiocarbon and palynological evidence suggesting that archaeological sites associated with the lakes and swamps in the Mt. Eccles Tower Hill region of western Victoria are Pleistocene in age. They convincingly place the end of vulcanism in this region around 20 ka, considerably earlier than the early mid Holocene finish previously accepted, by verifying pre-Holocene dates previously thought unreliable using stratigraphic palynological evidence of Pleistocene vegetation. By dating the final volcanic activity as Pleistocene, Head et al. exclude volcanic destruction as a possible explanation for the lack of known archaeological sites predating the late Holocene, implying that the scarcity is real. The implications of an earlier end to vulcanism for the Aboriginal prehistory of the region are discussed within the context of post-eruption landscape and ecosystem evolution and its affect on Aboriginal economies. In this respect Head et al.’s synthesis of geomorphic, palynological and archaeological evidence is particularly effective, and demonstrates the need for a thorough understanding of the interaction between landscape, climate and vegetation when investigating a region’s prehistory. Given that volcanic deposits have blocked drainage systems and initiated wetland development across much of western Victoria, similar systems with archaeological significance should be likewise investigated.

An intriguing shell deposit in Hopkins River
Estuary, Warrnambool provides the archaeological
focus of Gill et al.’s contribution, although the
methodology of their investigation is equally
enthralling. Does their shell deposit have an
anthropogenic or natural ancestry? Estimated to be last
interglacial in age, a confirmed anthropogenic heritage
would re-write Australian prehistory. Gill et al. answer
this challenging question using a methodology which is
innovative and eloquent. They conclude that the deposit
is natural, and propose several mechanisms by which it
may have formed. Most significantly for archaeologists
(given the negative conclusion!), their use of microfossil (foraminiferal) abundance as an indicator of predation or natural deposition is pioneering, and well demonstrated to be a useful technique which will surely be invaluable in determining the history of other shell deposits of ambiguous origin.

Peterson’s chapter challenges the narrow scope of models of human dispersal to Sahul which variously involve glacial low sea levels, flimsy water craft and ‘shortest hop’ voyages by small founding populations. Instead he liberates archaeological thought from these constraints by proposing that people could be rafted to Sahul from Wallacea upon floating islands. Scenarios by which these islands may form are outlined, and several documented cases of floating islands presented as geomorphic analogues. Although acknowledging the current rarity of these islands (they may have been more prolific during previous marine transgressions), Peterson hypothesizes that large floating islands represented a viable alternative mechanism by which early occupants were delivered to Australia’s shores. He contends that Australia’s earliest human occupants were limited to small and flimsy watercraft not suitable for oceanic voyaging, and proposes that floating islands large enough to sustain and support groups of people over long distances represent an equally probable mode of human introduction. In conceiving the floating island model I believe Peterson set out to widen the debate concerning how humans entered Australia. This he has surely done.

Whitehead’s geochemical chronology of volcanic activity for Mt. Napier and Mt. Rouse seems awkwardly placed amongst the other Quaternary papers, being determinedly geological in its aspect. This awkwardness is symptomatic of most of this book when read from an archaeological viewpoint. This is not a criticism of the book itself but rather an observation regarding the extent to which a book dealing with Australia’s Cainozoic history can touch upon matters archaeological. Despite the inclusion of several excellent papers of undoubted value to prehistorians, at $65.00 it is difficult to recommend the purchase of this volume of those with a tight budget and strictly archaeological interest.

The long established geological principle of uniformitarianism broadly states ‘that the present is the key to the past’. With the prospect of an uncertain environmental future many researchers are fast becoming devotees of another, newer principle. The tenet of this principle is that the past is the key to the future, and Quaternarists are perhaps the most zealous converts. Lessons for Human Survival: Nature’s Record from the Quaternary is a volume where the practice of predicting future environmental change based on Quaternary palaeoenvironmental research is demonstrated and debated.

So where does this book sit with respect to Australian archaeology? Palaeoenvironmental reconstructions of Quaternary Australia are included in the contributions from Kershaw and Gell, and from Chappell, but appear in greater detail elsewhere. These two papers are the most spatially and temporally aligned to Australian archaeology of this collection; the other papers focus outside Australia and/or prehistorical time. Among the other papers Machida’ s tephrochronology of catastrophic vulcanism in Japan during the late Quaternary and its implications for human occupation may tantalise prehistorians working in parts of Australia subject to late Quaternary volcanic activity.

The need for careful interpretation of Quaternary stratigraphy and palaeoecology, and the limitations of palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and the use of Quaternary analogues for predictive purposes is stressed by several authors. This theme has resonance for archaeologists, who are often forced to consider the nuances of prehistorical evidence within a palaeoenvironmental framework constructed with a good dose of extrapolation and postulation.

Lessons for Human Survival: Nature’s Record from the Quaternary is a collection of very readable papers in which the interaction of human activity and environmental change forms a recurrent theme. At $20 it is easier to recommend than the more expensive The Cainozoic in Australia: A Re-Appraisal o f the Evidence however it is similarly thwarted in its archaeological appeal by its unashamed multidisciplinary philosophy and temporal focus largely outside of prehistorical time.

Review of ‘The Willandra Lakes Hominids’ by S.G. Webb and ‘Coobool Creek. A Morphological and Metrical Analysis of the Crania, Mandibles and Dentition of a Prehistoric Australian Human Population’ by Peter Brown

‘The Willandra Lakes Hominids; by S.G. Webb, 1989, Occasional Papers in Prehistory, No 16. Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra, ix + 194 pp. ISBN 0-7315-0802-5 (pbk).
‘Coobool Creek. A Morphological and Metrical Analysis of the Crania, Mandibles and Dentition of a Prehistoric Australian Human Population’ by Peter Brown, 1989, Terra Australis 13. Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra, xxi + 205 pp. ISBN O-7315-0742-8 (pbk)

Review by Phillip J. Habgood

These volumes have been reviewed elsewhere (e.g. Pardoe 1991;Wood 199l), but their importance warrants a further review and discussion in this journal. The two monographs provide detailed discussions of two of the best collections of skeletal material recovered in Australia and add to the ‘academic’ debate on the origin of the Australian Aborigines.

The Willandra Lakes Hominids by Steve Webb is a detailed catalogue and general description of much of the skeletal material recovered since 1974 from the Willandra Lakes in western NSW (94 individuals). Although Lake Mungo 1-3 (WLH1-3)and WLH50 are not part of the survey, their combined shadow looms over the entire work with LM 1 adorning the cover.

The monograph is divided into two sections. Section 1 is divided into a number of chapters detailing the anatomical and pathological characteristics of the sample and its place in the palaeodemography and palaeoanthropology of Australia Section 2 is a detailed catalogue of most of the individuals within the sample, including morphological and metrical descriptions and excellent photographs.

In the Preface, Webb states that he hopes the monograph ‘will lead to a greater appreciation of the scientific importance and world heritage value of a region where serious archaeological work has effectively ceased’. He has easily achieved this aim.

Chapter 1 outlines the history and curation of the collection and includes a very useful table detailing the catalogue number, site location, whether cranial and/or postcranial material is preserved, if the bone has been cremated or burnt and the proposed sex of each individual in the series. The chapter also includes a discussion of the dating of the collection. Webb interprets the available evidence as indicating that ‘with few exceptions, all individuals in the collection predate the end of lunette formation at the Willandra Lakes around 15,000 B P (p.7). The condition and taphonomy of the human bone is discussed in Chapter 2. This chapter explains the fragmentary nature of the human skeletal material. The section outlining the impact of cultural factors is especially interesting. Webb identifies ten individuals in the series which exhibit the same range of colour and bone condition as LM 1,which had been cremated and then smashed. Some individuals, including LM 1, appear to have been smashed prior to cremation as well as following cremation. Webb also suggests that the fragmentary condition of some of the individuals in the series may have been caused by deliberate bone smashing before internment.

As outlined in Chapter 2, the skeletal material that makes up the Willandra Lakes series is very fragmentary, especially when LM 1 and 3 and WLH 50 are excluded. Chapters 3 and 4 detail the morphological and metrical information that can be obtained from the material. To overcome the limitations of the cranial sample, Webb developed methods of assessment that he applied to certain sections of the cranium that were most frequently preserved- particularly cranial thickness, supraorbital development and size and shape of the malar. Pathologies such as osteoarthritis, Harris lines and dental hypoplasia and cranial and postcranial trauma evident within the sample are outlined in Chapter 5.

Although not actually part of the series dealt with in the monograph, the discussion of the cranial shape and thickness of WLH 50 will especially interest many palaeoanthropologists and biological anthropologists. In summary, Webb argues (p.70) that the extensive cranial thickening of WLH M is pathological and probably derived from some form of haemoglobinopathy (see also Habgood 1989a; Webb 1990). However, even if this diagnosis is correct, WLH 50 remains a very large and robust cranium.

In Chapter 6, Webb attempts to place the Willandra Lakes collection into the wider Australian palaeoanthropological context. This discussion is directed by the conclusions reached in Chapters 3 and4, where Webb determined that the analyses showed a consistency of separation between robust individuals and a gracile group and revealed a vast difference in male morphology within the series. Webb states ‘The likelihood of WLH 1 and 50 ‘sister’ and ‘brother’, WLH 3 and 19 ‘brothers’ or WLH 1 and 45 ‘sisters’ is unacceptable’ (p.76). Webb does not think that sexual dimorphism can explain all of the morphological differences. Pardoe (1991), however, has suggested that the separation is a result of sexual dimorphism (robust=male and gracile=female – with some overlap such as WLH 3) and that the distribution is typical of population variation. Although Webb is of the view that better-preserved and dated material is required before questions concerning the morphological structure of the first Australians can be answered, he goes on to support separate migrations – an early migration of robust individuals and a subsequent migration of gracile individuals. However, unlike Thorne (e.g. 1976), Webb contends that the migrations were from the same geographical area, Sunda, and the morphological differences reflect evolutionary trends within that region, not separate ‘homelands’. He is of the view that intermixing of the two forms/groups with the larger phenotype dominating overall, accounts for the large range of morphological variation evident in the terminal Pleistocene populations throughout Australia.

I do not intend to discuss the evidence against Webb’s conclusion, however, it should be noted that arguments against Thorne’s dual source and regional continuity hypotheses can also be raised against Webb’ s suggestion (e.g. Brown 1981, 1987; Habgood 1985, 1986b, 1989%1989b, 1992).


Coobool Creek A Morphological and Metrical Analysis of the Crania, Mandibles and Dentition of a Prehistoric Australian Human Population is a revision of Peter Brown’s PhD thesis. The monograph is divided into seven chapters and an appendix. The Coobool Creek sample is part of the Murray Black Collection of Aboriginal skeletal material ‘collected’ from the Murray Valley by the late George Murray Black As Brown details, the precise geographic location of the Coobool Creek cemetery is unknown and contamination has prevented radiocarbon dating of any of the material. Brown indicates in the introduction (Chapter 1) that the objective of the monograph is the morphological and metrical description of the crania, mandibles and dentition from Coobool Creek and its comparison with other material from Australia. Like Webb, Brown easily achieves his aim.

Chapter 2 outlines the material, including comparative samples, and methods, both metrical and statistical, used for the study. Brown also provides a detailed discussion of the method used for sex determination of the Coobool Creek sample and the comparative material. The results of morphological and metrical, both univariate and multivariate, analyses of the Coobool Creek crania are detailed in Chapter 3. This chapter also includes sections on sexual dimorphism and artificial cranial deformation (see also Brown 1981). Similar morphological and metrical studies of the Coobool Creek mandibles and dentition are contained in Chapters 4 and 5.

Chapter 6 outlines the conclusions that Brown reaches from the preceding analyses. The major finding is that the analyses align the Coobool Creek individuals with those from Kow Swamp, but differentiate them from recent and mid-Holocene skeletal samples from the Murray Valley. Overall size and the effects of artificial cranial deformation are the major distinguishing features. The association with the Kow Swamp sample (morphology and cultural practice of artificial cranial deformation) is used to persuasively argue for a late Pleistocene age for the Coobool Creek collection. Brown points out that the metrical comparisons of the Coobool Creek-Kow Swamp sample with Holocene collections indicate major reduction in the oro-facial skeleton, cranial vault and dentition. A similar pattern of size reduction is evident in other parts of the world. Brown discusses the various explanations that have been proposed to account for this phenomenon, and proposes that environmental changes such as a reduction in mean annual temperature may be the cause. The evaluation of this hypothesis must await more information and analysis.

Migrations a new beginning

Webb stated that ‘The wide separation of the two identified groups makes it unlikely that they occupy the two extremes of a continuous range of variation, as a number of people have claimed’ (p.34). I am one of those people who argues against two morphological and chronologically separated groups migrating to Australia (Sahul) and who claims that the material documents a large range of morphological variation.

What mechanisms could be involved in the development of the morphological variation that is evident in the corpus of late Pleistocene skeletal material from Australia? Brown does not discuss these matters in any detail in his monograph (but see Brown 1987), but Webb discusses how genetics and migration can impact on skeletal morphology. He is not of the view that this can account for the full range of morphological variation evident in the Australian Pleistocene sample. Elsewhere I have argued for a population/genetic approach to explaining the large range of morphological variation (Habgood 1986a, 1987, 1991).

The limited archaeological remains recovered from late Pleistocene sites indicates a very dispersed low intensity population (see discussion in Habgood 1991). As groups colonised the continent (Sahul-Greater Australia) they moved into a diversity of terrains and climates. It is probable that these colonising groups would have become isolated from each other due to the enormous size of the continent and the relatively small population numbers. There are few significant topographical barriers in Australia, except the expanses of ocean that now separate Tasmania and New Guinea from the mainland, and so total isolation of the groups would have been unlikely.

If small groups were isolated, one could expect to find unique local artefactual specialisations, which would be adaptations to local conditions. The tula adze found in the arid regions of northern Australia, ground stone hatchets from sites in Arnhem Land, northern Australia, and small tools recovered from early sites in southwestern Western Australia may be examples of this form of local adaptation Geographical isolation would have been accentuated by the last glacial maximum, centred around 18,000 BP, when one can expect populations to have decreased (see Habgood 1991 for references). Small population numbers spread over large geographical distances would have been the major isolating mechanism in late Pleistocene Australia. Geographical isolation is a reversible phenomenon which in itself does not affect the separate groups (gene pools), but allows other processes, such as founder effect, selection, mutation and genetic drift, to accumulate genetic differences.

It is improbable that the small isolated groups would be a representative cross-section, morphologically or genetically, of the parent population. This would also have been the case for the initial migrants to Sahul. If the groups consisted of members of the same family lineage founder effect would have been accentuated.

Habitation of different environments would allow different kinds of selection to act on the individual populations causing genetical frequency variations to develop since human biological variation is determined by the interaction between the environment and genetic systems. Within small populations random genetic changes or mutations stand a greater chance of becoming fixed, allowing random genetic differentiation of the groups.

Under this model, small isolated groups scattered throughout the continent during the late Pleistocene would have been developing genetic variation. Genetic variation does not necessarily equate with morphological variation, but as the modern Australian Aborigines demonstrate, there is a certain degree of correlation (Kirk 1981).

Each of the isolated groups could have developed unique genetic combinations and so while they were internally homogeneous, they differed from other groups, thus producing a heterogeneous continental population. If there are chronologically separated groups within the Willandra Lakes sample, this phenomenon, along with sexual dimorphism, may account for the differences in morphology identified by Webb (i.e. chronologically separated unique morphologies [gracile type, robust type, and types in between] that developed locally). Gene flow would have been restraining the genetic differentiation, but its effect would have been limited by the isolation of the groups. It is significant that sites such as Kow Swamp and Coobool Creek, located in the Murray Valley where isolation would have been reduced and gene flow high, have skeletal samples that display a large range of morphological variation (accentuated by artificial cranial deformation).This may also be the case at the Willandra Lakes if the sample does not span a long chronological period or represent separate chronological and morphological groups.

Naturally acquired genetic variation caused by isolation and small population numbers, along with artificial cranial deformation (Brown 198l) , can account for the morphological pattern evident in the late Pleistocene cranial material from Australia.

The range of morphological variation (not just overall size) of late Holocene cranial material is reduced compared to that of the earlier skeletal sample. This could be due to a major reduction in isolation of groups because of a substantial increase in the population of the continent. After the last glacial maximum population numbers would have gradually increased. This increase is especially evident (archaeologically visible) during the Holocene (see Habgood 1991 for references).

In its simplest terms, this population increase (repopulation may be more accurate) would mean more people and/or groups inhabiting the landscape, which would have greatly reduced the isolation of groups and significantly increased gene flow between them. As population numbers and densities increased, gene flow would have been higher, introducing new genetic material and or changing gene frequencies in the previously isolated groups.

The trend would have been for gradually increasing differentiation within the individual groups, which previously had unique morphologies, until all groups displayed similar types and ranges of variation. The genetic and morphological variation within the various groups (except possibly those from previously well populated areas such as the Murray Valley) would have increased whereas the continent wide range of variation would have decreased because there would have been a reduction in the occurrence of groups with unique morphologies. Unique morphologies would have disappeared and the chance of new ones becoming fixed would have been greatly lessened in possibly larger-sized groups. Added to this would have been the cessation of artificial cranial deformation in the Murray Valley as detailed in the Brown monograph.

Instead of having relatively homogeneous groups forming a very heterogeneous continental population, as one had during the late Pleistocene, there would have been heterogeneous groups making up a more homogeneous continental population (similar range of variation within groups). As noted above, the overall range of morphological variation would also have reduced.

This is not to say that the modem Australian Aborigines are morphologically homogeneous, for they display a high degree of variation both within and between regions (Kirk l98l), but the range of variation is reduced compared to the earlier skeletal sample. This suggests that the unifying influence of gene flow was not total and that other genetic processes were still acting upon the populations.

There may, however, have been a change in the pattern described above prior to contact. Groups living in resource-rich areas that supported high population densities appear to have had rigid territorial boundaries and short marriage distances, therefore restricting gene flow (see Habgood 1991 for references). In arid regions with low population densities and unpredictable resources, groups maintained more fluid boundaries and extensive social networks, which would have promoted gene flow (see Habgood 1991 for references).

These patterns most probably came into existence with repopulation after the last glacial maximum. That is, when groups moved back into and permanently occupied arid regions they took with them extensive social networks, and as population densities reached critical levels in regions such as the Murray River corridor (Webb 1984), more rigid territorial boundaries became necessary to maintain control of resources. This change may have influenced the morphological range of more recent Aboriginal crania, but would not affect the pattern of the late Pleistocene and earlier Holocene material.

I have diverged somewhat from a review of the two monographs. However, one of the major benefits of these works is the information they contain which should stimulate further debate on population biology within Australian prehistory, such as the preceding discussion.

Both volumes are well illustrated and have excellent and informative maps, diagrams, graphs and extensive tables. The raw material provided within the monographs will be as useful as the descriptions and conclusions reached. One can only hope that the publication of the Lake Mungo skeletons and WLH 50 is of as high a quality as these two monographs and is completed in the very near future.


Brown, P. 1981 Artificial cranial deformation: a component in the variation in Pleistocene Australian crania. Archaeology in Oceania 16:156-67.

Brown, P. 1987 Pleistocene homogeneity and Holocene size reduction: The Australian human skeletal evidence. Archaeology in Oceania 16:41-67.

Habgood, P.J. 1985 The origin of the Australian Aborigines: An alternative approach and view. In P.V. Tobias  (ed.) Hominid Evolution: Past, Present and Future. New York: Alan R. Liss, pp.367-80.

Habgood, P.J. 1986a A late Pleistocene prehistory of Australia: The skeletal material. Physical Anthropology News 5(1):1-5.

Habgood, P.J. 1986b The origin of the Australians: A multivariate approach. Archaeology in Oceania 2 1:130-7.

Habgood, P.J. 1987 Reestimations des variations observees sur le materielosseux australien. L’Anthropologie 91:797-802.

Habgood, P.J. 1989a The origin of anatomically modern humans in Australasia In P. Mellars and C.B. Stringer (eds) The Human Revolution: Behavioural and Biological Perspectives on the Origin of Modern Humans. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp.245-73.

Habgood, P.J. 1989b The origin of modern humans in east Asia and Australasia. In G. Giacobini (ed.) Hominidae. Proceedings of the 2nd International Congress on Human Palaeontology, Turin 28 Sept.-3Oct 1987.pp.431-5.

Habgood, P.J. 1991 Aboriginal fossil hominids: Evolution and migrations. In R. Foley (ed.) The Origins of Human Behaviour. London: Unwin Hyman, pp.97-113.

Habgood, P.J. 1992The origin of anatomically modern humans in east Asia In G. Brauer and F.H. Smith (eds) Continuity or Replacement: Controversies in Homo Sapiens Evolution. Rotterdam: A.A. Balkema, pp.273-88.

Kirk, R.L. l981 Aboriginal Man Adapting. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Pardoe, C. 1991 Competing paradigms and ancient human remains: The state of the discipline. Archaeology in Oceania 26:79-85.

Thorne, A.G. 1976 Morphological contrasts in Pleistocene Australians. In R.L. Kirk and A.G. Thorne (eds.) The Origin of the Australian, pp.95-112.Canberra: AIAS.

Webb, S. 1990 Cranial thickening in an Australian hominid as a possible palaeoepidemological indicator. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 82:403-11.

Wood,B. 1991 Review Article. Antiquity 65:157-8.

Enmeshed inscriptions: Reading the graffiti of Australia’s convict past


Convict graffiti, Sarah Island, Macquarie Harbour (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Convict graffiti, Sarah Island, Macquarie Harbour (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Eleanor Conlin Casella

Prison graffiti has been traditionally defined as markings created by inmates on the architectural fabric of the institutional site. However, if we instead define the phenomena as an inscription created by a convict upon an element of their material world, a new range of meaningful ‘hidden transcripts’ may be explored through objects ranging from cotton fabric and copper coins to the more familiar limewash, paint, stone, wood and brick. This paper considers themes that commonly appear in graffiti left by those transported from the British Isles to the Australian penal colonies during the nineteenth century. It further argues that the act of inscription (itself both a mental and physical process) intimately links humans to objects, creating an enmeshed relationship that ultimately reshapes both.

‘We’ve got better things to do than worry about whitefella politics’: Contemporary Indigenous graffiti and recent government interventions in Jawoyn Country

Graffiti in the NT (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Graffiti in the NT (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Jordan Ralph and Claire Smith

This paper explores whether Aboriginal people have used graffiti to display resistance to the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007. One of the first studies of graffiti in a remote Aboriginal community, this research was undertaken on Jawoyn lands in the Northern Territory, Australia. It encompasses the Aboriginal communities of Barunga, Manyallaluk and Beswick, where graffiti was recorded at 277 road signs along the Central Arnhem Highway and Manyallaluk Road, and at three roadside shelters. This study shows that graffiti in Jawoyn communities primarily serves the intragroup purpose of reinforcing relationships between community members, in contrast to the use of graffiti by non-Indigenous people to propagate political and social messages between different social groups. It also provides material insights into a fear of government. Contrary to our expectations, graffiti in Jawoyn Country is not a mode of resistance to government intervention. Instead, the near absence of graffiti on Northern Territory Emergency Response signs in areas where surrounding signs have high densities of graffiti provides unique and materially-based insights into a fear of the Australian government that is felt by Aboriginal people in remote communities. The analysis suggests that Aboriginal people nurture community relationships partly to deal with alienation from government and, to some extent, the wider Australian community.

Illicit autobiographies: 1980s graffiti, prisoner movement, recidivism and inmates’ personal lives at the Adelaide Gaol, South Australia

The resting place of 'mosi 2' graffiti, Adelaide Gaol (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

The resting place of ‘mosi 2’ graffiti, Adelaide Gaol (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Riannon Agutter

An examination of over 4500 items of graffiti at the old Adelaide Gaol, South Australia, revealed individual details of prisoners who served time during the gaol’s 141 years of operation (1847–1988). Analysis of the locations and dates of graffiti made by male prisoners in the 1980s, from which the majority of the assemblage dates, makes it possible to track individuals’ movements in, out and around the Gaol, and to link this patterning to recidivism rates. Elements of prisoners’ personal lives recorded in the graffiti (such as faith, humour, personal affiliations, race, age and hometown) are also explored and are shown to reveal private details not recorded elsewhere, exposing what was important to an individual’s sense of self, as well as what was important for him to reveal to others, providing an alternative history of life in gaol.

Shake Well Midden: An archaeology of contemporary graffiti production

View of the Shake Well Midden (photograph courtesy of Ursula K. Frederick; published in Australian Archaeology 78)

View of the Shake Well Midden (photograph courtesy of Ursula K. Frederick; published in Australian Archaeology 78)

Ursula K. Frederick

Following on from the inroads archaeologists have made into the study of graffiti, this project set out to examine graffiti production through the lens of its associated material culture. A graffiti midden comprising the detritus of mark-making paraphernalia and other contemporary residues was recorded. The study reveals that aerosol painting was the dominant technique employed in the production of graffiti. One component of the assemblage—the aerosol can—was selected as a focus for detailed analysis. The results show distinctive patterns in the archaeological remains suggestive of particular behaviours on the part of graffiti writers, including the selection of speciality aerosols and particular discard practices. The findings of this preliminary investigation indicate that an understanding of graffiti as an artefact-generating activity complements and broadens existing archaeological treatments of graffiti as artefact. This approach has the potential to reveal new insights into a wider context of activities surrounding graffiti production and the creation of graffiti writing places and communities.

Battlefield or Gallery? A comparative analysis of contemporary mark-making practices in Sydney, Australia

Graffiti in Newtown, Sydney (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Graffiti in Newtown, Sydney (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Andrew Crisp, Anne Clark and Ursula K. Frederick

In this paper we present an analysis of the differences and similarities in the spatial distribution of graffiti in two Sydney suburbs: Newtown and Miranda. The research examines the extent to which factors of surveillance, location and legislation affect the range, production and spatial distribution of graffiti. Through the application of conventional archaeological field methods to the contemporary landscape this study has shown how an archaeological approach can test, and thereby validate or refute, general assumptions and proposals generated through other disciplinary frameworks. Results show that the amount of graffiti across the landscape does not follow the simple distinction whereby high visibility locations have low amounts of graffiti, while secluded locations have high amounts. Rather, within each landscape, the intricate interactions of human intention, graffiti policy and the characteristics of the built environment differentially shape graffiti distribution. Furthermore, this study shows that the influence of local community approaches to graffiti management on the typology and distribution of graffiti cannot be underestimated.

The ‘outback archive’: Unorthodox historical records in the Victoria River District, Northern Territory

Darrell Lewis recording a blab tree at Gregory's Depot (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Darrell Lewis recording a blab tree at Gregory’s Depot (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Darrell Lewis

Written documents are the fundamental resource used by historians, and to a lesser extent by archaeologists. This resource usually comprises paper records, photographs and paintings in public archives or private collections, but there are other types of ‘documentation’ available. In Australia these include inscriptions on trees and rocks by explorers and settlers, and later on infrastructure built by settlers. In the northwest such ‘unorthodox ‘ documentation is particularly common, with many inscriptions and pictures carved onto boab trees which are widespread and common, and the large iron water storage tanks at station and stock route bores. When combined with standard documentation, or interpreted via oral traditions of local non-Indigenous and Aboriginal people, these inscriptions provide insights into local history that otherwise would remain unknown.

Leaving their mark: Contextualising the historical inscriptions and the European presence at Ngiangu (Booby Island), western Torres Strait, Queensland

Graffiti at Pouri Pouri Cave, Ngiangu (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Graffiti at Pouri Pouri Cave, Ngiangu (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Jane Fyfe and Liam M. Brady

Situated at the western edge of Torres Strait, the island of Ngiangu has played an important role in the colonial and maritime history of Australia for nearly two centuries. Perhaps best known as a European ‘Post Office’, the island has also acted as a critical navigational marker, a refuge for shipwrecked mariners and a strategic monitoring station during World War II. The island features a remarkable collection of historical inscriptions that bear witness to these multiple phases of European presence on the island. Using systematically collected data from Queensland Museum expeditions to the island in 1985 and 1990 we examine and contextualise the historical inscription assemblage. Our results reveal how historical inscriptions were used to inscribe the island’s landscape during three distinct phases of use, as well as explore patterns of content and continuity in the assemblage. We conclude by considering the potential of these inscriptions to provide insight into notions of memory and memorialisation.

Signs of the times: An introduction to the archaeology of contemporary and historical graffiti in Australia

Frederick and Clarke AA78 EditorialUrsula K. Frederick and Anne Clarke

The papers in this themed section on historical and contemporary graffiti derive in part from a two-day workshop, That was Then, This is Now: Contemporary Archaeology in Australia, that we (Clarke and Frederick) organised at the University of Sydney in February 2012. The Editors of Australian Archaeology invited us to submit a set of papers from the workshop to showcase some of the Australian research in the field of contemporary archaeology. We agreed that a section on contemporary and historical graffiti would make an interesting and timely contribution to the growing international literature on this topic. The papers by Crisp et al., Frederick, and Ralph and Smith in this themed section were all presented at the workshop, while those by Casella, Fyfe and Brady, Agutter and Lewis were invited to provide further examples of the range and scope of approaches to this topic.

Marcia hiantina shell matrix sites at Norman Creek, western Cape York Peninsula

Shell mound site SE-SM39, Norman Creek complex (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Shell mound site SE-SM39, Norman Creek complex (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Grant Cochrane

The abundant shell matrix sites around Albatross Bay near Weipa, western Cape York Peninsula, provide an important source of evidence for models of mid- to late Holocene Aboriginal subsistence strategies in the region. While there is considerable variation in the size and spatial distribution of these sites, their surficial species composition is almost invariably dominated by Anadara granosa (blood cockle). In this paper I describe a complex of shell matrix sites at Norman Creek, ~60 km south of Weipa, that do not conform to this trend. Like the Albatross Bay sites, they exhibit considerable variation in size, but their surficial species composition is dominated by Marcia hiantina (hiant Venus). This suggests that, in the past, shellfish foraging in the region was not exclusively focused on A. granosa. There are several factors that may influence variation in species composition, including shellfish ecology, economic and cultural values, and taphonomic processes. Further research, including detailed sub-surface investigation of shell matrix sites, is necessary to evaluate the role(s), and interplay, of these factors.

Re-evaluating the antiquity of Aboriginal occupation at Mulka’s Cave, southwest Australia

The Mulka's Cave complex (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

The Mulka’s Cave complex (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Alana M. Rossi

Mulka’s Cave is a decorated granite boulder in southwest Australia that has been the focus of archaeological interest for several decades. Following a test excavation, Bowdler et al. (1989) argued that initial occupation of the site occurred around 500 BP, though Gunn (2006) suggested that the visible rock art was created much earlier, from 3000–2000 BP. Re-excavation of Mulka’s Cave was not feasible owing to extensive erosion having destroyed the deposit; however, material excavated by Bowdler et al. (1989) was available for additional analysis, including further radiocarbon dating. The nearby Camping Area artefact concentration was also excavated and dated. The new series of radiocarbon dates demonstrate that the cave was visited by 8000 cal. BP and the Camping Area before 6000 cal. BP. Occupation of Mulka’s Cave therefore pre-dates not only previously suggested dates, but also those available for all other southwest rock art sites. Rates of artefact discard and sedimentation suggest that early occupation was comparatively sporadic, especially inside the cave, but that utilisation of the cave and surrounds may have intensified markedly in the last 1500 years.

The first Australian Synchrotron powder diffraction analysis of pigment from a Wandjina motif in the Kimberley, Western Australia

Wandjina site at the King Edward River crossing showing flake exfoliation (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Wandjina site at the King Edward River crossing showing flake exfoliation (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Jillian Huntley, Helen Brand, Maxime Aubert and Michael J. Morwood

We report the identification of minerals in stratified paint layers from a Wandjina motif in the central Kimberley region, Western Australia, via synchrotron powder diffraction. Interpreting our findings with reference to previous pigment characterisations of Wandjina motifs, we outline the potential of this method for rock art investigations. We particularly highlight the implications of successful major and minor phase identification in very small (~3 μg) pigment samples. The results of this pilot study show that crystallographic data is critical in helping to separate environmental/cultural signatures from post-depositional processes within anthropogenically applied pigments. In Wandjina rock art, crystallography facilitates the examination of the cultural context of rock art production within an assemblage ethnographically known to have undergone regular, ritual repainting.

The geoarchaeology of a Holocene site on the Woolshed Embankment, Lake George, New South Wales

The Lake George study area (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

The Lake George study area (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Philip Hughes, Wilfred Shawcross, Marjorie Sullivan and Nigel Spooner

An extensive scatter of stone artefacts recorded as Site WE-1 on the Woolshed Embankment at the northern end of Lake George in southern NSW has been examined in the light of recent information on the lake’s history. Optical dates show that the core of the embankment formed between ~22,000 and 15,000 ya. Archaeological materials have survived in the overlying deposits, though they have been affected to a degree by repeated cultivation. These archaeological assemblages are now able to be interpreted in the light of a reconstruction (by Fitzsimmons and Barrows [2010]) of the Holocene lake history. The site was used during the mid- to late Holocene, initially during the penultimate high lake stand between 6000 and 2400 ya. The artefact assemblage has been inundated periodically by high lake levels, and potentially mixed by wave action. A silcrete- and backed artefact-rich and bipolar artefact-poor assemblage on part of the site was replaced across the whole site by one that had lower proportions of silcrete and backed artefacts and higher proportions of bipolar artefacts, a pattern similar to that observed in other sites in southeast Australia.

Occupation at Carpenters Gap 3, Windjana Gorge, Kimberley, Western Australia

Stratigraphic section for Carpenters Gap 3 (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Stratigraphic section for Carpenters Gap 3 (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Sue O’Connor, Tim Maloney, Dorcas Vannieuwenhuyse, Jane Balme and Rachel Wood

Carpenters Gap 3 (CG3), a limestone cave and shelter complex in the Napier Range, Western Australia, was occupied by Aboriginal people intermittently from over 30,000 years ago through to the historic period. Excavations at CG3 provide only slight evidence for occupation following first settlement in the late Pleistocene. Analysis of the radiocarbon dates indicates that following this there was a hiatus in occupation during the Last Glacial Maximum. In common with most Australian sites, the evidence for occupation increases sharply from the mid-Holocene. Faunal remains, interpreted predominantly as the remains of people’s meals, all suggest foraging of the immediate surroundings throughout the entire period of occupation. Fragments of baler shell and scaphopod beads are present from the early Holocene, suggesting movement of high value goods from the coast (over 200 km distant). Flakes from edge-ground axes recovered from occupation units dated to approximately 33,000 cal. BP, when overall artefact numbers are low, suggest that these tools formed an important component of the lithic repertoire at this time.

Pigment geochemistry as chronological marker: The case of lead pigment in rock art in the Urrmarning ‘Red Lily Lagoon’ rock art precinct, western Arnhem Land

Motifs from Minjnyimirnjdawabu rock shelter (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Motifs from Minjnyimirnjdawabu rock shelter (published in Australian Archaeology 78).

Daryl Wesley, Tristen Jones and Christian Reepmeyer

This paper presents selected results of an experimental study using portable x-ray fluorescence (pXRF) for the non-destructive analysis of rock art pigments in northern Australia. During two weeks of fieldwork in the dry season of 2011 at the Red Lily Lagoon area in western Arnhem Land, 32 rock art motifs in four rockshelter sites were analysed. A total of 640 analyses were undertaken, including of white, red, black, yellow and blue pigments from both early and contact art motifs. This paper discusses the geochemical analysis of one particular motif painted with black pigment. It was determined that processed metal lead was the most likely pigment base. Contrary to previous stylistic analysis that suggested the motif had an old age, our analysis suggests that the motif was painted within the last 200–300 years.

Thesis abstract ‘Rethinking Heritage: Landscape Iconoclasm in the Burrup Peninsula, Western Australia’


José Antonio González Zarandona

PhD, Art History Program, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, December 2013

Considered by some archaeologists to be the largest rock art site in the world, the Dampier Archipelago (located in Western Australia [WA]) contains up to one million prehistoric petroglyphs. Since the 1960s a number of companies have established themselves in what is known as the Burrup Peninsula, the largest island in the archipelago. Not surprisingly, this action has brought the destruction of Aboriginal petroglyphs, thought to date back to 25,000 years BP. It is unknown how many have been destroyed and we are still missing important information about the region and the Indigenous people who made them. Many studies have been undertaken on the archipelago. While some touch upon the destruction, their aims are essentially different. This thesis aims to fill this gap and considers the destruction of the art as the focus of a rock art analysis.

This thesis seeks to answer the following question: what are the causes that led to the destruction of the largest open archaeological site in the world? This analysis of the destruction is framed by theories from the field of colonialism, post-colonial, visual and heritage studies. The aim is to explain the destruction and neglect of petroglyphs in the Dampier Archipelago as a natural response of European colonisers in the nineteenth century towards prehistoric art, and later on, by post-colonial attitudes that heavily influenced the mismanagement of this intangible and tangible cultural heritage. By writing a critical reception of the Murujuga’s petroglyphs, this thesis also critically analyses the concept of heritage as it is practiced in WA. Furthermore, by applying image theory and ethnographic methods, this research considers the destruction of Murujuga as a landscape iconoclasm and a hericlash, based on the concept of iconoclash by Bruno Latour and the anthropological theory of the image by art historian, Hans Belting. The theory of landscape iconoclasm opens the way for a richer understanding of iconoclasm and heritage as they are applied in post-colonial societies.

June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘The Palaeodemographic Context of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Transition in Europe and the Extinction of Homo neanderthalensis’

Georgia Zadow

BA(Hons), Archaeology, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, October 2013

The Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) are an extinct hominin species that inhabited Eurasia from 300,000 years to 25,000 years ago. Within 20,000 years of the arrival of modern human (Homo sapiens) populations in Eurasia, the entire Neanderthal population disappeared from the fossil record. The disappearance of the Neanderthals is explained by two competing hypotheses: (1) their inability to adapt to climate change, and (2) competition with anatomically modern humans.

This study tests these competing hypotheses through the analysis of bias-adjusted temporal frequency distributions from the European continent. Using the methods established by Surovell et al. (2009) to correct radiocarbon frequency distributions for taphonomic bias, this thesis produces the first continent-wide study of palaeodemography throughout Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Europe using the most extensive radiocarbon database available.

The analysis of temporal frequency distributions reveals the response of Neanderthal populations to climate change and to invading human populations. This thesis demonstrates that a demographic shift in Europe during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition was not mediated by climate, and a rapid advance of modern human populations was not responsible for the subsequent decline of Neanderthal populations. Rather, the results of this thesis support hypotheses that the extinction of Neanderthals was a gradual and piecemeal process that took 20,000 years to reach its final conclusion. The cause of the Neanderthal extinction was therefore not a result of a population pulse. However, the length of this decline raises the possibility of long-term competition for resources and habitat, causing a gradual decline in Neanderthal populations.

Surovell, T.A., J.B. Finley, G.M. Smith, P.J. Brantingham and R. Kelly 2009 Correcting temporal frequency distributions for taphonomic bias. Journal of Archaeological Science 36(8):1715–1724.

June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘The Effects of Sampling on Midden Analysis: A Quantitative Approach’

Rarefaction curves calculated for the two different sample sizes.

Rarefaction curves calculated for the two different sample sizes.

Katherine Woo

BA(Hons), School of Social Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, October 2013

Sampling is a practice which affects all stages of archaeological research and is frequently employed to manage the potentially vast quantities of material recovered. Current sampling methods used in the analyses of shell middens are largely based on those developed by the California School, and can be characterised by the implementation of small sample sizes during the excavation and analysis of shell deposits. The wider sampling literature, however, has repeatedly demonstrated that the use of small sample sizes can result in the loss of substantial amounts of material, often grossly underestimating an assemblage’s richness, and skewing abundance distributions. There is thus a need to re-evaluate current sampling methods employed in the analysis of shell deposits, as they likely result in inaccurate representations of the composition of these assemblages. This thesis addresses this gap through the implementation of six ecological diversity indices to examine the effects of sampling on the recovery and interpretation of molluscan remains, using material from the Peel Island Lazaret Midden as a case study. This research demonstrates that, in line with previous sampling studies, the use of small sample sizes can drastically affect measures of richness and evenness for molluscan populations and, ultimately, interpretations of shell deposits. These methods are able to be easily applied by researchers, and offer a more robust means of determining the adequacy of sample sizes.

Woo, K.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘Global, Regional and Local Networks: Archaeological Investigation of the Western Australian Penal Colony 1850–1875’

Box section of in situ foundation, convict infirmary, Toodyay Convict Depot

Box section of in situ foundation, convict infirmary, Toodyay Convict Depot.

Sean Winter

PhD, School of Social Sciences, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, November 2013

The Western Australian (WA) penal colony, initiated in 1850 and lasting until the mid-1870s, has typically been examined as the end product of a larger pan-Australian process of convict transportation. As such, WA convictism has been viewed as essentially the same as that enacted in the eastern Australian penal colonies, but on a much smaller scale, and crucially, as unimportant within the greater story of Australian convictism. This view has been exacerbated by a concerted effort in WA itself to erase the convict period from colonial memory. In comparison with New South Wales (NSW) and Tasmania (Tas.), there has been very little archaeological or historical research conducted into the WA penal system. Consequently, we know very little about the operation of the system, the lives of the convicts within it and the impact it had on the development of WA. This view that WA convictism was basically the same as that in the eastern Australian colonies is problematic because the system existed within a penal paradigm that was fundamentally different to the one which inspired the settling of NSW 60 years earlier. In 1850 British transportation occurred within a legislative and ideological framework that was focused on reform and incarceration, rather than the simple removal of unwanted criminals. Transportation was no longer considered an effective punishment and the practice was only continued by the British government to advance specific strategic interests and operated within a global administrative and legislative framework applied equally in different penal colonies. Modelling of this global framework demonstrates that the form and operation of the WA system had as much in common with contemporary penal colonies in Bermuda and Gibraltar, as with earlier systems in NSW and Tas.

Physically, WA convictism was designed to meet both the needs of the British penal system and those of the colony. Fremantle Prison, the central hub of the network, operated under the same legislation as any other British prison and was intended for the reform, control and punishment of newly arrived and recalcitrant convicts. However the ‘ticketof- leave’ system, a limited form of parole, was extensively used outside the prison to mobilise convict labour, and ticket-of-leave men were dispersed throughout a network of eight regional convict depots and subsidiary work stations. Archaeological and historical investigation of three convict depots, at York, Toodyay and Guildford, demonstrate that, away from Fremantle, traditional penal concerns of security, control and reform were low priority. Instead, these places were designed to allow settlers to have access to convict labour and to reinforce traditional British class hierarchies. Convicts granted a ticket-of-leave were not subject to processes of reform, had economic freedom and, crucially, the capacity to enact personal agency to improve their own lives. The archaeological record suggests that convicts supplemented the standard penal diet by hunting, sought to improve their daily lives in other ways by the open consumption of alcohol, tobacco and patent medicines, and maintained political and ethnic identity through their use of material culture.

Recording and analysis of the built environment and spatial layout of regional depots suggests that they were also used to reinforce traditional class hierarchies. Convicts were transported to WA in part to form a colonial working class, and were at the bottom of the colonial hierarchy, below other members of the Convict Establishment, including soldiers and civilian administrators. The physical form of convict depots, while built to a standard design, also provides evidence of class barriers and conflict between different groups. The Royal Engineers responsible for building the depots used the limited legislative power available to them to undermine the power and influence of the civilian Superintendents in charge and to advance their own position and prestige. This research suggests that convictism in WA operated as two parallel and complementary systems that allowed the needs of both the British government and the WA colony to be met. This dual convict system was largely successful, allowing geographical, economic and population expansion, and tying the colony into global administrative and trade networks.

Winter, S.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract


Thesis abstract ‘Gender and Rock Art: A Content Analysis of Gender as an Interpretive Framework in South Africa, the USA and Australia’

Lucy Welsh

BA(Hons), School of Journalism, Australian and Indigenous Studies, Monash University, Clayton, October 2013

Gender has had a growing impact in both archaeological and anthropological research since the 1970s, and has created a platform from which women can become a focus of research. However, gendered research falls under the banner of feminist theory which has created a number of issues within the archaeological profession. The major issue in feminist research is that in many cases an exploration of gender is substituted for an exploration of women in past cultures. The broad question that this thesis addresses is whether gender is an appropriate research tool in archaeological discourse.

This study, through a content analysis of rock art research from South Africa, the United States of America and Australia from 1990 to the present, explores specific uses of gender and argues that the lack of definitive understanding of what gender entails creates a difficult platform from which to interpret the art of other cultures. Furthermore, if researchers cannot move beyond the boundaries of their own gender understanding, how can they appropriately identify gendered social organisation and gendered behaviour in other cultures?

The result is that gender use in all three geographic locales shows signs of feminist theory, a lean towards females as areas of archaeological research and a broad-scale lack of gender definitions from which to understand the context of gender in rock art research.

Welsh, L.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘Connections across the Sea: Characterising Macassan Activities in the South Wellesley Islands, Gulf of Carpentaria’

Annette Oertle

BA(Hons), School of Arts and Social Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, November 2013

Studies on Macassan activities in northern Australia have focused on the intensive industrial trepang processing site complexes on the Cobourg Peninsula and in northeast Arnhem Land. Less attention has focused on sites at the eastern and western geographical peripheries of Macassan contact and how the less intensive and more irregular presence of Macassans in these areas impacted local Aboriginal people. This study investigates the nature of Macassan activities, impacts and cross-cultural exchanges in the South Wellesley Islands, Gulf of Carpentaria, at the eastern extremity of Macassan visitation in northern Australia. A comparative study was undertaken between Macassan sites in the South Wellesley Islands and selected Macassan sites across northern Australia, focusing on elements such as artefacts, features, language, genetics and material culture. These datasets were analysed in terms of the degree and intensity of cross-cultural contact between Macassans and Aboriginal people in each region. Results provided a basis from which to characterise the degree of cross-cultural interaction between Macassans and Kaiadilt people in the South Wellesley Islands. Historical, archaeological and ethnographic evidence of Macassan activities in the South Wellesley Islands were examined, along with studies on Kaiadilt culture, language, genetics and behaviour. The patterns of Kaiadilt interaction with outsiders, coupled with the infrequency of Macassan presence in the South Wellesley Islands, resulted in a low degree of cross-cultural interaction between these two cultures.

Oertle, A.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘Understanding the Tests of Time: Using Foraminifera to Refine Knowledge of Archaeological Site Formation Processes’

Texas Nagel

BA(Hons), School of Arts and Social Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, November 2013

Foraminifera are single-celled organisms with hard shells or ‘tests’ that are abundant in all marine environments. Foraminiferal density studies have been established as a reliable criterion for distinguishing between natural and cultural shell deposits; however, the wider potential of foraminiferal analyses to contribute to palaeoenvironmental reconstruction and understandings of foraminifera transport and depositional processes remains undeveloped. This project develops methods of foraminiferal analysis to refine knowledge of site formation processes using the archaeological shell midden site of Thundiy, Bentinck Island, southern Gulf of Carpentaria, as a case study. Direct AMS dating of selected foraminifera samples at Thundiy provides the basis for constraining the chronology of beach-ridge formation and the sediment transport system reservoir ages of foraminifera represented in both cultural and natural deposits. Taphonomic study of individual foraminifera—assessing damage to test morphology and sculpture using a classification hierarchy developed for this study—provides the basis for inferences about foraminifera transport and depositional processes. Results confirm the efficacy of previous foraminiferal density studies and demonstrate that AMS radiocarbon dating of foraminifera can contribute to understandings of coastal site formation processes through the examination of taphonomic pathways for multiple shell midden constituents and the palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of archaeological deposits.

Nagel, T.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘ A Geoarchaeological Approach to Understanding the Formation History of the ‘Murchison Cement/s’ in Ballinu Springs, including their Associated Artefact and Megafaunal Records’

Ashleigh Murszewski

BSc(Hons), Department of Archaeology, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, November 2013

Merrilees’ seminal theory, ‘Man the Destroyer’, was developed using evidence from the Murchison region in the Mid-West of Western Australia. Such concepts cannot be effectively researched without addressing site-specific evidence to support regional models. Many landscapes within Australia are the result of complex processes that impact our ability to source archaeological data that support these grand theories. The Murchison is certainly one such region, with intricate alluvial systems that possess discontinuous sedimentary records, influencing our access to archaeological material within it. The megafaunal and artefact discoveries that were used to support Merrilees’ theory are embedded within alluvium of the Murchison that has been collectively named ‘Murchison Cement/s’. The informal application of this term has led to ambiguity regarding which artefacts were extracted from the fossil-bearing stratigraphic unit, now dated to 56 ky BP. A field trip in May 2013 to the site of Ballinu (Ballinyoo) Springs revealed yet another megafaunal fossil and a possible artefact embedded in deposits in the riverbed. The stratigraphy of this single site provides the foundation for new research, which focuses on contextualising museum artefacts sourced from the Ballinu Springs region based on their attached sediment. Detailed sedimentological analysis highlights pedogenic and geomorphic features used to identify artefacts that have a conceivable association with megafaunal remains. This information also provides a preliminary insight into the alluvial regimes and depositional events that have altered the archaeological and paleontological record at Ballinu Springs. In providing a new classification of the true Murchison Cement/s, this study forms the foundation for a much larger research project that addresses the contemporaneity of megafauna and humans in the Mid-West.

Murszewski, A.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘Spatially Resolved Strontium Isotope Micro-Analysis of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Fauna from Archaeological Sites in Israel and Southern France’

Photograph of sectioned bovid tooth from the Mousterian archaeological site of Rescoundudou in the Massif Central France, showing ablation spots from LA-MC-ICPMS strontium isotope analysis.

Photograph of sectioned bovid tooth from the Mousterian archaeological site of Rescoundudou in the Massif Central France, showing ablation spots from LA-MC-ICPMS strontium isotope analysis.

Ian Moffat

PhD, Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, December 2013

The use of strontium isotope analysis to provenance biominerals such as bone and teeth has become a regularly applied component of archaeological research. This method works by comparing the isotopic composition of these materials with regional bioavailable soil values, allowing an estimation of the distance and vector of an individual’s mobility. New advances in analytical equipment have facilitated the spatially resolved micro-analysis of strontium isotope composition using laser ablation sampling, allowing intrasample heterogeneity to be quantified. This provides the opportunity to determine not only the overall provenance of a material, but also the degree of mobility during biomineral formation.

This research applies laser ablation multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (LA-MCICPMS) to 90 teeth of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic faunal prey from Lower and Middle Palaeolithic archaeological sites within Israel and France. These sites span a crucial period in human evolution, characterised by the radiation of multiple hominin species and by dynamic oscillations of climate, with attendant changes in fauna and flora. The strontium isotope values from LA-MC-ICPMS analysis in this thesis show a high level of intrasample variability, which would not have been captured by a traditional analytical methodology. This suggests that, despite some problems in obtaining accurate results due to offsets between solution and laser values, strontium isotope studies that do not utilise spatially resolved micro-analysis are unable to accurately determine mobility.

The results of this research demonstrate that fauna from the archaeological sites of interest—including Amud, Qafzeh, Tabun, Skhull, Holon, Bois Roche, Le Moustier, La Chapelleaux- Saints, Les Fieux, Pech de l’Aze II and Rescoundudou—appear to have patterns of mobility that are controlled by variables such as species, marine isotope stages (MIS) and regional physiography. Specifically, Persian fallow deer, bison, mountain goat/chamois and fox are frequently mobile between different geological environments during amelogenesis, while wild boar and rhinoceros are sessile. The calculated range of distance for minimum possible mobility for each sample is large, ranging from 0–350 km. The median values for minimum possible mobility for each species suggest that wild boar, bison and fox are mobile over the greatest distance, while Bos, rhinoceros, Persian fallow deer and unidentified deer are mobile over the smallest. Furthermore, fauna in MIS 4 and 3 are significantly more mobile than in MIS 6 and 5. Fauna from France are more mobile than those from Israel, which is attributed to the location of the archaeological sites adjacent to significant river systems that could serve as conduits of mobility, even during inhospitable climate periods. Overall, these insights show that strontium isotope analysis can be usefully applied to quantifying mobility on a broad temporal and geographic scale, rather than simply being used, as is typical, for locating the source of material within a specific archaeological site.

Moffat, I.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘A Chance Missed? An Archaeological Interpretation of the Mining Operations of the Government Coal Mine at Plunkett Point, Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania’

Plan of historic workings at Plunkett Point.

Plan of historic workings at Plunkett Point.

Greg Maiden

BA(Hons), Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale, November 2009

The Plunkett Point coal mine on the Tasman Peninsula was a unique mining enterprise in Australia’s history. Between 1833 and 1848 the mine was operated by convicts and it was the only mine in Australia located within the physical and administrative confines of a penal institution. During that time it produced up to 100,000 tons of coal for consumption in Hobart Town and Launceston, displacing the more expensive coal previously imported from New South Wales. But in 1848 the British government abandoned its operation of the Plunkett Point mine, labelling it a commercial failure. Historians have blamed the failure on poor administration, implying that with better management and mechanisation it may have been successful. This thesis investigates an alternative hypothesis: that the failure of the mine was due primarily to the adverse geology of the coal deposit.

The aim of this thesis was to analyse the influence of the underground mining conditions on the performance of the mine. A synthesis of the mining operation and sequence of development was compiled by combining the remaining historic plans of the Plunkett Point mine with the surface archaeology and data from the historical documentary record. Informed by the author’s knowledge of mining principles, a three-dimensional computer model of the coal seam was developed and the geological and mining conditions inferred. This provided a new perspective on the question of why the mine exhibited poor operating performance during the period of government control.

The study identified that the geological conditions at the mine were poor, and would have constrained the level of production and the life of the mine, despite competent management and use of the types of mechanisation that were available at that time. The results suggest that, although the performance of the mine was affected by the deficiencies in management and availability of resources, such as skilled labour and capital, ultimately the coal deposit was not capable of sustaining the desired production rate of 10,000 tons per annum. This thesis demonstrates the value of applying a multidisciplinary approach to archaeological questions, in this case utilising specialist technical knowledge of mining to inform the interpretation of the mining archaeology and historical records.

Maiden, G.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘Investigating Maintenance and Discard Patterns for Middle to Late Magdalenian Antler Projectile Points: Inter-Site and Inter-Regional Comparisons’

Michelle C. Langley

PhD, Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, September 2013

Projectile points manufactured from antler, bone, ivory and horn were a significant component of the Pleistocene hunter-gatherer’s weapons tool-kit. While this situation appears to have been particularly the case for Upper Palaeolithic Europe, where thousands of implements from Aurignacian to Azilian contexts have been recovered, elements of osseous technologies are increasingly being identified in Africa, Asia, Australia and North America. Projectile weaponry tipped with osseous raw materials therefore constitute a major dataset for the investigation of technological, subsistence and social aspects of various and numerous Pleistocene populations. Having once been described as ‘impossible to evaluate’, investigation of maintenance and discard patterns for osseous projectile point assemblages has been severely neglected in the archaeological literature. As previous work has generally been restricted to qualitative descriptions of single artefacts exhibiting clear signs of rejuvenation or recycling, our knowledge of ‘the keeping’ of these tool- kits is therefore extraordinarily limited. This thesis addresses this imbalance through beginning to build a robust methodology for investigating the maintenance, recycling and discard of osseous projectile weaponry. More than 4000 whole and fragmentary barbed and unbarbed osseous projectile points recovered from 25 Middle to Late Magdalenian sites located throughout France and southern Germany were examined and, through employing a multifaceted approach incorporating metric analyses, statistics, use-wear analysis and the examination of contemporaneous depictions of weaponry, inter-site and inter-regional differences in maintenance and discard patterns were successfully identified.

Langley, M.C.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract


Thesis abstract ‘‘Figurine It Out’: Re-examining the Morphological Composition of Upper Palaeolithic ‘Venus’ Figurines through Time and Space via the Application of Cladistic Methods’

Phylogram of Venus figurines' morphology.

Phylogram of Venus figurines’ morphology.

Jessica Heidrich

BA(Hons), School of Social Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, October 2013

The form of cultural artefacts reflects a specific history. However, the methodology of inferring that history and of reconstructing relationships between existing and new artefact forms has often been lacking in the archaeological discipline. This is unfortunate, given that characterising morphological variation among artefacts is pertinent to developing a comprehensive understanding of the factors that generate and maintain cultural change. This thesis aimed to address this by re-examining the morphological composition of a set of Upper Palaeolithic Venus figurines from a phylogenetic perspective. Venus figurines are a unique archaeological phenomenon characterised by exaggerated formal characteristics and a discernible temporal and geographic pattern to their occurrence. Yet current knowledge of the nature and development of their morphology is far from exhaustive. The intention was to generate new morphological data and to use cladistic methods to test whether the distribution of morphological characteristics could inform new understandings of the evolution of Venus figurine morphology across time and space.

This study identified that the morphological composition of Venus figurines is variable and a function of their geographic distance/proximity. However, the phylogenetic patterns produced conflicted with the relationships observed among Venus figurines. Although the results are preliminary, it was concluded that the distribution of morphological characteristics among these figurines are best explained by a combination of branching and blending processes of cultural transmission, rather than a phylogenetic history based exclusively on common ancestry. This suggests that Venus figurines are not necessarily a coherent, homogeneous cultural phenomenon; rather, they are a variable, yet still historical, group of artefacts maintained by the differential innovation and representation of morphological characteristics.

Heidrich, J.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘Exchange of Items or Ideas: Current Implications of the Torres Strait Pottery’

Catherine Hays

BA(Hons), Department of Anthropology, Archaeology and Sociology, School of Arts and Social Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, November 2013

Pottery sherds have been discovered in the Torres Strait Islands, northeastern Australia, in the last 15 years. They were recovered during excavations at Mabuyag Island and Pulu Islet in the west, and the islands of Mer and Dauar in the east. This project is an examination of the archaeological evidence and interpretation of these sherds. This investigation is relevant for several reasons, including the fact that it is the first pottery discovered in Torres Strait, and indeed Australia. Pottery was not part of A.C. Haddon’s collection of Torres Strait material culture, nor had it been documented in oral histories. Evidence relating to 44 pottery sherds was examined in this project. Some of these sherds feature a slip on the exterior surface and are from thin-walled vessels, suggesting relatively sophisticated techniques. However, the sherds’ small size makes it difficult to identify vessel features or curvature. The sherd data was analysed on the basis of a number of characteristics, including site name, island name, stratigraphic unit, associated dates and phases, sherd fabric, and presence of slip or other decoration. The archaeological context of the sherds was also examined. Results of this analysis were then compared with interpretations and claims concerning their significance. Claims have been made for an association between the pottery and horticulture in the eastern islands (Carter 2004a) and for a ritual or specialised use in the western islands (McNiven et al. 2006; Wright and Dickinson 2009). However, ritual purpose for all the pottery seems likely, given the rarity of the finds. Claims for ‘Australia’s first known pottery tradition’ (McNiven et al. 2006) seem hasty, given the small number of sherds. The presence of the pottery does, however, support a relationship between the Torres Strait Islanders and PNG, and may also suggest contact with Austronesians, such as members of the Lapita culture.

Hays, C.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘Archaeobotanical Investigations into Plant Food Use at Madjedbebe (Malakunanja II)’

S. Anna Florin

BA(Hons), School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, October 2013

This thesis explores the diet and land use of Indigenous populations occupying Madjedbebe (formerly Malakunanja II), western Arnhem Land, through the analysis of macrobotanical remains spanning 50–60,000 years of occupation. The research question investigated was: Do the patterns of food plant exploitation at Madjedbebe fit a diet breadth and patch choice model as climate, landscape and vegetation changed from first colonisation to present? An optimal foraging model was established to generate hypotheses predicting temporal trends in diet breadth, patch choice and species diversity. The macrobotanics were analysed using a combination of light and scanning electron microscopy, with comparison to modern reference material.

Three plant foods were found to be exploited and preserved archaeologically: pandanus kernels, geophytes and fruits. This level of identification was insufficient to test the diet breadth and patch choice hypotheses. However, as predicted, the diversity of the macrobotanical assemblage troughed in the Last Glacial Maximum and terminal Pleistocene (ca 30–14,000 years ago) and peaked during the mid- to late Holocene transition (ca 4000 years ago), consistent with past levels of precipitation and temperature. This illustrates the effect that climate change had on resources available to prehistoric populations and suggests that optimal foraging theory is an appropriate theoretical framework to further explore their subsistence choices.

Florin, S.A.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

Thesis abstract ‘Amphorae: The Plastic Bags of the Ancient Mediterranean. A Detailed Catalogue of Some Amphorae from the Macquarie University Museum of Ancient Cultures’

Example of an amphorae.

Example of an amphora.

Emlyn Dodd

BAncHist(Hons), Department of Ancient History, Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University, Sydney, May 2013

In the ancient Mediterranean ships provided the most economical means of transporting bulk cargoes, in particular those commodities essential to the upkeep of a civilised lifestyle. All too many voyages, however, ended in tragedy, providing in this melancholy way invaluable evidence for shipping lanes, trade routes and the commodities being transported. Whilst little remains of the commodities themselves, the ceramic wares they were packaged in offer much information for the study of antique trade. The most common of these bulk containers was the amphora, used to carry indispensable agricultural produce in vast quantities from one end of the known world to the other and everywhere in between. As one of the fundamental transport mechanisms in antiquity, amphorae played a large role in both interregional large-scale trade, and the local agricultural and domestic markets. This dissertation examined four amphorae recently acquired by the Macquarie University Museum of Ancient Cultures to inquire into their geographical origins, date, usage and distribution patterns. This led to a synthesis of the data gathered and allowed extrapolations to be created from that data, including the creation of projected trade routes for each type of amphora, the calculation and analysis of the efficiency of each amphora, a discussion of the differences between amphora trade on a cabotage or tramping basis as compared to a direct and anticipated movement, an examination of amphorae’s role in the greater ancient economy, and a discussion regarding the potential future of amphorology.

Dodd, E.

June 2014

Thesis abstract ‘Authority, Acquisition and Adaptation: Nineteenth Century Artefacts of Personal Consumption from the Prisoner Barracks at Port Arthur’

Byrne Collection: Examples of carved bone artefacts.

Byrne Collection: Examples of carved bone artefacts.

Caitlin Dircks

BLibStud(Hons), Department of Archaeology, The University of Sydney, Sydney, November 2013

Historical archaeology in Australia has countless artefact assemblages awaiting research and analysis. This thesis is the study of one such collection: the artefacts of personal consumption recovered during the first archaeological excavation conducted at Port Arthur. The site was the Prisoner Barracks and was excavated in 1977 by Maureen Byrne and a team of volunteers but was never fully analysed due to Byrne’s death the same year. The assemblage, excluding the faunal material, was catalogued and analysed for this thesis. The results present an interpretation of the assemblage, considering personal consumption and the effects of hierarchy on the general ways of life of the occupants.

This thesis uses archaeological and documentary evidence to build on the previous understanding of the Prisoner Barracks’ history. It establishes who the occupants were: privileged convicts in the early phases, and military regiments, constables or officers and their families in the later phases of Port Arthur’s convict history. Through the artefact analysis, everyday life is examined, revealing how consumption was a combination of occupants adapting to make do and also acquiring supplies beyond the settlement’s confines. The physical and institutional isolation and associated authority, which also changed over time, added complexity to the acquisition and consumption of goods. By exploring the potential of the site and the collection, this thesis also establishes the assemblage for further research involving larger scale comparisons.

Dircks, C.

June 2014

Thesis abstract ‘Reading Archaeological Landscapes – The Surface Aboriginal Record in Western NSW, Australia: Challenges for Cultural Heritage Management’

Locations and artefact densities in the five transects surveyed in the Rutherfords Creek catchment. Red dots indicate the lowest artefact densities and the blue dots the highest artefact densities. The colour changes in the far left of the background image are due to differences in air photo resolution across a run boundary.

Locations and artefact densities in the five transects surveyed in the Rutherfords Creek catchment. Red dots indicate the lowest artefact densities and the blue dots the highest artefact densities. The colour changes in the far left of the background image are due to differences in air photo resolution across a run boundary.

Tessa G. Bryant

PhD, Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University, Sydney, March 2014

One of the aims of archaeological investigations of Australian Aboriginal material culture is to understand how Aboriginal people used Australian landscapes in the past. One of the main ways that the Aboriginal archaeological record at a regional scale is interpreted is through the construction of settlement systems. In the Australian arid zone these settlement systems tend to use water availability (both water permanency and distance from source) as predictors of the distribution of the record. In cultural heritage management (CHM) archaeology, as part of the NSW
regulatory framework for Aboriginal archaeology, physical environmental variables are used as predictors for the distribution of the Aboriginal archaeological record. The use of these kinds of environmental variables as predictors is somewhat problematic.

In western NSW surface exposures of stone artefacts (open sites) and heat retainer hearths are common. A large recorded stone artefact assemblage (over 27,000 stone artefacts) and assemblage of heat retainer hearths (over 90 hearths) from surface deposits in the Rutherfords Creek catchment in western NSW was used to test whether water availability did have an impact on assemblage composition and therefore past Aboriginal behaviour. Spatial autocorrelation and one-way ANOVA was used to test the geographical location against a range of assemblage attributes, including artefact density, tool type flake to core ratio and flake to tool ratio, for 97 sample areas spread across the valley floor of Rutherfords Creek. Across the valley floor there were no consistent differences in assemblage composition that indicated a settlement system based on distance from the lake was operating within the single catchment.

The second part of this research examined the surface record at a larger spatial scale. Transect surveys across seven catchments in the Peery section of the Paroo Darling National Park, including the Rutherfords Creek catchment, were used to record artefact presence/absence and density, as well as a range of environmental variables, including dominant geomorphic process, surface visibility, distance from water and landform unit. Statistical tests were used to investigate the relationship between artefact density, commonly recorded in CHM surveys, and the different environmental parameters within and across the catchments. While there was a relationship between some of the variables, particularly the dominant geomorphic process (deposition, erosion or residual), overall none of these variables could account for the current distribution of stone artefacts across the catchments surveyed.

Based on these analyses, the relationship between the distribution of the surface archaeological record and current environmental conditions is not as simple as is generally assumed. More research effort is required before aspects of CHM archaeology, such as significance assessment, can be used to create and preserve a representative sample of the Aboriginal archaeological record, or to provide a good understanding of the regional archaeological record and the behavioural interpretations that are made from it.

Bryant, T.G.

June 2014

Thesis abstract ‘Reflections about the Research Potential of Australian Lithic Industries: A Technological Approach to the Kununurra Rockshelter Assemblage’

Marie Benoit

MA, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University, France, June 2012

Lithic analyses in archaeology are an effective way to study past societies such as hunter-gatherer groups, since stone is the only raw material which resists decay. There are many debates about how to conduct these analyses, and Australian and French archaeologists have developed their own particular methods. This thesis, written from a ‘French school’ point of view, defines the specificities of the Australian approach for a non-specialist audience and explores how the chaîne opératoire approach could be applied to typical Australian assemblages through an analysis of the lithic assemblage from Kununurra Rockshelter, Kimberley, Western Australia (WA). A previous study of the lithic artefacts from this and surrounding sites by Charles Dortch in the 1970s helped to define the two traditions’ theories and had a strong impact on Australian archaeology until recently. The present study tries to present an alternative view, concentrating on debitage methods and the different objectives of production.

The results from the oldest layers (130–260 cm) show that populations which had occupied the rock shelter used different knapping strategies for the raw materials they brought back to the shelter, most of which came from the Ord River. These strategies—which ranged from the opportunistic exploitation of stone cobbles using their natural convexities, to a highly conceptual method (Levallois)—attest to a gradual degree of complexity in knapping concepts. Moreover, they demonstrate that the knappers knew how to adapt their economic system to local resources and to their various objectives. The products of these methods are mostly flakes and blades, some of which were transformed into points through retouch. This study also reveals the likely existence of an independent chaîne opératoire for a particular kind of bifacial point with covering retouch, which seems to be conceived in terms of bifacial volume from the first step of its fabrication. These results lead to a reconsideration of the previous study’s conclusions. The Kununurra assemblage, far from justifying the pan-Australian pattern of a unique chaîne opératoire as described by Flenniken and White (1985), presents at least two different reduction sequences, with one exhibiting different modalities of execution.

This thesis, other than challenging Australian approaches, tries to offer another point of view on Australian lithic industries. The results show that an application of the chaîne opératoire approach to Australian lithics could provide insights into the economic strategies and technical knowledge of past hunter-gather groups. The conclusion is encouraging and could motivate future attempts to apply this approach to Australian lithic industries.

Flenniken, J. and P. White 1985 Australian flaked stone tools: A technological perspective. Records of the Australian Museum 36(3):131–151.

Benoit, M.
Thesis abstract ‘Reflections about the Research Potential of Australian Lithic Industries: A Technological Approach to the Kununurra Rockshelter Assemblage’
June 2014

Book Note of ‘An Analysis of Ice Age Art. It’s Psychology and Belief System’ by Noel W. Smith


‘An Analysis of Ice Age Art. It’s Psychology and Belief System’ by Noel W. Smith, 1992, New York: Peter Lang, 242 pp. ISBN 0-8204-1557-X (hbk)

Review by Robert G. Bednarik

Rock art studies stand to gain considerably from the involvement by psychologists (and some recent efforts in this area, such as that of Australians J. Bradshaw and L. Rogers have been exceptionally successful). But this book delivers not a single one of the promises implied in its title: instead of addressing Ice Age art, it deals almost exclusively with just one component(parietal art) of the Ice Age art of one small region (the Franco-Cantabrian region, a term eschewed by the author who misconstrues it as implying a French part of Cantabria). The book is not an analysis in the usual sense of the word, nor is there any attempt at scientific rigour, and the only belief system about which the reader becomes well informed is the author’s own.

The terminology pertaining to rock art research is atrocious, consisting mostly of various invented terms (such as pectoglyph), misused terms and misunderstood terms. The author is unfamiliar with recent developments, for instance in rock art dating, and scholars are badly misquoted. The book can serve as an example of what happens when a professor of psychology perceives four hypotheses about some rock art in a far-away country, having read about it in books, and then sets out to prove his hypothesis by selecting any confirming evidence and ignoring whatever might contradict his pet theories: that the cave art is the work of shamans, and that the anthropomorphs depicted in it are dead shamans.

Review of ‘Sites and Bytes: Recording Aboriginal Places in Australia’ edited by Josephine Flood, Ian Johnson and Sharon Sullivan

‘Sites and Bytes: Recording Aboriginal Places in Australia’ edited by Josephine Flood, Ian Johnson and Sharon Sullivan, 1989, Canberra: Australian Heritage Commission. Special Australian Heritage Publication Series No. 8 Australian Government Publishing Service, xiv + 311 pp. ISBN 0814-8171 (pbk)

Review by Peter Veth

In a nutshell, this is a useful resource document which is characterised by a plethora of examples of how two different groups in Australia store, manipulate and retrieve site data. It is of historical interest in that many of the storage systems detailed for State Statutory Authorities have now evolved or, in fact, been transformed altogether. The four major sections entitled site recording, site registration, computerised systems and special approaches present a logical, if somewhat uninspired, progression through data acquisition and different models for registers. It is difficult to see, however, why some papers were grouped together in Part 3, rather that Part 4 and vice versa, given the considerable overlay in their contents.

Perhaps the most coherent philosophical statement about what it means to ‘capture’ and manage site data is found in the Preface by Sharon Sullivan. She highlights the threefold significance of site data banks as management tools, as repositories for the keeping and protection of cultural material of importance to contemporary Aboriginal groups and as research tools. She strikes home, and perhaps prophetically underscores a recurring weakness in some of the papers, when she notes ‘We must consider what the major research questions are, and whether the system should be designed to answer them. There are dangers in either a too wide or too narrow approach, and obvious problems in trying to double-guess the future needs of researchers’ (p.x). The flip side of defining the ideal scope and breadth of the ‘passive and recipient’ register is, of course, the articulation of its expectations to donors; in the case of Statutory Authorities often in the form of quasi-legal guidelines. The problem in realising that appropriate data is forthcoming from the largest donor group (consultants), has been highlighted in a recent review of CRM archaeology in the United States. Commentators (Abovasio and Carlisle 1988:83) have noted ‘Until very recently, most state and federal agencies had very diverse stipulation, more often guidelines about the levels of analysis and reporting required of extensive field projects. The inevitable consequence was a staggering mass of ‘reports’ of widely varying quality …’

This seems to me to be the crux of the site management/assessment problem. Databases are a dime-a- dozen and vary from the carefully tailored MINARK through to robust, user-friendly packages such as File Maker Pro. They are cheap, easily available and adequate for most site management/research needs. Therefore, surely the focus should be on how different users structure their database fields and how they rationalise the selection of specific attribute clusters. Only some of the papers in this volume seem to really address this issue.

In the paper by Hughes and Koettig, detailing the recording formats used for the 01ympic Dam and Hunter Valley Projects, the authors successfully demonstrate that their data acquisition is embedded within broader and explicit research frameworks. Equally, Hiscock provides an excellent rationale for appropriate levels of assemblage/attribute recording in the field, providing many useful, practical examples for the analysis of stone tool assemblages. Walsh, in providing a background to the ‘Central Queensland Sandstone Belt’ project seems to opt for the notion of an ‘unbiased’ database, somewhat reminiscent of the numerically weighted significance approaches of the late 1970s. I sometimes felt his abundance of site forms might have been the product of inductive frenzy, although their detail is clearly apparent.

Both the papers by Truscott and Johnson reviewing historic/prehistoric sites legislation and registers provide useful comparative data. Importantly, Johnson notes that survey coverage and techniques are still not recorded on many site register.

I enjoyed Rowland’s paper very much in that he was one of the few contributors to detail biases in the Queensland State Files in terms of who had recorded the sites, what types had been (preferentially) recorded, the geographical bias in sites and the imbalance in quality. Clearly computerisation does little to address these fundamental problems.

Finally, the well exposed MINARK database of Johnson is characterised as a well designed piece of software, designed specifically for managing archeological data and research projects, providing user-friendly access to a wide range of archaeological organisations.

One feature of this volume which was irritating to the point of distraction was the apparently random thematic juxtaposition of photographic plates and text. What do rock engravings of the Olary Province (p. 191) have to do with multiple site forms in South Australia; carved trees (p.174) with the AIATSIS register; axe-grooves (p. 167) with the ACT local site inventory or the Brewarrina fish traps (p.147) with Johnson’s review of Australian site registers?

In conclusion, I believe Sites and Bytes provides a wide enough range of examples on how different parties rationalise their getting and manipulation of data to be a useful resource document. It falls short, however, in developing major themes highlighted by Sullivan in the Preface. With reference to registers as cultural traps (whether computerised or not) we might reflect on the concluding comments of Adovasio and Carlisle (1988:85, 86): ‘Merely satisfactory CRM work is not always good archaeology, but good archaeology always stands the best chance of answering the questions upon which reasonable decisions about cultural resources depend’.


Adovasio, J.M. and R.C. Carlisle 1988 Some thoughts on cultural resource management archaeology in the United States Antiquity 62:72-87.

Review of ‘The Riches of Ancient Australia’ by Josephine Flood

Beck Book Review Cover 1993‘The Riches of Ancient Australia’ by Josephine Flood, 1990, Queensland: Queensland University Press, xxi + 373 pp. ISBN 0-7022-25134-4 (pbk)

Review by Wendy Beck

This book represents a format which has not previously appeared in Australian archaeology. It is a tourist-eye view of Australian archaeological sites. The aim of the book is not to synthesise prehistory, or to report on individual findings, so the book cannot easily be compared with any intellectual ancestors in terms of content, organisation or language. It can only be assessed on its own terms, by how well it meets its stated aims, which are: ‘This book is for Aboriginal people and others who wish to know more about Australia’s prehistoric heritage, and to visit some of the continent’s outstanding sites. It has been written to help people appreciate and see some of Australia’s prehistoric heritage places …This book gives a general introduction to the prehistory of each state and territory and then a detailed account of some selected prehistoric sites which are open to the public.’ (p.xvii).

The book begins appropriately enough with the most important parts – namely the responsibilities of visitors towards archaeological sites. As a teacher, I have often visited sites with archaeology students, and I am continually amazed by the lack of regard which a minority of people seem to have for sites and their contents. Hood has put into a concise 11 pages the dos and don’ts of site visitation, illustrated by appropriate humorous cartoons. We can only hope that people who use the book to find sites will read this chapter also, as well as the good bits about the sites. As archaeologists we are all aware of the risks involved here and we hope that the benefits outweigh them.

The selection of sites for inclusion is one of the crucial parts of the book. Flood’s background in national cultural heritage management allows her one of the best possible overviews for choosing which sites to include and which sites to leave out. It is impressive to see the number and range of sites included in the book together with a useful range of illustrations. The writing style is anecdotal, adding interest to a text which could otherwise be extremely repetitive and boring.

The format of the book will be most useful for people who wish to actually visit the sites, as most sites are described with specific directions on how to reach them, including distances, road names etc. and with specific contact names and addresses. The level of detail offered is variable. There is some inconsistency in the amount of information offered, with greater detail given for some closed sites rather than the open ones. For examples, on pp.39-41 a paragraph is given for Mammoth Cave (which is open to the public) compared with three paragraphs and two illustrations for Devils Lair (which is not open to the public).

The layout of the book is not ideal for field use, it is not a stand-alone field-guide. Other maps would be needed and it could be hard to find quickly the location of sites while travelling. The map summarizing the geographic ordering of the book (Fig. 0.1!) is useful, although perhaps some kind of graphic index (for example, a state map or patterned borders) could have been included on each of the pages describing individual regions. The book relies very heavily on text rather than illustration to convey information. Perhaps this could be rethought for a new edition, which will be essential for updating information contained here, for example, the recent changes to the Victoria Archaeological Survey.

At the nit-picking level, I am uneasy about Chapter Two beginning with five pages on the geological history of Australia. I am not sure about the relevance of this to human history and it may serve instead to strengthen the misconceptions of the general public about the co-existence of dinosaurs and people and about what archaeologists do. On a positive note, there is also at least a passing reference to Aboriginal views of their origins (p.19) as well as academic theories. (Incidentally, Fig. 2.2 is a direct reproduction of a diagram from a University of New England study guide, with no acknowledgment of the source or author of the illustration. Why is it that all the photographs in the book are acknowledged but not all the drawings?)

Flood has done a good job with this volume which is of course designed for lay people, not professionals like myself. Whether Aboriginal people will find it useful is an interesting question. Certainly the style of writing adopted by Hood is not like that commonly adopted for ‘Plain English’ reports written by archaeologists and it would be useful to hear from Aboriginal people what they think of this book The glossy volume ‘Burnum Burnum’s Aboriginal Australia A Travellers Guide’ (Angus and Robertson 1988, edited by D. Stewart) is the only similar publication that I have come across and it relies on pictures rather than words for its message and is designed for a coffee table audience rather than as a field-guide. I think that Flood’s book will achieve its stated aims and bring Australian archaeological sites on to the  well-read tourist’s agenda.

Review of ‘Between Plateau and Plain’ by June Anderson

‘Between Plateau and Plain’ by June Anderson, 1984, Occasional Papers in Prehistory No. 4. Canberra: Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University, 44 pp. ISBN 0-86784-402-7 (pbk)

Review by Madge Schwede

The focus of this report was based on a 1982 archaeological survey which was part of an environmental impact statement for the proposed South Canning Dam to be situated southeast of Perth, Western Australia. Although the database was small with emphasis on inland areas, Anderson approached her research from a broad regional perspective. Specifically, Anderson investigated Aboriginal exploitation of three environmental regions, the Swan Coastal Plain, the Darling Range and the Darling Plateau. Anderson combined data from archaeological, environmental and ethnohistorical resources, and other Australian investigations. The presentation of this data through maps, tables and figures was clear and comprehensive.

The land use model that Anderson proposed was general, and definitely needed to be addressed in more detail. The initial proposition that groups which resided on the coastal plain splintered during times of sparse resources to utilise food found in the Jarrah forest during the winter and spring is questionable. Based on my own survey (Schwede 1990) of the Helena River Valley, which cuts across the same environmental zones investigated by Anderson, I suggested that the Jarrah forest was used by both coastal and plateau groups primarily as sources for stone and food year round. In addition, groups travelling between the two areas used the river valleys such as the Canning and Helena as direct routes for social, ceremonial or trade purposes. As Strawbridge (1984) pointed out in a similar study to the north, rather than camping within the Jarrah forest during the winter months (a cold and wet proposition), the forest was utilised from base camps on the coastal plain during these months. While this paper is almost a decade old, it remains a unique document on southwestern Australian archaeology. Very little subsequent research has been published on the southwest forests although various contract reports have been prepared over the last eight years. As Anderson has rightly pointed out. more research is needed in this zone, especially excavation of stratified sites. Until further surveys are completed on the forest areas and related to information from both coastal and plains sites, the above propositions must remain speculative.


Schwede, M.L 1990 Quartz, the multifaceted stone: A regional prehistory of the Helena River Valley on the Swan Coastal Plain of southwestern Australia. PhD. thesis, University of Western Australia, Nedlands.

Strawbridge, L. 1984 Aboriginal archaeological sites in the proposed Brigadoon Estate Development Darling Scarp, Western Australia. Unpublished report prepared for T.S. Martin and Associates, by Centre for Prehistory, University of Western Australia, Nedlands.

Review of ‘Dingo Makes Us Human’ by Deborah Bird Rose

Review by Peter Thorley

Thorley Book Review Cover 1993‘Dingo Makes Us Human’ by Deborah Bird Rose, 1992, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 249 pp. ISBN 0-521-39269-1 (hbk)

This is the first of two books by Rose dealing with culture and contact in the Victoria River region of the Northern Territory. While the book addresses many long standing issues in anthropology, the author’s research is an example of the current wave of anthropological writing, with its emphasis on community involvement, ownership and control. For the most part however, the author’s approach rests uneasily between the socially-informed writing of the new anthropology and the more disciplined and fine-grained ethnographies of her predecessors. Yet it does raise a number of issues of current concern to archaeology and for this reason deserves to be read, if cautiously.

Set within the pastoral lands of the giant Victoria River Downs station, the book tells the story of the people of the Yarralin community. Each chapter is an exploration of a particular facet of Aboriginal life, some of which are organised around the familiar themes such as social organisation, kinship and land tenure. Others take on more obscure titles like ‘Living and Dead Bodies’, which deal with aspects of Aboriginal thought and worldview. To her credit, the author has brought together material from a wide range of sources, including archaeology, to provide a framework for the ethnographic testimony.

Rose attempts to show how problems confronting contemporary society are grounded in past conditions and processes. An historical outline of the region is provided based mostly on archival and archaeological sources. Prior to European contact, traditional society is made out to be stable and ecologically balanced. This is contrasted with the period during and following the spread of pastoralism, which saw the Aboriginal population of the region decimated from several thousand to two hundred within fifty years of contact. The use of terms such as holocaust drive home the message that European’ colonisation in the Northern Territory was brutal and tragic, particularly in the initial stages of contact.

It is disappointing, however, that Rose reduces prehistory to less than half a page, and provides a very static summary of Aboriginal culture until contact.

Rose’s own account of contemporary society shows that within social structures and ceremonial institutions, relations between people are dynamic. The discussion of these structures is one of the highlights of the book, although it is puzzling that Rose doesn’t go beyond specific examples to a more general discussion of social change, which nonetheless appears to have a central place in her overall analysis.

Rose is not too concerned about ‘models’ of social organisation. Relationships between people, like relations to country, are said to be organised by the same basic principles, which she describes as ‘the meta-rules of balance, response, symmetry and autonomy’ (p.l05). These ‘meta-rules’ serve to keep the social system in check, by placing limits on ‘the ever-present desire to dominate’ (p.I05). Yet the rules are not watertight. This can be seen in the section on gender relationships, where Rose observes that marriages are arranged to provide a set of owners for a particular tract of country. In this way, responsibilities for country are handed from generation to generation, although this creates a social imbalance: ‘virtually all men want and need wives, but many women neither want nor need husbands’ (p.124).

Because of problems with the author’s methodology we have to take many of these interesting observations at face value. Rose claims that Yarralin people involved themselves actively in the research by using her as voice for their concerns. ‘Yarralin people have put considerable effort into teaching me because they hope the written word will become a vehicle for their oral testimony’ (p.40). Attractive as this may seem, the book cries out for additional information. Specifically, what role did the author play in presenting the oral testimony? How did she go about editing the large body of information which must have built up during the two years she spent working in the community?

The lack of any explicit theoretical framework raises a set of further questions about the author’s motivations in carrying out the research. Rose claims that her primary purpose in writing the book was to ‘bring clarity to a set of issues I understand to be important to Yarralin people’ (p.4l). This certainly allows the author to cast herself in the mould of socially-informed researcher but is that really as innocent as it sounds? How did she present herself to the Yarralin community? What were her initial research questions? To what extent were her own assumptions challenged, supported or contradicted as the research ran its course? In the absence of such information, the reader has to work backwards to disentangle Rose’s account from what Yarralin people said, and is left wondering how she arrived at particular interpretations of the data.

These concerns are heightened as Rose hits on a succession of fashionable bases, ranging from resurgent traditional culture to global ecology. It is difficult to believe that she could have obtained these data without prompting about specific issues, which reinforces concerns about her role in the research. Rose would have known that her data were constructed for a variety of reasons, although she disdains a rigorous methodology which would allow serious interpretation of them.

A charitable explanation is that Rose has been prepared to compromise her academic brief to give the hook more of an insider’s perspective. However, such a compromise between Aboriginal accounts and academic writing is rarely if ever achieved without concessions on both sides and it is misleading of Rose to ignore these. Indeed, it is unlikely that Rose’s written account will be understandable to the people she writes about. In the Northern Territory written accounts generally hold very little currency in Aboriginal communities, where adult literacy is virtually non-existent. For the most part, Yarralin people would have had to rely on Rose’s assurances that she got the story right.

Lack of accountability is an issue confronting both anthropology and archaeology. Yet given that reading back is barely an option for some Aboriginal audiences, it is appropriate to ask where does the researcher’s accountability lie?

Given the claim that Yarralin people were able to direct her in the research, I find it surprising that Rose gives so little credit to Aboriginal mechanisms for dealing with outsiders. This is most apparent when she uses the example (p.33) of an outsider who somehow became engaged in ‘unscrupulous financial practices’, leaving the community with a substantial debt. In Rose’s interpretation of the incident, Aboriginal communities are made out to be ‘particularly defenceless against outsiders’ (p.33) but I am not so sure that this is such an accurate reflection of current reality. Aboriginal communities certainly rely on outsiders to represent them in various ways, but this is not to say that they remain unaccountable for what they do or for their writing. Accountability lies not so much in the written word itself but in the types of services and resources it brings and perhaps more importantly, in the actions of the author and the relationships she formed.

These issues are not exceptional to ethnographic research. Archaeologists who work in similar situations in the Northern Territory have to grapple with similar problems. But there are no simple formulas for doing research or social justice agendas which can be applied in all situations. Like anthropologists, archaeologists must sit down and work out the ground rules locally with communities and landowners themselves. For their part, Aboriginal communities may show little interest in the researcher’s own notions of accountability or their academic brief. There may be tensions over control and ownership of research, but the hammering out of these tensions is in many ways inevitable if communities and researchers are to achieve a positive outgrowth.

These kinds of information would have been productive in helping the reader interpret Rose’s ethnography, and for others doing research in similar contexts, yet they are nowhere to be found in this book. This is one of many disappointments in a provocative book which claims to challenge dominant assumptions. However, for the most part, it is the author’s own assumptions which remain impenetrable. Nonetheless, I would recommend the book as an example of the problems facing ethnographic research at a time when archaeology is confronting many of the same issues.

Review of ‘The Origins of Hereditary Social Stratification’ by Malcolm McKay

‘The Origins of Hereditary Social Stratification’ by Malcolm McKay, 1988, Oxford BAT International Series 413, iii + 239 pp. ISBN 0-86054-531-8 (pbk).

Review by Ian Lilley

Subtitled ‘A study focusing on early prehistoric Europe and modern ethnographic accounts’. McKay’s BAR is a minimally reworked version of the Ph.D. he did in the Department of History in the University of Melbourne. Before some of you ask why a thesis so explicitly concerned with matters prehistoric was done in a history department. I’d remind you that 40 years ago the department in question employed Australia’s first professionally trained archaeologist, John Mulvaney, and so can claim a long-held commitment to prehistory.

McKay challenges the conventional notion that hereditary social stratification arose in Europe only in the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age. In doing so he argues against traditional models which rely heavily on agricultural intensification, the development of metallurgy and the control of resource distribution. especially trade in metal. He also takes to task proposals such as Antonio Gilman’s (1981) ‘nonfunctionalist alternative’ to these models (what Jim Lewthwaite [1981] called the mafia theory), which while different from the orthodox view, still place all the action in the Early Bronze Age.

The basic problem as McKay sees it, and I’d have to agree with him, is that none of the models that he dislikes satisfactorily explain why hereditary social stratification appeared in Europe when it’s supposed to have done. To put it crudely. why, after tens of millennia of reasonably egalitarian existence (or hundreds. if like McKay we extend our reach back into the Middle Palaeolithic), would people decide that hereditary social stratification was the way to go? Because metallurgy is developed? Bear in mind that models proposing Early Bronze Age origins for marked stratification state or imply that egalitarianism survived the development of agriculture, with all that it entails for the alienation and control of resources. Why is the appearance of metallurgy and trade in metal more likely to foster the emergence of hereditary social stratification than the development of agriculture and the distribution of agricultural produce?

It’s not, according to McKay, and that’s what most of the second half of his book is devoted to demonstrating. The first half (well, five out of nine chapters) sets the scene. It explores current hypotheses, ranking amongst ethnographic hunter-gatherers, and archaeological evidence for hereditary stratification in the Palaeolithic (he mentions Homo habilis but really starts with H. erectus) and Mesolithic.

I can see the point of the rather lengthy lead-in, especially in a dissertation, but I found some of the first part pretty tedious, though again that’s often a quality of theses (no, don’t bring mine up here please). On a more uncomfortable note, some of the passing observations on the ethnography and ethnographic groups made me squirm. The following comment (pp.62-3) was the worst: ‘It is difficult to see the !Kung San as the result of 100,000 years of social evolution – if this is the case the next step must be oblivion’. It is difficult to see statements such as this as the result of research into modern perspectives on social evolution – if this is the case the next step must be back to nineteenth century evolutionism, which I thought had long been consigned to oblivion!

The second part of the work begins in Chapter 6, entitled’ Agriculture and the Alienation of the Land’. This is where the serious business really begins, for it is here that McKay sets up his hypothesis that it was the development of agriculture in the early Neolithic that caused significant hereditary social stratification to appear in Europe. He argues that hereditary guardianship of important resources of the sort discussed in his ethnographic sources devolved on individual land holders as land was alienated from communal use for agricultural production. At the same time, he believes, there would have been growing pressure on the hereditary leaders to adopt modified roles and begin redistributing resources within the community and resolving conflicts arising from competing claims to land and produce. The rest of the second part of the work is devoted to discussions of Neolithic society, archaeological evidence for hereditary social stratification in the Early Neolithic, and of the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age as the ‘denouement’.

The second-last chapter, which considers social stratification in the Early Neolithic, is in many ways the most important part of the work. It focuses on well-known Linearbandkeramik (LBK) and immediately post-LBK sites on the European continent and Early Neolithic sites in Britain and, less prominently, Ireland. He argues that the material evidence suggests that political organisation amongst LBK groups began trending towards hereditary social stratification but retained a relatively egalitarian cast. Post-LBK evidence, on the other hand, is said to suggest increased territoriality and intercommunal conflict which. McKay argues, led to the marked elevation of hereditary leaders involved in resource redistribution and conflict resolution.

In the end I think it is fair to say that McKay is proposing a version of the ‘leaders as benevolent managers’ model of the emergence of hereditary stratification, but sets it somewhat earlier than other models. While I have no great problem with the conceptual thrust of his work, and welcome his sceptical approach to ‘burial sociology’, I am not wholly convinced by much of the archaeological evidence he presents. To put it bluntly, there’s a reason why most people opt for the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age in discussions of this sort: that’s where reasonable archaeological evidence for stratification begins, and some people don’t believe that even it, let alone Early Neolithic evidence, represents ‘proper’ hereditary stratification (e.g. Shennan 1981).

I don’t want to start splitting hairs, but I do think McKay could have defined his terms better so that we all know just what he is (and isn’t) talking about, given that definitions are very much at issue in this debate. I also think the study would have benefited greatly from a more explicit statement of the sorts of archaeological evidence McKay believes are correlated with different forms of ranking and stratification; again because there is considerable argument about this, argument which extends well beyond burial sociology. All in all, though, McKay presents us with an interesting, thought-provoking study. I’m quite sure he could get his point across better in a well-written article, which apart from anything else would probably have a significantly greater readership, but there’s something to be said for publishing dissertations through outlets like BAR and University Microfilms. In addition to ‘getting the work out’ , it provides a guide to the state of play in graduate research, which often is where the freshest ideas are.


Gilman, A. 1981 The Development of Social Stratification in Bronze Age Europe. Current Anthropology 22:1-23.

Lewthwaite, 1. 1981 Comment on A. Gilman. The Development of Social Stratification in Bronze Age Europe. Current Anthropology 22: 14.

Shennan, S. 1981 Comment on A. Gilman. The Development of Social Stratification in Bronze Age Europe. Current Anthropology 22:14-15.

Review of ‘Recovering the Tracks: The Story of Australian Archaeology’ by David Horton.

‘Recovering the Tracks: The Story of Australian Archaeology’ by David Horton, 1991, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, xviii + 260 pp. ISBN 0-85575-221-1 (pbk)

Review by Sandra Bowdler

At first glance, reviewing a book of which the author has written less than ten per cent might seem an invidious task. On closer inspection, this particular example demonstrates well that selecting what to reproduce may be just as revealing as what one writes oneself. Horton has gathered together an anthology of writings purporting to trace the development of Australian archaeology, to what end and for what audience is never made quite clear; what does emerge is Horton’s own view of the subject, not one which I find very congenial.

The extracts are presented in roughly chronological order under the headings Beginnings, Palaeontology (why? – see below), First Syntheses, Classical Archaeology Begins, New Syntheses, Kow Swamp and Mungo, After Mungo. Each author is provided with a personal introduction. Thus the book appears as hagiography, quite literally in some cases: James Cook ‘has been elevated to sainthood’, Arthur Phillip ‘has almost attained sainthood’. Most of them were all jolly good chaps in one way or another. We are told that ‘that remarkable man William Dampier’ was ‘something of a larrikin … an enormously appealing character’; the saintly Phillip had ‘astonishing vision’ and was ‘amazingly enlightened’; Baudin was ‘an appealing character’; Oxley was ‘a very sympathetic character’, ‘an unusually sensitive and caring human being’ (because, having dug up a recent Aboriginal grave, he covered it over again); Macpherson was ‘a man of ability’ with a ‘clear analytical approach to archaeology’; Gregory was ‘formidable … stimulating’ , ‘with an amazing breadth of knowledge’; Edgeworth David turned in an ‘extraordinary’ performance (in Sydney or Antarctica, it is not quite clear which), had ‘quiet charm’ and ‘obviously wore his fame and place in the scientific establishment well’; and Pulleine was gentle and kindly but firm and often forbidding, he read widely and sang and entertained’. The living are spared these encomia and are represented instead smiling boyishly from recent snaps.

Looking for a role model? Forget it, girls. Horton recognises that his choices would not please everyone. Is it possible then that women have done nothing to deserve a place here? Reflecting along these lines leads one to perceive what is being left out, and what is being propounded. No Isabel McBryde, Carmel Schrire or Betty Meehan, for instance, means no emphasis on regional survey, no ethnohistory, no significant role for ethnographic analogy nor ethnoarchaeology. Further reflection leads to the realisation that anthropology in its social/cultural guise does not feature here at all: no significant contribution from Daisy Bates, Phyllis Kaberry or Catherine Berndt, to name but a few.

No, archaeology is about science. and perhaps also about scientific truth. Horton’s story is about people he chooses to call archaeologists approaching or otherwise ‘what we now know are the correct answers’; for instance, Birdsell’s colonisation model ‘was clearly not far off the mark’. What mark is that. one asks in vain. Australian archaeology, for Horton, has its roots in natural history, hence the emphasis on palaeontology, and a total lack of interest in anthropological contributions. Indeed these might be a drawback. Dawson was a ‘friend and student of the Aborigines … but he was no scientist and much of the information is unreliable … ‘; probably due to the fact that he relied on ‘the unanimous testimony of all the old aborigines .. .’ no match for analytical perception and the rest of it.

Etheridge, who wrote screeds of ‘ethnological’ papers, is represented by his most geological contribution; for what was at the time perceived to be the oldest evidence of human occupation in South Australia, Horton prefers to give us the geology, rather than the actual archaeology, of Fulham. It would seem no coincidence that Australian archaeology is represented as culminating with a geomorphologist.

For Horton, the discovery of the Lake Mungo human remains seems to represent the most significant watershed. On the one hand, he seems little concerned that his representation of this depends on a particular view of their Significance in a global context, which is increasingly open to attack. On the other hand, what this might mean in the context of archaeologist-Aboriginal relationships is also of no apparent account. It is curious that there is nothing actually by that appealing character, Nicolas Baudin. All that is offered are his instructions from the Societe des observateurs de I’Homme. The inclusion of these is however certainly instructive; Baudin is asked whether he might, like Cook, be able to return with :

“any specimens of the human varieties which he might discover? These strangers would be particularly welcomed by the observers of mankind, and if our hospitable intentions could persuade them to stay and agree, by adopting our country, to put an immense distance between their cradle and their grave, their remains, later cherished and preserved through the genius of science and the requirements of a gentle sensibility, would find a place in our museum, amongst the articles from their homeland, of whim they would then complete the picture” (p.19).

Review of ‘The Naïve Lands: Prehistory and Environmental Change in Australia and the South-west Pacific’ edited by John Dodson

‘The Naïve Lands: Prehistory and Environmental Change in Australia and the South-west Pacific’ edited by John Dodson, 1992, Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, x + 258 pp. ISBN 0-5828-6831-9 (pbk)

Review by Sandra Bowdler

This useful book (knowingly) invites comparison with the 1971 collection of Mulvaney and Golson, which in many ways heralded the arrival of modern archaeology in Australia. The Naive Lands is not such an obvious groundbreaker, which is hardly to be expected in any case, and in some ways it is not as successful. This might be because it is more ambitious, which is no bad thing. The earlier volume presented a series of papers by archaeologists and scholars from other disciplines such as geomorphology and zoology; this new offering attempts a closer integration by a series of papers prepared by archaeologists in collaboration with colleagues from these and other disciplines. It gets off to a shaky start, but quickly picks up momentum.

The first sentence on page 1 (White and Flannery) reads, ‘about 50,000 years ago people first left the confines of the continents of Africa and Asia/Europe in which they had evolved for millions of years’. This might be intended to be provocative, or it might be a deliberate Simplification, but it is misleading to people unaware that there is another version, hotly contested. One is thus left confused as to the intended audience. There are other apparent over-simplifications, such as the discussion of the Tasmanian rainforest. The Thorn chapter which follows also leads to uncertainty as to the purpose of the volume.

Fortunately, this unease is dispelled by the following chapters, which consist of up-to-date summaries of a wealth of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental data. In an enjoyable chapter, P. Swadling and G. Hope discuss environmental change since human settlement in the island of New Guinea; it is good to have this data gathered up in this way. P. Hiscock and P. Kershaw, on the tropical north of Australia also achieve a reasonably successful integration of their respective stories.

A. Ross with T. Donnelly and R. Wasson tackle, with rather less success, Australia’s arid zone. This includes an over-abundance of palaeoenvironmental data from just about everywhere, which does not achieve a good marriage with the archaeological record. The archaeological data is presented in less than critical vein, with what one had hoped were forgotten distractions like Greenough and Mammoth Cave and an extended chronology for Devil’s Lair.

R. Fullagar with L. Head and the editor discuss the forested parts of temperate Australia, in what is certainly the weakest archaeological contribution. There is too much statistical matter in the text which should have been relegated to an appendix. The data treated in this way should have been discussed non-statistically as well; for instance, there are more open sites recorded in the southwest because research has concentrated on areas where there are few caves or rockshelters. According to the authors, ‘At this scale, it does not seem possible to separate the effects of preservation of evidence, preferred working environments of prehistorians, or major trends in the occupation of people,[?)’; why not, one might well ask? And here is Mammoth Cave again! Not only that, but the ooyurka, and the morella as well; I have not come across them for years, and for good reason. It is not clear what they are doing here, either. Why will ‘future work on the archaeology of stone tool exchange’ be crucial ‘to the question of intensification’? Has Jones really ‘been able to date very precisely the introduction of points in tropical north Australia’?

The Pacific entries by C. Gosden and N. Enright (island Melanesia,) and A. Anderson and M. McGlone (New Zealand) get the book back on track, with clear accounts from all concerned. One might quibble with the inclusion of Pleistocene, and thus pre-human, data for New Zealand, but it is of comparative interest and not overly belaboured.

There is thus an uneven quality in the offerings, and no clear conclusions nor consensus with respect to human-environment relationships emerge, and nor

perhaps could they, nor should they. What we do have is a most useful compendium of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental information for both researchers and teachers.


Mulvaney, DJ. and J. Golson (eds) 1971 Aboriginal Man and Environment in Australia. Canberra: The Australian National University Press.

Thesis abstract ‘ Dispute settlement and community conflict in prehistoric Australian Aboriginal populations: Skeletal evidence’


Graham Knuckey

BA(Hons), Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale, October 1991

Over the last 15 years researchers studying Australian Aboriginal skeletal material have found depressed fractures to be common upon Aboriginal crania observed. Added to this are the many examples of intra-group conflicts and disputes that appear in the Australian ethnographical literature, which seem unusually common amongst Australian Aborigines when compared with traditional and semi-traditional social systems from other parts of the world. It has been assumed that the depressed fractures observed on crania are the direct physical manifestations of disputes, examples of which are described by the ethnographers. This research project was undertaken to establish through a methodical approach, how real the relationship is between the two bodies of evidence. An application for access to the South Australian Museum’s Human Biology Collection was made in late 1990 to pursue this approach, and access was granted in February 1991.

A total of 409 crania were examined for evidence of depressed fractures and through a survey of the ethnographical, anthropological, and archaeological literature available, the physical evidence was analysed to establish any possible relationship between the fractures recorded and the evidence of physical assaults as described ethnographically. The research has demonstrated that physical contacts between individuals account for a majority of the injuries present and also suggests that physical contacts were invariably the result of conflicts and disputes. Age (of the individual) and sex determinations were carried out where possible; 62% of the sample was positively sexed and 99% of the sample was successfully aged. Observations included two distinct trends apparent amongst crania that possessed depressed fractures. Amongst the sexed crania with fractures there appeared to be no bias toward either sex having more fractures present than the other, and among the aged crania there appeared a definite trend toward fractures becoming more frequent as individual age increased.

Further analysis of the results showed that the majority of fractures found upon crania in the sample were indeed the result of conflict behaviour but that this behaviour seemed most frequently to be used as a means of settling intra-communal disputes. It is suggested, on the strength of the evidence presented, that ‘violent’ behaviour was not seen as such by Aborigines, rather that it was an effective tool used in the social sphere for two important reasons; firstly to settle disputes quickly and efficiently between individuals in an environment that required everyone to work together for the survival of the group; and secondly because it allowed individuals to constantly reassure themselves personally, of their position within the social system.

Coming to terms with the Northern Territory Heritage Conservation Act 1991

Peter Hiscock


On 26 September 1991 the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory enacted the Heritage Conservation Act. This peculiar piece of legislation is designed to protect natural and cultural heritage, including archaeological materials, but its ambiguity and severe problems in its implementation belie this objective. Archaeologists working in the Northern Territory (NT) are in the process of coming to terms with this Act, and are finding it flawed. The purpose of this paper is to describe some of the immediate difficulties associated with this legislation.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Archaeology at the Northern Territory University: Update May 1993

Student enrolments in archaeology at NTU, 1988-1993 (published in Australian Archaeology 38:51).

Student enrolments in archaeology at NTU, 1988-1993 (published in Australian Archaeology 38:51).

Peter Hiscock and Ian Walters


In a previous paper we reported on the recent initiation of teaching and research in archaeology at the Northern Territory University (Hiscock and Walters 1991). Rapid growth has resulted in many changes over the last two years and it is an opportune moment to describe the current activities at Northern Territory University (NTU). The growth of archaeology at the university is clearly visible in increased student numbers (Fig. 1). Although the imposition of DEET quotas on university intakes has slowed further increases in undergraduate numbers, it is clear that archaeology enrolments have passed the critical threshold, above which a department with vitality is viable over the long-term. One of the most exciting aspects of this growth is the research now being carried out by staff and students. The purpose of this paper is to describe the current research in archaeology being carried out at the NTU.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The discovery of a heat treatment pit on the Cumberland Plain, western Sydney

Plan view of heat treatment pit during excavation (published in Australian Archaeology 38:47).

Plan view of heat treatment pit during excavation (published in Australian Archaeology 38:47).

Jo McDonald and Beth Rich


The recent test excavation programme at Rouse Hill (McDonald and Rich 1993; McDonald et al. in press) located a pit which appears to have been used for heat treating silcrete. The pit has been dated to 1070±60 BP (Beta-66451).

The silcrete heat treatment pit was encountered at site PK/CD1+2 on Caddies Creek near Parklea (Rich 1993). The pit was located in a 1.0 m X 0.5 m test trench (S16-A100). The dimensions of the roughly circular feature were 0.25 m X 0.30 m X 0.09 m (Fig. 1). This consisted of a baked clay feature, charcoal and concentrations of stone artefacts. There was a notable absence of tree root structures and no sudden changes in colour of the deposit were detected which would have resulted from uncontrolled temperatures (i.e. a burning tree stump).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Pleistocene radiocarbon dates for hearths at Tunnel Cave, south-western Australia

East stratigraphic section of Square G10, Tunnel Cave (published in Australian Archaeology 38:45).

East stratigraphic section of Square G10, Tunnel Cave (published in Australian Archaeology 38:45).

Joe Dortch


The long occupational record from Devils Lair suggests that Aboriginal populations in the extreme southwest of Western Australia regularly occupied limestone caves during the late Pleistocene (Dortch 1984:78). In 1993, as a major part of my MA research topic, I chose to commence testing that proposition by investigating sites in the Tamala limestone belt extending from Cape Naturaliste southward to Cape Leeuwin. In June/July 1993 I excavated the floor deposit at Tunnel Cave (1 15′ 02′ E, 34′ 05′ S) and recorded numerous artefacts and faunal remains associated with a series of 25 clearly defined hearths from 0.5 to 3.0 m below the surface (Fig. 1).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Pleistocene human occupation site at Lake Urana, New South Wales

Location and geomorphology of Lake Urana (published in Australian Archaeology 38:38).

Location and geomorphology of Lake Urana (published in Australian Archaeology 38:38).

Ken Page, Tony Dare-Edwards, Alan Thorne, Steve Webb and David Price


Lake Urana is located at the eastern margin of the Riverine Plain of southeastern Australia (Fig. 1). In its oval to kidney shape, shallow topography, northwest to southeast orientation and shoreline geomorphology, Lake Urana closely resembles other lakes of the Murray Basin including Mungo, Tyrrell and Kow Swamp. Although Lake Urana often holds surface water in late winter and early spring it has filled to overflow level only four times since records were commenced in 1848 (Urana Shire Council pm. m. 1989). Under the present climatic regime of high annual evaporation (1800 mm) and low annual precipitation (420 mm) the 65 km2 lake basin remains as a relict of more humid late Pleistocene conditions.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

‘There’s a hole in my shield …’ : A textual footnote

?Botany Bay, NSW. Detail of handle of 'Captain Cook Acc.' bark shield (published in Australian Archaeology 38:36).

?Botany Bay, NSW. Detail of handle of ‘Captain Cook Acc.’ bark shield (published in Australian Archaeology 38:36).

J. Vincent S. Megaw


It is unfortunately a truism that by and large archaeologists make very poor use of available historical sources – unless, that is, they are historians by training. The purpose of this brief note is to draw attention to an overlooked reference in Joseph Banks’ Endeavour journal which seems to lend further authenticity to the identification of a bark shield now in the Museum of Mankind (British Museum). The possible significance of the shield was first noted by Isabel McBryde (1970) and further commented on in Megaw (1972); most recently it has been discussed by the present writer in an essay on surviving pre- ca 1820 Aboriginal material from the Botany Bay-Port Jackson area published in the McCarthy commemorative papers (Megaw 1993, esp. cat. no. 6). The shield, recorded simply in the Museum’s register as ‘Captain Cook Acc.’, can be compared closely with the drawing executed in 1771 for Banks by John Frederick Miller, particularly due to a hole in the shield located close to its carrying handle (Figs 1a and 1b).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Late Pleistocene human occupation in Tasmania: A reply to Thomas

Richard Cosgrove, Jim Allen and Brendan Marshall


In a recent paper, Thomas (1993) makes a number of assertions about the human use of the Tasmanian southwest during the late Pleistocene period and comments particularly on a model of human behaviour and ecological interaction by Cosgrove et al. (1990). In using our paper as a stalking-horse, Thomas misrepresents us specifically and generally on a number of occasions. He also uses a range of data and sources of various degrees of relevance and accuracy in uncritical and frequently misleading ways. In responding to this paper, which we believe was written to contribute less to an academic debate than to a political one, we are restricted by space to addressing only some of the points with which we are prepared to take issue.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Archaeological research and management: A biogeographical approach

Location of the Mitchell Grass Downs and Desert Uplands in northwest Queensland (published in Australian Archaeology 38:23).

Location of the Mitchell Grass Downs and Desert Uplands in northwest Queensland (published in Australian Archaeology 38:23).

Mike J. Rowland, Andrew Border and J.R. Smith


Impressed with the substantial developments in Australian archaeology over the preceding 15 years, Rhys Jones, in 1979, observed that ‘the days of “cowboy archaeology” may be coming to a close’ (Jones 1979:447). He proposed that the broad outlines of Australian prehistory over the last 25,000 to 30,000 years were known and that the theoretical problems that would engage Australian prehistorians over the next 25 years were established. However even as these comments were in press he recognised that they were premature and that in fact ‘only in restricted areas of the continent had we even got to the situation where simple questions as to the antiquity of human occupation and the main outlines of environmental change have been resolved’ (Jones 1980:153).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Beyond the looking-glass: Some thoughts on sociopolitics and reflexivity in Australian archaeology

Heather Burke, Christine Lovell-Jones and Claire Smith


A traditional strength of Australian archaeology has been the analysis of sociopolitical issues, especially the relationships between archaeologists and Aboriginal people (e.g. Allen 1983; Beck and McConnell 1986; Birkhead et al. 1992; Bowdler 1988; Davidson 1992; Frankel 1980; Golson 1986; Lewis and Rose 1985; McBryde 1986; Mowaljarlai et al. 1988; Mulvaney 1966; Murray 1989; Pardoe 1990; Sullivan 1983) and between archaeologists and the wider community (e.g. Bickford 1981; Clegg 1980; Gale and Jacobs 1987; Jones 1987; McBryde 1980; Megaw 1980; Mulvaney 1981; Smith et al. 1992). However, the nature of sociopolitical inquiry in Australian archaeology appears to be changing in response to an increased emphasis on reflexive techniques, including the use of text as data (e.g. Moser 1992a, l992b).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

W(h)ither archaeology

Colin Pardoe


Like inspecting your new suit in a dressing room with opposing mirrors, the endlessly reflecting stance of post-modernism effectively paralysed anthropologists in a crisis of confidence. How to do anthropology when the observer affects the observations, when cultural biases are so entrenched in text that the text and analysis is endlessly taken up with investigating itself? Archaeology has ripped off yet another body of theory (or as Americans so lovingly put it, ‘wannabe’ theory. Australians might prefer ‘wank’ theory). This time around it’s post-modernism.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The gracile male skeleton from late Pleistocene King Island, Australia

Alan Thorne and Robin Sim


In his response to our paper (Sim and Thorne 1990) on the discovery of late Pleistocene human remains from King Island, Peter Brown (1994) raises an important and recurring issue—the duty of prehistorians and palaeoanthropologists to report field data accurately and as fully as circumstances permit, as the basis for any interpretation or discussion.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

A methodological footnote: Sampling and replicability in archaeology

Colin Pardoe


Peter Brown’s critique of Sim and Thorne (1990) is timely and insightful: the puberty of our discipline, where increasing professionalism is accompanied by growing pains, should be enjoyed. With that in mind, I would like to take up a small point with which Brown ends his criticism, namely ‘that information of this type is not data in the scientific sense and probably should not be published’. And here I thought that no one was reading AA (see Pardoe and Webb 1986; Pardoe 1986)!

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

A flawed vision: Sex and robusticity on King Island

Distirbution of recent Australian Aboriginal male and female crania from the Murray River region (top) and terminal Pleistocene dates (below) (published in Australian Archaeology 38:2).

Distirbution of recent Australian Aboriginal male and female crania from the Murray River region (top) and terminal Pleistocene dates (below) (published in Australian Archaeology 38:2).

Peter Brown


Sim and Thorne (1990) report on the discovery of human skeletal remains, radiocarbon dated to 14,270±640 BP, from King Island in Bass Strait. Given the location of King Island, and the long debate over the biological origins of the Tasmanians (Pardoe 1991a; Brown in press a), the discovery and description of the King Island skeleton is of considerable historical significance. The skeleton was excavated under difficult circumstances and could only be retained for examination for a short period. On the basis of their assessment of the skeleton’s size and robusticity Sim and Thorne conclude that the skeleton is that of a male, with an overall cranial morphology similar to Keilor and Thorne’s (1977, 1980) ‘gracile’ Pleistocene population. Irrespective of the historical reality of this ‘gracile’ population an important issue in relation to Sim and Thorne’s assessment of King Island is their identification of sex. As Pardoe (1991b) has recently pointed out, at least one earlier attempt to support the dual Pleistocene population model (Webb 1989) appears to be an artefact of a limited understanding of sexual dimorphism. There were indeed two human populations present in the Pleistocene of Australia, one of them more robust than the other, but these are called men and women.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Teaching and research in archaeology: Some statistics

Sue Feary


For this special issue of AA we thought it would be appropriate to provide readers with a bird’s eye view of the current numbers of scholars involved in archaeological research, as well as something about the departments where they work. All the major teaching and research institutions in Australia were invited to provide information about their aims and objectives, staff and student numbers and research locations. We received responses from 11 departments and have compiled the table of the statistics which appears below to enable quick comparisons of the different departments and what they have to offer. We have also included, at the end of this article, the addresses of institutions that did not respond.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Indigenous Cultural Heritage Protection Program

Marilyn Truscott


In 1993–94 the Commonwealth Government established an Indigenous Cultural Heritage Protection Program as part of the Distinctly Australian Policy Statement. The Program is managed by the Heritage Protection Section (in the Department of Communication and the Arts) with the Australian Heritage Commission (AHC), the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and the Australian Nature Conservation Agency (ANCA).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Obituary: Betty Ross

Denise Gaughwin and Mike Smith

Obituary: Betty Ross

Betty Ross (BA[Hons] ANU 1977) died in September 1994 at age 46 after a long illness.

Betty’s interest in prehistory began sometime in the late 1960s. From 1970–73 she worked at weekends as a volunteer draftsman on the Roonka excavations, run by the South Australian Museum, and some of the fine, detailed drawings of the prehistoric burials are her work. By 1971 she sported the distinctive side-tresses and independent view of events that quickly became her trademarks. The work at Roonka inspired Bet to undertake a degree in Prehistory at The Australian National University, one of a small group of South Australians who made that journey to follow their vocation. She went on to dig with Sandor Gallus at Koonalda Cave (1974), Dick Gould at the James Range East site in Central Australia (1974), John Beaton at Cathedral Cave in the central Queensland highlands (1975) and with Jim O’Connell in Central Australia (1975). Her BA Honours thesis in 1977 concerned the taphonomy of agile wallaby remains at Motupore and Collingwood Bay, Papua New Guinea. She will be remembered for her enthusiasm for the subject, her strong interest in bone taphonomy, and those freezing winter journeys in her Mini-Moke. During her time at ANU she developed a talent for stone artefact drawing, some examples of which grace Brim Hayden’s Palaeolithic Reflections. After graduating, Betty worked in the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology, The University of New England, before returning to her home state, South Australia, where she worked as a consultant archaeologist for ten years. She moved to Hobart in 1989 and for a while continued to work as a consultant. As her illness progressed she became less active in archaeology and took up swimming to ease her suffering. She was proud to show her bronze medal won at the 1994 State Masters’ Championships. This determination was the hallmark of Betty, a woman who felt strongly about her work and her ideas and was willing to argue her position well into the night. Vale Bet.

Some deontological home truths in archaeology

Robert G. Bednarik


Encouraged by the editors’ invitation to respond to McKay’s provocative comment concerning the proposal to adopt the World Archaeological Congress (WAC) code of ethics in the Australian Archaeological Association (AAA), I offer the following for consideration. I am not concerned with taking sides in the debate, nor will I comment on the WAC code itself. My response is purely to McKay, and it addresses mainly the epistemic and deontological merits of his arguments. If my observations are also relevant to the WAC code, and to a range of other issues—which is quite probable—it may be useful to review these issues accordingly.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Size isn’t everything. Shells in mounds, middens and natural deposits

Mike J. Rowland


Distinguishing between natural accumulations of shells, humanly deposited shell middens or mounds, shell middens that have been redeposited by natural or human factors and deposits accumulated by birds or other animals, is an issue that has been discussed by archaeologists and others in Australia and overseas for many years.

In northern Europe, issues were identified and mostly resolved in 1851, with the publication of the initial findings of an interdisciplinary study of the Danish Kjoekkenmoeddinger or kitchen middens (Daniel 1950:87–88). These results were summarised in an American context in 1860, initiating a substantial period of investigation of middens and mounds previously considered to be of limited interest (Trigger 1986: xiii).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Pre-European coastal settlement and use of the sea

Place names mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 39:108).

Place names mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 39:108).

Ann Nicholson and Scott Cane


This paper was written with three goals in mind. Firstly, it was intended to introduce the reader to the general character and results of archaeological research into pre-contact subsistence patterns along the Australian coastline. Secondly, it attempted to develop this more general theme by outlining specific patterns in actual resource use. Thirdly, the paper sought to draw attention to recent investigations along the arid coastlines of Australia. This research is comparatively new, and raises a number of issues for consideration in assessing the context and significance of marine resources in pre-contact Aboriginal economies and the importance of the coastal environment in the process of colonisation.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

A 6700 BP date for island use in the west Kimberley, Western Australia: New evidence from High Cliffy Island

Location map of High Cliffy Island off the Kimberley coast (published in Australian Archaeology 39:103).

Location map of High Cliffy Island off the Kimberley coast (published in Australian Archaeology 39:103).

Sue O’Connor


In a recent paper on island use around Australia I drew a series of broad comparisons between northeast and northwest Australia (O’Connor 1992). It was suggested that although dated sites for island use in the northwest were currently of an order of magnitude younger than those in the northeast (see Barker 1989, 1991) future research in northwest Australia was likely to prove that occupation in the two regions was of a similar order of antiquity. It was argued that this was because islands played a similar role in the coastal economy of the occupants of both areas. This paper reports on a 6700 BP date for an open occupation site on High Cliffy Island. Although High Cliffy Island still lacks a continuous sequence, the date of 6700 BP post-dates the insulation of the island from the mainland and therefore goes some way towards substantiating the proposition that island use in the northwest occurred early, as it appears to have in the northeast. Recent results from the Montebello group of islands off the Pilbara coast further corroborate early island use in northwest Australia (Veth 1993).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Trench shoring for archaeologists and the Randwick Grave Digging Course

Richard Wright setting out the runners (published in Australian Archaeology 39:100).

Richard Wright setting out the runners (published in Australian Archaeology 39:100).

Mike A. Smith


Archaeology shares some common safety concerns with other trenching operations such as grave digging and pipe laying. Foremost amongst these are the dangers of working in unshored or inadequately shored excavations. It is not uncommon for archaeological excavations to be more than 1.5 m deep and deep shafts 4-6 m deep have occasionally been dug (e.g. at Devils Lair, Koonalda Cave, Malakunanja 11 and Mushroom Rock). Shoring has been used in some cases. For instance, Jones used it in his excavations at Rocky Cape in 1965-67 (R. Jones pers. comm.), at Nauwalabila 1 in 1981 (Jones and Johnson 1985) and most recently at Allens Cave (R. Jones and S. Cane pers. comm.). Dortch installed an internal scaffolding of pipe-work and heavy duty timber shoring in the deep trench at Devils Lair (Dortch 1984). Sim used a series of nested prefabricated boxes in her excavations on King Island (Sim and Thorne 1990) and Horton and Wright used timber soldier sets in trenches at Trinkey (Wright pers. comm.). These, however, are the exceptions and it is still all too rare for shoring to be used on prehistoric sites. The usual practice is to install some form of shoring only when deposits are demonstrably loose and unconsolidated or where slumping or fretting of the sections is actively taking place. In cases where shoring has been used there is also some question as to whether it has been adequately engineered for the lateral stresses that would be imposed should the trench fail catastrophically.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Coastal archaeology in Australia: Developments and new directions

Curracurrang Royal National Park, NSW (published in Australian Archaeology 39:87).

Curracurrang Royal National Park, NSW (published in Australian Archaeology 39:87).

Sue O’Connor and Marjorie Sullivan


Having been asked to provide a retrospective review of coastal archaeology in Australia after 20 years, we asked ourselves the obvious questions: what major changes have taken place in the last 20 years in Australian midden studies? what were the burning issues then and now? This seemed a particularly appropriate time to ask such questions as Australian midden studies may be having something of a renaissance after a fairly long Dark Age. This year Brisbane is hosting a conference with the theme ‘Coastal Archaeology in Australia’. The last such conference was held not far south of Brisbane, at Valla, 14 years ago.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Both ends of the candle? Discerning human impact on the vegetation

Lesley Head


1974–1994. Only the numbers have changed?

Twenty years is the scuffage on the rockshelter floor, or the bit of the pollen core that sticks to the scalpel. It is the time Darwin sat on his Origin, and the time it took his biographers to be ready to write his life. Why do we feel inadequate that we have not answered questions that were well and truly on the agenda two decades ago? The research environment is now dominated by the expectation that the rhythms of funding and breakthroughs will be in harmony—one or three or five years. I do not want to suggest that we should not be accountable for the ways scarce research funds are spent. I do want to argue that the spatial and temporal resolution of study necessary to identify prehistoric anthropogenic influences on the Australian environment precludes quickie solutions. As Frankel (1993: 31) recently argued, perhaps we should accept ‘a slower pace for substantial contributions’.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Aboriginal skeletal collections and research in physical anthropology: An historical perspective

Denise Donlon


Research in physical anthropology in Australia has long been dependent upon collections of skeletal remains of Aboriginal people. In the decade 1984 to 1994 some important collections were reburied and Aboriginal people were given control over access to most skeletal collections. This paper traces research in physical anthropology in the last 20 years within the context of changes in control of access to Aboriginal skeletal collections.

The effects of reburial and the greater Aboriginal control over access to skeletal collections on the discipline of physical anthropology in Australia are complex and still debated. I do not intend to discuss the ethical and moral issues here, as they have been examined elsewhere (Langford 1983; Stone 1992). What I do hope to achieve is a dispassionate discussion of how reburial and the greater Aboriginal control over collections of skeletal remains have affected the type, amount and quality of research in physical anthropology. Also examined are ways in which these factors are likely to affect future research directions.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Traces of times past: Stone artefacts into prehistory

Richard Fullagar


An important aim recognised in the first Australian Archaeology (e.g. McBryde 1974a) has been to understand past and present relationships between diverse Australian environments and Aboriginal people. How successful have stone artefact analyses been in addressing such an aim? What is the role of stone tools in writing prehistory? What’s new in our understanding of Australian stone arte facts, assemblages, distributions and technology? There have been many surface collections and excavations in the last twenty years and consequently a vast increase in the range and number of stone artefacts, waiting to slip into someone’s prehistory, or already processed and museumed. Rather than list the lot, I want to note examples of new methods or further developments and applications. Second, I want to consider Australian studies of organisational variability and technological organisation, a distinct theoretical approach developed particularly since the 1980s (Nelson 1991).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The great ‘intensification debate’: Its history and place in Australian archaeology

Harry Lourandos and Annie Ross


The ‘Intensification Debate’ of the 1980s was a critical period in the investigation of Australian prehistory. It focused attention and research upon questions of change and dynamics within hunter-gatherer societies of the past, especially regarding demographic, socioeconomic and sociocultural factors. In this way it was a reaction to previous static and functionalist approaches which emphasised the passive nature of hunter-gatherer societies and their submission to changing environmental and   ecological conditions. ‘Intensification’ also questioned the traditional anthropological paradigm which contrasted hunter-gatherers with other societies, including horticulturalists and agriculturalists. This new debate demonstrated the similarities between these societies, with respect to social organisation, economy, demography and change, in both the long- and short-term.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Australian archaeologists in the Pacific, 1974–94: A guide for non-specialists

Ian Lilley


The story of Australian archaeologists in the Pacific over the last 20 years is one set almost entirely in Papua New Guinea (PNG). There are important exceptions, of course. Matthew Spriggs’ work in Vanuatu springs immediately to mind, as do studies such as those by David Roe in the Solomons, Dirk Spennemann in Tonga and Peter Bellwood in the Cook Islands, Marquesas and elsewhere. By and large, though, the rest of us have concentrated our attention on eastern New Guinea and adjacent archipelagoes, and so it is on that region that this paper will focus. The names of certain individuals loom large—Jim Allen, Wal Ambrose, Jack Golson, Jim Specht and Peter White, in particular—as does that of the (then) Department of Prehistory in The Australian National University’s (then) Research School of Pacific Studies, but there are archaeologists now based from Perth to Townsville and beyond who have braved rain, malaria, and navy biscuits and tin pis3 to gain insight into PNG’s human past. I have not the space to treat more than a few of them individually, but I hope I do justice to everyone’s efforts in a way that informs the uninitiated without boring those who were there.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Gender in Aboriginal archaeology: Recent research

Wendy Beck and Jane Balme


Gender is a socially defined category, based on enculturation of human sexual similarity and difference. As a primary structuring principle of all human societies, gender relations are now one of the most important constituents of human experience. The archaeology of gender places gender at the centre of questions about the past, but because the majority of theoretical research into gender has come from feminist research into women’s experiences rather than men’s, the emphasis in most archaeological research of gender has been on women. This work is about both women and gender, about both research into women as archaeologists and into women in prehistory. Gender in archaeology is one of the newest and most actively researched areas in the discipline with over 50 conference papers having been presented in Australia since 1991 (Balme and Beck in prep.; du Cros and Smith 1993a). The focus in this review is on Australian Aboriginal archaeology, but gender research has also been undertaken in Australian historical archaeology (e.g. Bickford 1993; Birmingham 1993; Hartley in prep.; Lydon 1993) and work has been done by Australians on the archaeology of gender elsewhere in the world (e.g. Europe: Moser 1993; Middle East: Webb and Frankel in prep.).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Rock art research in Australia 1974–94

Mike J. Morwood and Claire E. Smith


In 1969, John Mulvaney wrote that:

It is difficult for a prehistorian to assess Aboriginal art. Until recently it possessed no time depth … Neither can an Australian prehistorian escape the conditioning influence of ethnographic data. A prehistorian may infer the methods of application or techniques of engraving from observation, but comment concerning motivation and meaning is beyond the scope of normal archaeological activities.

Despite some later qualification (Mulvaney 1975:275), this statement aptly sums up feeling towards archaeological research on rock art that existed in the archaeological community in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Rock art was seen as irrelevant to the major issues then being addressed by Australian archaeology. Times have changed.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Maritime archaeology over the last twenty years

Kieran Hosty and Iain Stuart


This paper attempts to give an overview of Australian maritime archaeology since 1974. Our main interest is the growth and incorporation of maritime archaeology into cultural resource management (or ‘heritage’) studies and procedures. We have charted this growth as well as examined what has happened to research programs over that time. Finally we will conclude with some thoughts on future opportunities and challenges in the field.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

. Australian Archaeology 39:9–19.

Kieran Hosty and Iain Stuart


This paper attempts to give an overview of Australian maritime archaeology since 1974. Our main interest is the growth and incorporation of maritime archaeology into cultural resource management (or ‘heritage’) studies and procedures. We have charted this growth as well as examined what has happened to research programs over that time. Finally we will conclude with some thoughts on future opportunities and challenges in the field.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

From Swiss Family Robinson to Sir Russell Drysdale: Towards changing the tone of historical archaeology in Australia

Brian J. Egloff


In the inaugural volume of The Australian Journal of Historical Archaeology, J.M. Birmingham and D.N. Jeans (1983) published an article titled ‘The Swiss Family Robinson and the archaeology of colonisations’ which offered a framework for what the authors believed to be a diverse and uncoordinated field of study. It is apparent that for the most part historical archaeology is confined to artefactual and documentary based approaches to understanding the transference to the shores of Australia of goods and processes developed in the European industrial revolution (Birmingham et al. 1988; Birmingham and James 1981). Rather than offer a framework, perhaps the Swiss Family Robinson model provides a mental straitjacket which has promoted studies of colonisation and frontierism, as are popular with our colleagues in North America, at the expense of approaches which are more relevant to the scholarship of today, in particular contributions to an understanding of the relationships between the land, indigenous people and new settlers. This relationship goes beyond the ‘exploration’, ‘learning’ and ‘development phases’ proposed by Birmingham and Jeans, and looks towards the work of environmentally based approaches to history represented in The Humanities and the Australian Environment (Mulvaney 1991), Australia’s Ever-Changing Forests (Dargavel and Feary 1993) and Environmental History (Dovers 1994). Two of these publications feature on their covers paintings by Sir Russell Drysdale which epitomised a fourth and fifth phase; ‘dispossession’ and ‘despoliation’. This article is not about diminishing by one iota the contribution of a cohort of historical archaeologists, who have made a contribution far out of proportion to their small numbers. Instead it points out that there are other avenues of inquiry one can and should pursue which are not necessarily incompatible.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Carpenters Gap rockshelter 1: 40,000 years of Aboriginal occupation in the Napier Ranges, Kimberley, WA

View of Carpenters Gap 1, Napier Range, WA (published in Australian Archaeology 40:58).

View of Carpenters Gap 1, Napier Range, WA (published in Australian Archaeology 40:58).

Sue O’Connor


Carpenter’s Gap Shelter I is a large north facing rockshelter in the Napier Ranges of the Kimberley region, Western Australia (Fig. 1). It is located in Windjana Gorge National Park, famous for its spectacular vertical walled canyon between 50 and 100 m high, geological formations and fossils (Playford n.d.). This impressive shelter has a floor area in excess of
50 m2. Today much of the floor area of the shelter is inaccessible as there is less than
0.50 m clearance between the surface of the deposit and the shelter roof. The deposit is held in place by massive limestone boulders, which are covered with pictographs of animal tracks. The low overhanging roof and walls are painted in red, yellow, brown and white ochre motifs and charcoal drawings in what is thought to be the most recent Kimberley art style (Crawford 1977). This shelter is in Bunuba country and Bunuba people still use it on significant occasions. Over two field seasons in 1993 and 1994, 4 m squares were excavated in the central front area of the shelter immediately behind the large boulder with pictographs. A l m square to the northwest of the main excavation confirmed that the area behind boulders had the greatest depth of deposit.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Coastal morphodynamics and the archaeological record: Further evidence from Upstart Bay, north Queensland

Michelle Bird


The principal aim of research at Upstart Bay, on the northeast Queensland coast, is to document the impact of tropical cyclones and concomitant storm surge on the coastal archaeological record. Baseline surveys at Upstart Bay in 1987 were followed by two cyclones in 1988 and 1989. The devastating impacts of these cyclones on coastal shell middens have been described in detail (Bird 1992). Annual surveys at Upstart Bay over the past seven years have highlighted the often dramatic changes which can occur in the archaeological record as a result of dynamic coastal geomorphic processes.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Palaeodietary inferences from bone collagen stable carbon isotopes at Roonka Flat, South Australia

F. Donald Pate


The Roonka Flat archaeological site on the lower Murray River of South Australia provides one of the largest well provenanced prehistoric Aboriginal skeletal populations in Australia. Bone specimens from a large sample of the population were submitted for stable carbon isotope paleodietary analysis to address:

1. relative access to foods from coastal, riverine and arid interior habitats; and,
2. dietary variability within the population (Pate 1994a, 1994b).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Obituary: Gerard Francis (Jerry) van Tets

Dr Jerry van Tets.

Dr Jerry van Tets (published in Australian Archaeology 40:56).

Gerard Frederick (Jerry) van Tets

Jerry van Tets died on I4 January this year, a few days short of his 66th birthday. A generation of archaeologists relied upon Jerry to identify any bird bones recovered in archaeological contexts—including those from Seton rockshelter, Malakunanja II, Early Man rockshelter, and sites in the lower Murray Valley, Tasmania or on the Bass Strait islands. In many cases, he worked behind the scenes—the person to whom the faunal analyst turned for help with problems in sorting out identifications. His expertise in identifying often intractable and fragmented archaeological material will be hard to replace. From 1988 Jerry worked part-time in the Osteology laboratory, Division of Archaeology and Natural History, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University. The obituary below is based on the eulogy read at his funeral by his son, Ian van Tets, with additions by the Editors.

After field work in Toronto, Louisiana and Belize, and after gaining a doctorate from the University of Amsterdam, Jerry moved to Australia to work for the Department of Civil Aviation, as part of a research team tackling problems associated with bird strike at Sydney airport. He went on to Katherine in the Northern Territory to advise the RAAF on similar problems there, and later took up a position as a research scientist with the Division of Wildlife Research, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, in Canberra. Initially he focused on the behaviour of coastal and marine birds, such as cormorants, but gradually diversified into many areas of bird biology. During his doctoral research in Louisiana he had access to a large reference collection of bird skeletons. Jerry felt that the CSIRO would also benefit from a comprehensive osteological reference collection. The collection he started is now an important component of the Australian National Wildlife Collection and comprises multiple specimens of almost every species of Australian bird and a wide range of other vertebrates. His work led him into Australian palaeontology, to work with Pat and Tom Rich and Mike Archer and to his splendid book on Australia’s extinct vertebrates Kadimakara. It also led to an interest in the comparative osteology and taphonomy of bird bones found in archaeological deposits and from the early 1970s on he worked with archaeologists whenever the opportunity arose. He now has at least six books to his name—including a number written far the general public as he strongly believed it important that knowledge be shared and used. One cannot now work in either field without reference to his work. Jerry, along with his entire section, was made redundant from CSIRO in 1987 as part of widespread cut backs at this time. However, he continued to work on the Australian National Wildlife Collection and also began to work part-time in the Division of Archaeology and Natural History, The Australian National University, on archaeological material from Malakunanja II and from Cave Bay Cave and sites on islands in the Bass Strait. Jerry was diagnosed with cancer in 1988 and it was only due to his exceptional fitness that he survived so long. He was always a keen swimmer and until his admission to hospital, continued to attend the local gym at 5.30 am every day. He lived long enough to see his first grandchild—born on 6 January—and was very excited and happy to became ‘Oopa’. His mates found him a quiet and direct man, always reliable, always dependable and always ready to talk at great length about the biology and behaviour of birds.

Media coverage of an archaeological issue: Lessons from the press release of initial radiocarbon dating results of a possible pre-Cook European ship at Suffolk Park, northern New South Wales

William E. Boyd


In late June 1993, details were released to the media, initially to local newspapers but shortly followed by releases to regional and national newspapers, radio and television stations, of the first, albeit scant, scientific evidence regarding the possible European origin and early age (pre-Cook) of a shipwreck lying under the coastal sands at Suffolk Park, northern New South Wales. The details were released by the author as the specialist commissioned by a group of interested local people to collect information concerning wood identification of an artefact and its radiocarbon dating. These data were considered necessary following the circulation of a local story identifying this shipwreck with one included in Aboriginal stories reputed to date from around the 17th to 18th centuries. The release of these data was viewed by the author as being premature, but was precipitated by the desire of the local community, who had commissioned and paid for the radiocarbon date, to release the data.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Victorian offshore islands in a mainland coastal economy

Islands off the Victorian coast (published in Australian Archaeology 40:40).

Islands off the Victorian coast (published in Australian Archaeology 40:40).

Denise Gaughwin and Richard Fullagar


In English literature, the sea is often seen as a testing ground for the human spirit, and islands, like ships, provide a ready literary device for isolating people from society and their familiar activities. However, islands need not isolate people, but can be part of a broader economic and social system. We argue that Aboriginal exploitation of Victorian offshore islands was certainly part of a mainland economic system but question the degree to which island resources were integral to its operation. We examine the hypothesis that this mainland system focused not on marine resources but rather on the wetlands and forests of the coastal plains. This hypothesis can in part be tested from mainland coastal sites but as they are geographically located on the margin between terrestrial and marine resources it is difficult to isolate the marine component of technology and settlement. Islands, on the other hand, are surrounded by a marine environment and require a marine technology to visit and exploit. We suggest that the terrestrial resources of the small Victorian islands were not significant. In this paper we examine both historical and archaeological evidence in order to assess three aspects of the marine technology: frequency of and reasons for island visitation; watercraft; and stone tool production. This survey will provide data that will clarify the use of the islands in Victoria as well as further our knowledge of economies and settlement history on the adjacent mainland territories.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Marginal returns and fringe benefits: Characterising the prehistory of the lowland deserts of Australia (a reply to Smith)

Pleistocene sites in Australia (published in Australian Archaeology 40:36).

Pleistocene sites in Australia (published in Australian Archaeology 40:36).

Peter Veth


Given the rapidly increasing discovery of early sites in Australia and the ‘filling in’ of the arid zone (cf. Smith and Sharp 1993), there is a demonstrable need for archaeologists to accurately characterise the behavioural systems responsible for producing ‘first assemblages’ at the regional level. Most commentators would agree that the earliest dated assemblages are unlikely to reflect the first, permanent occupations of a region, let alone reflect the timing of initial colonisation. That a time-lag might exist for the production of archaeologically visible residues may be attributed to numerous factors, including sample size effect, post-depositional disturbance, intensity of site occupation, rate of sedimentation and the uncertainties of radiocarbon determinations.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

What is this thing called post-processual archaeology … and is it relevant for Australian archaeology?

Laura-Jane Smith


Post-processual archaeology has been extensively debated in the European and American literature. Yet little of this debate has been either related to, or conducted within, an Australian context. In this paper I want to explore and define post-processual theory, and to examine the implications of this debate for Australian archaeology. It is my contention that Australian archaeology has both something to learn from, and something to offer, the development of post-processual theory.

The proposition I wish to put forward is that Australian archaeology should not just be asking what post-processual archaeology can do for them, but what Australian archaeology can contribute to a post-processual archaeology. By this I do not necessarily mean that we should follow in the tracks of Shanks and Tilley, and Hodder et al., but rather contribute to a truly post-processual archaeology—that is a theoretically informed archaeology that comes after processualism.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Excavations at Hann River 1, Central Cape York Peninsula

Plan of the Hann RIver 1 site (published in Australian Archaeology 40:23).

Plan of the Hann River 1 site (published in Australian Archaeology 40:23).

Mike J. Morwood and Scott L’Oste-Brown


The excavation at Hann River 1 was part of an archaeological reconnaissance of the central plateaux region of Cape York Peninsula. In contrast to the adjacent Laura Basin area, little archaeological research had previously been undertaken in central Cape York Peninsula (cf. Morwood and Hobbs 1995). Hann River 1 provides the first evidence for Aboriginal prehistory in the region. The reconnaissance fieldwork also included a general survey of local sandstone scarps and the detailed recording of rock art sites.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Notes on the Aboriginal hunting and butchering of cattle and buffalo

Stages of butchery (published in Australian Archaeology 40:19).

Stages of butchery (published in Australian Archaeology 40:19).

Michael Pickering


Aboriginal people have exploited European and Asian cattle as a food resource since the introduction of these animals to Australia. Butchering techniques are usually simple and efficient and involve minimum disarticulation of the carcass or artefactual damage to bones. Subsequent residues often show little or no direct evidence of being a product of human activity. Similar ‘optimum butchering’ strategies may well have applied to the butchering of extinct Australian megafauna, particularly the Diprotodontidae, and would provide one explanation for the inconclusive evidence for human exploitation of megafauna.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Late Pleistocene fauna at Spring Creek, Victoria: A re-evaluation

J. Peter White and Tim Flannery


For at least the last two decades, since the publication of Martin’s forceful articles (1967, 1973, 1984) discussions of late Pleistocene extinctions on the two continental landmasses of the Americas and Sahul have been basically polarised between his ‘blitzkrieg’ view and the opposing theory of climatic change. In Australia, Flannery (1990) has been the most recent strong proponent of the blitzkrieg model, and the target of critical comments from several other researchers (Horton 1990; Grayson 1990; Bowdler 1990). Those who reject the model point to its supporters’ inability to demonstrate that extinctions occurred very shortly after the arrival of humans. Cogently phrased as ‘Where are the kill sites?’, critics have drawn attention to two major unfulfilled archaeological requirements: the clear association of extinct animals with any human activity and the dating of extinct animals to within the period of human settlement. While some Australian sites appear to provide such data—Seton (Hope et al. 1977), Lancefield (Gillespie et al. 1978), Lime Springs (Gorecki et al. 1984), Trinkey (Wright 1986) and Cuddie Springs (Dodson et al. 1993)—and are often accepted as so doing, strict examination of the evidence reveals the flimsy basis to such claims (Grayson 1990; Baynes 1992). While a detailed re-examination of all claimed dates and associations, such as has been carried out by Mead and Meltzer (1984) and Grayson (1991) for the American data, has not been published for Australia, greater precision in regard to these at any site will contribute to the larger picture. At Spring Creek (Flannery and Gott 1984) eight extinct species have been claimed to survive to well within the period of human settlement, though with only minimal evidence of human association. However, the association of the date of 20,000 yr BP with extinct fauna is not very strong, and our research has been aimed at either strengthening or discarding it. In particular, we determined to try to obtain dates directly on the bones themselves as well as re-examining the circumstances under which they were deposited at the site.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The excavation of two small rockshelters at Monkey Mia, Shark Bay, Western Australia

Rockshelter 1 near Monkey Mia, WA (published in Australian Archaeology 40:3).

Rockshelter 1 near Monkey Mia, WA (published in Australian Archaeology 40:3).

Sandra Bowdler


The first archaeological excavations at Shark Bay were carried out in 1986, in two small rockshelters at Monkey Mia, on the east side of Peron Peninsula (Fig. 1). These were designed as test excavations only. It is unlikely that further excavation of these sites will be carried out in the foreseeable future, as the amount of deposit in each shelter is very small, and it is not expected that much additional information would be gained. It seems however useful to document the results as I believe they are of relevance to the overall emerging picture of past human occupation in the Shark Bay region. A general view of the Shark Bay archaeological research program to 1990 has already been published (Bowdler 1990a, 1990b).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Still flawed: A reply to Pardoe (1994) and Sim and Thorne (1994)

Peter Brown


For different reasons I would like to thank the three authors (Pardoe 1994; Sim and Thorne 1994) who responded to my criticism of Sim and Thorne’s (1990) research on King Island. Colin Pardoe agrees with my criticisms of Sim and Thorne’s (1990) research methodology and the conclusions that they draw from it. However, he disagrees with my assertion that data of the type offered by Sim and Thorne should not be published. This is an important issue and I would like to discuss an example which I think may persuade him, as well as others with similar views, to change their minds. I must admit some surprise at the nature and content of the second reply to my article (Sim and Thorne 1994). While I think that they have scored a number of own goals some of their remarks do require discussion.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

What went wrong with WAC 3 and an attempt to understand why

Jack Golson


The tribulations of the 3rd World Archaeological Congress, held in New Delhi from Sunday 4 December to Sunday 11 December 1994, have become the subject of wide comment. Far members of the Congress (as a continuing organisation, WAC, not simply the New Delhi conference, WAC 3) there is a WAC 3 supplement to the latest issue of the WAC Newsletter (WAC News 1995). Beyond this, I know of reports in Archaeology Ireland (Anonymous 1995), which I have not seen, in Ethnographisch-Archiologische Zeitschriji (Bernbeck and Sommer 1994), which I have not yet worked my way through, in Anthropology Today, the Newsletter of the Royal Anthropological Institute, London (Merriman 1995), in Antiquity (Colley 1995a) and, locally, in the ACCA Newsletter (Colley 1995b). In addition, the Times Higher Education Supplement has run an article by a non-archaeological participant (Sawday 1995), while the editor of Antiquity, an archaeological non-participant, has taken the opportunity to make some ex-cathedra statements about the WAC enterprise in general (Chippindale 1995:7–8).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

A short history of the Tasmanian affair

Tim Murray and some of the artefacts bound back for Tasmania (published in Australian Archaeology 41:42).

Tim Murray and some of the artefacts bound back for Tasmania (published in Australian Archaeology 41:42).

Jim Allen


Recent events involving the Tasmanian government, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council, Tim Murray, myself and the La Trobe School of Archaeology have received wide press coverage. In the middle of these proceedings a petition from TALC archaeologists D. Collett and J. Smith, seeking to censure Murray and me, was widely circulated to Australian Archaeological Association (AAA) members. At the request of the AA Editors, this note outlines the events which culminated in proceedings in the Federal Court in July this year. This note makes no further mention of the Collett/Smith petition, which at the time of writing (September) is the subject of separate action.

This history will delineate in chronological order to the major pieces of correspondence and their contents. A file of correspondence is held in the School of Archaeology at La Trobe, where it is available to be consulted by members of the Association or other researchers. Sae of these documents require comment. These comments reflect my interpretations of meanings and events and are therefore kept separate from descriptions of the contents of documents.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Radiocarbon dates for bifacial points at Scotch Creek 1, Northern Territory

Mike A. Smith


Scotch Creek 1 is situated on a tributary of the Adelaide River, on seasonally inundated coastal plains lying between Darwin and the western Arnhem Land escarpment. Apart from earthen mounds it is one of the few stratified open sites in this region to have been excavated (see Smith and Brockwell 1994). Intercalated with floodplain sediments the site contains a rich assemblage of bifacial points, debris associated with point manufacture, and organic remains such as eggshell and bone.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Discovery of a possible digging stick in the southeast region of Australia

The distal end of the digging stick (published in Australian Archaeology 41:39).

The distal end of the digging stick (published in Australian Archaeology 41:39).

Debbie Argue


In March 1995, the discovery of a digging stick was reported to the Heritage Section of the ACT Department of Environment Land and Planning. Apart from the notable finds preserved in the Wyrie Swamp (Luebbers 1978:130–131), wooden artefacts are rarely found in situ in southeastern Australia. The site discussed in this report is therefore significant under Schedule 2(v) of the ACT Land (Planning and Environment) Act 1991 as a place which is the only known example of its kind in the ACT.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Dates from archaeological excavations on the Pilbara coastline and islands of the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia

Elizabeth Bradshaw


As part of PhD research into patterns of Aboriginal occupation of the arid Pilbara coastline, excavations were carried out at eleven archaeological sites. This is the first regional study to be carried out for the coastal Pilbara, north of North West Cape. Prior to this, archaeological work in the region had concentrated on the Burrup Peninsula (Lorblanchet and Jones 1980; Vinnicombe 1987; Veth et al. 1993). Radiocarbon dates (all uncorrected and uncalibrated) have been obtained from five of the sites, as detailed in Table 1.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Aboriginal occupation of the Southern Highlands: Was it really seasonal?

Map of the southern highlands (published in Australian Archaeology 41:30).

Map of the southern highlands (published in Australian Archaeology 41:30).

Debbie Argue


This paper examines the nature of Aboriginal occupation of the Southern Highlands, a region above 900 m altitude in southeastern Australia, using archaeological and biotic resource data to obtain some indication of seasonality of occupation.

The Southern Highlands are part of the Great Dividing Range (Fig. 1). Formed from stepped plateaux extending to over 1800 m asl and heavily dissected by rivers and valleys, they sweep south from the Wee Jasper area in New South Wales to Gippsland in Victoria. They lie between 80 and 300 km inland from the coast of New South Wales and Victoria, between latitude 36′ and 38’s. Two views of the occupation of this region have been put forward to date. Using archaeological evidence and the results of ethnographic research, Flood (1973) suggested that the higher areas of the highlands were the focus for large numbers of people who exploited the aestivating Bogong moth (Argotis infusa). This harvest allowed participation in social and ceremonial activities. She suggests that, while other resources were available, the moths were the main source of sustenance. As these were present during the summer months only, it was during this season that the highlands were occupied.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Reply to Brown: Australian Archaeology, Number 38, 1994

Robin Sim and Alan Thorne

We wish to make two simple points. Firstly, this series of critique and counter critique rests ultimately on a dispute over a single skeletal measurement. We demonstrated (Thorne and Sim 1994) that the measurement we published was correct and can be verified in photographic documentation. In the year since this was published neither Brown nor anyone else has asked to examine the photographs or slides of the remains, and we take this as acceptance by the profession of the published data. Secondly and more generally, we believe the practice of publishing data from archaeological remains that are, or will be, reburied should be encouraged, particularly in the current socio-political context. Access to skeletal material may well be constricted by time and field conditions if we are to comply with Aboriginal wishes. As Donlon (1995) points out, this is increasingly the circumstance in which archaeologists and palaeoanthropologists find themselves. Colin Pardoe for example has long been publishing valuable data on human remains that may never be re-examined (Pardoe 1988, 1990, 1993; Park and Webb 1986; Witter et al. 1993). Cohen (1993) also recently described human remains examined under similar circumstances. The nature of our profession is changing and researchers need to recognise this, particularly where reburial is concerned.


Cohen, S. 1993 Burial site bones baffle the boffins. Geo Australasia 15(1):52–61.

Donlon, D. 1995 Aboriginal skeletal collections and research in physical anthropology: An historical perspective. AustraIian Archaeology 39:73–82.

Pardoe, C. 1988 The Mallee Cliffs burial (central River Murray) and population based archaeology. Australian Archaeology 27:45–62.

Pardoe, C. 1990 Sharing the past: Aboriginal influence on archaeological practice, a case study from New South 0200, Australia. Wales. Australian History 14:28–223.

Pardoe. C. 1993 Wamba Yadu, a later Holocene cemetery of the central River Murray. Archaeology in Oceania 28:77–84.

Pardoe. C. and S. Webb 1986 Prehistoric skeletal remains from Cowra and the Macquarie Marsh. NSW. Australian Archaeology 22:7–26.

Thorne. A.G. and R. Sim 1994 The gracile male skeleton from late Pleistocene King Island. Australia. Australian Archaeology 38:8–10.

Witter. D., R. Fullagar and C. Pardoe 1993 The Terrarnungamine incident: A double burial with grave goods near Dubbo. New South Wales. Records of the Australian Museum supplement 17:77–89.

Pre-European coastal settlement and use of the sea: A view from Queensland

Queensland showing sites mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 41:24).

Queensland showing sites mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 41:24).

Sean Ulm, Bryce Barker, Andrew Border, Jay Hall, Ian Lilley, Ian J. McNiven, Robert Neal and Mike Rowland


We draw attention to important omissions in the chronology of Australian coastal occupation presented by Nicholson and Cane (1994) in their recent review of the subject. In Queensland section of their review, Nicholson and Cane (1994:110–111) state that coastal settlement is confined to the last 2000 years in the Moreton Bay area, and to the last 1500 years for the remainder of the Queensland coast, with the exception of Princess Charlotte Bay, where occupation is dated to 4700 BP.

For the Moreton Bay area, Nicholson and Cane (1994: 111) make the erroneous claim that ‘no sites older than 2000 BP have been recorded.’ In fact, there are five reported coastal sites in this region (Hope Island, New Brisbane Airport. Sandstone Point, Toulkerrie and Wallen Wallen Creek) and two more immediately to the north (King’s Bare Sandblow, Teewah Beach 26) which predate 2000 BP (Fig. l, Table 1). These results have been published for some time and have been discussed extensively in the general literature (e.g. Lourandos 1993; McNiven 1992a, 1992b; Walters 1989, 1992a, 1992b).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Models and prima-donnas in southwest Tasmania

Ian Thomas


The following is a brief reply to Cosgrove et al. (1994). I have confined myself to addressing the few substantive considerations raised by those authors in regard to my previously published paper (Thomas 1993a). The issues are discussed in order as they appear in Cosgrove et al. (1994).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Moulding and casting Aboriginal carved trees

A zoomorphic or anthropomorphic figure carved into the bark of a northern silky oak near Ravenshoe, NE Qld (published in Australian Archaeology 41:17).

A zoomorphic or anthropomorphic figure carved into the bark of a northern silky oak near Ravenshoe, NE Qld (published in Australian Archaeology 41:17).

Gordon Grimwade, Karen Mickan and Alison Darroch


The documentation, conservation and interpretation of isolated cultural heritage sites present diverse challenges. In the wet tropics of northeast Australia (Fig. 1) these challenges are exacerbated by adverse climatic conditions. Organic materials suffer severely in such conditions. Aboriginal carved trees of the wet tropics are little known resources of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area extending north from Townsville to just south of Cooktown. Their documentation and research has been minimal.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The Gooreng Gooreng Cultural Heritage Project: Some proposed directions and preliminary results of the archaeological program

The study area, showing places mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 41:11).

The study area, showing places mentioned in the text (published in Australian Archaeology 41:11).

Ian Lilley and Sean Ulm


This paper outlines the making hypotheses guiding exploratory archaeological investigations on the coast between Bundaberg and Gladstone in south-central Queensland (Fig. l), and reports some early results and their possible implications. The research was undertaken in collaboration with the Gurang Land Council and forms part of a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary Aboriginal cultural heritage study which flows from earlier investigations by Williams (1981). Preliminary linguistic research has already been published (Jolly 1994), while an ethno- and oral-historical study has recently commenced. The archaeological surveys reported here are part of a multi-stage project focusing on the abovementioned coastal region and on the sandstone caves and rockshelters of Cania Gorge near Monto, 150 km to the west. The surveys were designed to test several propositions about the archaeological record in the coastal zone and establish a solid basis for continuing archaeological research and cultural heritage management in the area.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Two examples of the role of ecological biogeography in Australian prehistory: The fire ecology of Callitris intratropica, and the spatial pattern of stone tools in the Northern Territory

Results of computer model of the response of a one ha monospecific stand of Callitris intratropica after 300 yrs of various fire regimes (published in Australian Archaeology 41:9).

Results of computer model of the response of a one ha monospecific stand of Callitris intratropica after 300 yrs of various fire regimes (published in Australian Archaeology 41:9).

David Bowman


The debate concerning the relationship of Aborigines with the Australian environment through time is severely hampered by the lack of data. Some aspects of this debate are insoluble. However there remains a great need to disaggregate facts from conjecture and testable hypotheses from untestable questions. It is my opinion that ecological biogeography (i.e. the analysis of contemporary ecological relationships) can provide a factual context to conduct the necessarily speculative discourse associated with palaeoecological and historical biogeographic evidence (Bowman and Brown 1986). In this article I illustrate the contribution of ecological biogeography to two prehistorical problems: the impact of Aboriginal burning on vegetation and the spatial variation of stone tools.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The Lightning Brothers Project 1990–91 field seasons

Excavation in progress at the Gordol-ya site (published in Australian Archaeology 41:6).

Excavation in progress at the Gordol-ya site (published in Australian Archaeology 41:6).

Bruno David, Jackie Collins, Bryce Barker, Josephine Flood and ben Gunn


The Lightning Brothers Project began in 1988 as a long-term investigation into the archaeology of Wardaman country, near the Victoria River (Northern Territory). This paper reports briefly on research undertaken during the 1990 and 1991 field seasons. Results obtained during the previous two field seasons have been reported elsewhere and will not be repeated here (cf. David et al. 1990a, 1990b, 1990c, 1991, 1992, 1994; David and Hood 1991; Flood et al. 1992; Frost et al. 1992; McNiven et al. 1992).

Prior to 1990, the project had concentrated on the systematic recording of rockshelters and rock art located around the Yingalarri waterhole (near the centre of Wardaman Country), Yiwarlarlay to the south (the Lightning Brothers complex of sites), and Jalijbang to the west Fig. 1). Excavations at Yiwarlarlay (Yiwarlarlay 1 and Delamere 3) and Jalijbang (Jalijbang 2 and Mennge-ya) had revealed cultural sequences characterised by comparatively dense cultural deposits during relatively recent times, preceded by lower artefact deposition rates and a general absence of in situ earth pigments in painted sites (Attenbrow et al. in press; David et al. 1990b, 1990c, 1991, 1992). The implications of this were that the excavated assemblages had undergone different depositional regimes – natural, cultural or both – sometime during the late Holocene. The archaeological deposits at Yiwarlarlay 1 and Delamere 3, and possibly also at Mennge-ya, also revealed major chronostratigraphic changes coincident with the arrival of Europeans around the late 19th century. It was argued by David et al. (1990c) that European invaders denied traditional custodians access to some of their lands. This resulted in a breakdown of certain ceremonial practices, of the appropriate visitation of sites, and of the ability of traditional custodians to fulfil their roles as managers of places as required by traditional Law (involving a fundamental recognition of the Dreaming beings who gave the land its identity). Consequently, it was argued that following the early contact period, numerous sites in Wardaman country were painted with very large ‘images’ of the Dreaming beings who give those places their identity—Yagjagbula and Jabirringi (the Lightning Brothers) at Yiwarlarlay, gullirida (peewees) at Nimji, and so on (David et al. 1990c). For this to hold true, however, we must be able to show that the majority of the large, paired anthropomorphs found throughout Wardaman country are indeed of post-contact origin. It is also necessary to show that such figures were, and possibly continue to be, ‘images’ of the identities of the Dreaming beings who give the sites their particular identities. The major questions explored during the 1990 and 1991 field seasons were partly aimed at further exploring some of these issues.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Thesis abstract ‘Fishers, Gatherers and Hunters on the Moreton Fringe: Reconsidering the Prehistoric Aboriginal Marine Fishery in Southeast Queensland, Australia’

Sean Ulm

BA(Hons), Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, October 1995

In this thesis I present a critical examination of Walters’ (1987, 1989, 1992a, 1992b) model of late Holocene intensification of Aboriginal marine fishing in southeast Queensland, Australia. I demonstrate significant problems in three premises central to his interpretation of prehistoric cultural change in the region. Firstly, environmental, ethnohistorical and archaeological evidence do not support the proposition that the coastal lowlands were a marginal landscape for human occupation at any time in the Holocene or that a time-lag occurred between sea level stabilisation and Aboriginal occupation of the coast. Nor is there any palaeoecological evidence to support Walters’ argument that periods of greater sedimentation occurring around 3000 BP caused increases in marine resource productivity. Secondly, even if this enrichment did occur it does not correlate with changes documented in the archaeological record from this time. The occupational chronology demonstrates that significant increases in the number of occupied sites and the rate of site establishment does not occur until around 1000 BP, some 2000 years after the proposed enrichment of Moreton Bay. Finally, there is no consistent pattern of increase through time in the quantity of fish remains recovered from archaeological sites in the region. In interpreting this evidence I discuss major taphonomic issues and research biases which have played a significant role in structuring the archaeological database for the region. The Holocene archaeological record of southeast Queensland emerges as much more complex and variable than is generally portrayed.


Walters, I.N. 1987 Another Kettle of Fish: The Prehistoric Moreton Bay Fishery. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, The University of Queensland, St Lucia.

Walters, I.N. 1989 Intensified fishery production at Moreton Bay, southeast Queensland, in the late Holocene. Antiquity 63:215–224.

Walters, I.N. 1992a Farmers and their fires, fishers and their fish: Production and productivity in pre-European southeast Queensland. Dialectical Anthropology 17:167–182.

Walters, I.N. 1992b Antiquity of marine fishing in southeast Queensland. Queensland Archaeological Research 9:35–37.

Thesis abstract ‘Politics, Legislation and Archaeology: A New South Wales Case Study’

George Power

BA(Hons), Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale, October 1995

This thesis examined the political influences on protective legislation of archaedogical resources. Pluralist theory was borrowed from political science to produce a critique on the changes by examining the reasons behind these changes. Through identification and comparison of ‘pressure groups’, how and why the legislation changed was shown. The National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NSW) was used as a case study to historically analyse the influence of pressure groups in New South Wales. My analysis allows archaeologists to develop a political perspective on legislative change and participate more effectively in the legislative process.

The proposed amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Act reflect that social perspectives are changing. The National Parks and Wildlife (Aboriginal Ownership) bills have purported to give Aboriginal communities ownership of culturally significant areas. To date, these amendments have had trouble being passed. Such legislation, once passed, will undoubtedly have an impact on archaeology and cultural resource management in Australia. Significantly, if the bills are left unpassed, this impact will be considerably greater.

It was concluded that the National Parks and Wildlife Act had developed in three chronological stages. From these it was seen that Aboriginal pressure groups were by far the most influential in initiating change. Among these changes, the most important was that the ‘universality’ of Aboriginal cultural heritage is being broadened. Archaeologists were left in a reactive role to all changes.

Obituary: Grahame Clark

Grahame Clark (1907–1995)

By D. John Mulvaney
Sir (John) Grahame Douglas Clark

Professor Sir (John) Grahame Douglas Clark.

Whenever prehistorians gather to evaluate or decry Cambridge connections in the archaeological history of their African, Asian or Australasian regions, there is a high probability that Grahame Clark’s name is invoked. Professor Sir Grahame Clark, CBE, FBA, is arguably one of this century’s most influential prehistorians. Indeed, he was one of the first and most consistent users of the term ‘prehistory’, while the label ‘Mesolithic’ was popularised by him. While Gordon Childe may claim a more profound European significance, Clark’s global role may prove more durable.

Grahame Clark profoundly influenced my career so this also is a personal tribute. Before we ever met, while a Melbourne student between 1947 and 1950, I became immersed in his innovative research. His writings on prehistoric economy were then at the cutting-edge of new techniques of comprehending the past. They utilised conventional sources and combined them with data drawn from history, folklore and ethnography; his prose was lucid and his maps uncluttered and clear. Compare the scape and thematic presentation of his popular Batsford Prehistoric England (1940) with traditional accounts and note the intellectual difference. His use of sources intrigued me as a trainee historian. The 1954 Star Carr report, for instance, contains the memorable index reference ‘fishing: lack of evidence for, 16’. This negative evidence was incorporated into his case for establishing seasonal occupation.

My Master’s thesis examined the evidence for reconstructing the British economy at the time of Roman occupation, and Clark’s work convinced me that Cambridge was my Mecca. Arriving there in October 1951 where I received a frosty reception from the long-anticipated master; farewelling him two years later, he observed that the fact that my degree was only a Second Class, did not matter as I was only returning to Australia! Yet I survived my colonial downgrading to value his advice and assistance, to rent his home for a year, and as a friend, to visit him in 1992 to celebrate his knighthood and to talk with him last in May 1995.

J.G.D. Clark was fortunate in his time and place. He had few rivals in those early days and, single minded above all else, he seized opportunities to order a directionless discipline. His career was tied uniquely to Peterhouse—undergraduate 1927, research student 1930, Bye Fellow 1933, Fellow 1950, Master 1973–80. Meanwhile he was a university lecturer from 1935 and held the Disney Chair 1952–74. His two definitive books, The Mesolithic Age in Britain (1932) and The Mesolithic Settlement of Northern Europe (1936), coincided with his partnership with Harry Godwin on the Fenland Research Committee, which combined archaeology, stratigraphy and typology with palynology and environmental reconstruction. This provided the insights which later produced Prehistoric Europe: The Economic Basis (1952) and Star Carr (1954).

Clark was only 28 when he plotted the takeover by ‘young Turks’ of the moribund and eolith-fixated Prehistoric Society of East Anglia. With Gordon Childe installed as the first President of the renamed Prehistoric Society in 1935, Clark edited its Proceedings until 1970. It was as editor that his links with Australia were forged. Donald Thornson’s visit to Cambridge during 1938–39 coincided with Clark’s completion of Archaeology and Society (1939), a truly innovative work in archaeological theory and interpretation. Given Clark’s current interests it is hardly surprising that he solicited an article from Thomson for the 1939 PPS. The result was the now celebrated ‘seasonal factor in human culture illustrated from the life of a contemporary nomadic group’, published a quarter of a century before the Man the Hunter conference made it fashionable. While Thomson rightly merits credit for this influential exposition of how two archaeological ‘cultures’ on Cape York were no such thing in reality; so also does Clark’s imaginative editorial decision.

When Clark visited Melbourne in 1964, with my assistance he coaxed Thomson into writing an account for PPS 1964, of issues relevant to archaeologists raised by his so-called Bindibu expedition. It had been at Clark’s suggestion and considerable encouragement, also, that I wrote the survey paper, the ‘Stone Age of Australia’ (Clark’s title), for PPS 1961. Then my 1965 Kenniff Cave report was solicited by him and published with many illustrations. This was a period when publication of lengthy material was difficult in Australia. Until that time I had published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, which imposed space restrictions and limited plate numbers. My experience was shared with others in our region, including Wilfred Shawcross and Peter Bellwood, who benefited from Clark’s editorial support. It must be conceded that until the 1970s Clark was rare amongst British archaeologists in demonstrating an interest in Australasia. It was not unjustified triumphalism, therefore, for Clark to claim in his Prehistory at Cambridge and Beyond (1989, p.56), that PPS ‘helped young prehistorians to obtain rapid publication of their results from as far afield as Africa and Australasia’.

Cambridge academic imperialism was the theme of Cambridge and Beyond, but Clark never expounded it better than in his 1954 Disney Professor inaugural lecture. As Clark strewed imaginary dots on a global map of the Cambridge diaspora, Jack Golson became the anonymous ‘New Zealand’ representative, Gale Sieveking figured as ‘Malaya’, while I was Australia’s token ‘man’—virtual proconsuls all.

Clark took the opportunity in 1964 to inspect the imperial outposts and was duly impressed. Accompanied by his caring wife, Mollie, Grahame visited their son in New Zealand, while duly inspecting sites. Jack Golson so arranged their complex Australian tour that Cambridge came to the bush. Their itinerary included the Sydney region; a visit to Isabel McBryde at the University of New England; Norman Tindale guided them to the Centre; while I chauffeured them from Melbourne to Devon Downs and Fromm’s Landing. It was there that I photographed Grahame holding his notebook, the errors in his enthusiastic section in Prehistoric Societies (1965), when amongst others, Wombah midden understandably became Wombat.

Grahame and Mollie returned within little more than a year, arriving in Canberra via the Philippines, bearing beautiful archaeological ceramics presented to them upon excavation by their hosts, who owned the relevant archaeological site. They remained a permanent feature in the Clark’s home, together with a Leonard French artwork obtained when they visited the artist’s Melbourne studio, driven there by my wife, Jean. French’s creation provided the picture on their next Christmas card.

In his Prehistoric Europe: The Economic Task (1952), Clark had used A.W. Howitt’s reference to the Mt William stone quarry as an ethnographic analogy. Australia featured in its own right in a brief passage in the first edition of World Prehistory (1961), but it occupied increasingly larger sections in the two subsequent editions of this pioneering global attempt to portray the past (1969, 1977).

Grahame Clark was an austere scholar and a stern and outspoken critic (especially of those whose education lacked the Cambridge connection). An unpopular figure amongst most colleagues, however, the recognition of his achievements was marked, amongst other developments, by the fact that Gordon Childe chose him as the executor of his papers; Lew Binford and other New Archaeologists praised the innovation in his Star Carr research; the Erasmus Prize from Holland (1990) reflected his European status, while his knighthood in 1992 was belated recognition at home.

In perspective, the consistent growth in his vision of the past is remarkable and made the inclusion of Australasia within his purview inevitable. His scholarship during the thirties shifted from Mesolithic Britain to the European Mesolithic. His interests broadened during the forties to include European economic prehistory as a whole, together with a philosophical dimension exemplified by Archaeology and Society (1939, 1947).

Grahame Clark was an intriguing personality of contrasts. Students remember his strident right-wing political views on many subjects and his denunciation of other archaeologists on many occasions; yet he wrote From Savagery to Civilization (1946), in a Marxist text series edited by Gordon Childe and Benjamin Farrington. Both the title and the theme reflected the evolutionary views of Lewis Henry Morgan, a luminary figure in the Marxist pantheon.

He previously had adopted a revolutionary stance towards traditional Western educational values, no less remarkable. While on RAF service in wartime Britain, he anticipated the theme of UNESCO’s universalist approach to nations. Writing in Antiquity in 1943, Clark asserted that

… to the peoples of the world generally, the peoples who willy nilly must in future cooperate and build or fall out and destroy, I venture to think that Paleolithic Man has more meaning than the Greeks.

From those then outrageous sentiments to his outline of World Prehistory, and other books written during his closing years, there was a logical and fervent progression to expound the cultural differences yet the basic spiritual unity of humankind Those of us Antipodean who struggled to get a hearing on the world stage for the prehistory of this region are deeply indebted to Clark, both as editor and propagandist.

Revisiting Pleistocene Macrozamia

The pit feature in Cheetup east wall (published in Australian Archaeology 42:52).

The pit feature in Cheetup east wall (published in Australian Archaeology 42:52).

Moya Smith


This note clarifies the evidence of late Pleistocene Macrozamia exploitation from Cheetup, Western Australia, published in 1982 (Smith), and establishes Macrozamia treatment as an example of late Pleistocene resource management.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Earth mounds in southeastern Australia

Map showing location of earth mounds in southeast Australia (published in Australian Archaeology 42:39).

Map showing location of earth mounds in southeast Australia (published in Australian Archaeology 42:39).

Jane Balme and Wendy Beck


Earth mounds are pre-European heaps of raised dirt, which consist mainly of charcoal rich sediment with fragments of burnt clay. The two objectives of this paper are to describe the earth mounds which occur in the Macquarie Marshes in northern New South Wales and to advance a speculative hypothesis that the earth mounds in southeastern Australia could have functioned as gardens.

Over a thousand of these mounds have been recorded in southeastern Australia. Most have been recorded from the Murray Valley but many occur on the Murimbidgee River and in the western districts of Victoria (Fig. 1). Mounds appear to be associated with major waterways but their distribution in New South Wales is patchy. Despite extensive surveys, they have not been found in all riverine environments. For example, no mounds occur in the floodplain of the lower Darling River (Balme and Hope 1990)

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

A regional landscape approach to the management of stone artefact sites in forested uplands in eastern Australia

Schematic model of the size - diversity relationship (published in Australian Archaeology 42:36).

Schematic model of the size – diversity relationship (published in Australian Archaeology 42:36).

R. Hall and K. Lomax


In the last 15 years archaeologists have begun to characterise land use patterns across a broad range of forested upland environments in eastern Australia (Bowdler 1981; Byrne 1983; Cosgrove 1990; Egloff 1984; Flood 1980; Hall 1992). During that time ample archaeological evidence has been collected that demonstrates Aboriginal occupation of the full range of forest types. With this growing body of archaeological evidence there has been an increasing sophistication in the methodologies used to delimit the broad regularities that exist in the distribution of archaeological materials across the forested landscape (Hall 1992; Packard 1991). The most recent area of development in forest archaeology has been the recognition of the need for appropriate management methodologies to deal with the specific characteristics of the forest archaeological record (Byrne 1991).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

An evaluation of radiocarbon chronologies at Miriwun rockshelter and the Monsmont site, Ord valley, east Kimberley, Western Australia

Stratigrahic section from the Monsmont site (published in Australian Archaeology 42:26).

Stratigrahic section from the Monsmont site (published in Australian Archaeology 42:26).

Charlie E. Dortch and R.G. (Bert) Roberts


Miriwun rockshelter, since the early 1970s permanently inundated in Lake Argyle (16’30’ S, 128″45′ E) in the Ord valley, east Kimberley, Western Australia, was the first Aboriginal occupation site of Pleistocene age to be recorded in Western Australia’s sub-tropical northwest (Dortch 1972, 1977a). Miriwun and the Stonewall Creek open-air site 35 km to the north (Dortch 1977b) provide the only unequivocal ‘two-phase’ stone industrial sequences yet recorded in the Ord Valley.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The problem of verifying isolated radiocarbon dates: More can be less confusing

Map of WA with the study area (published in Australian Archaeology 42:19).

Map of WA with the study area (published in Australian Archaeology 42:19).

R. Esmee Webb


Many years ago Dortch (1977:131) noted that ‘the prehistoric stone industries of the Murchison Basin are represented almost entirely by surface collections of artefacts, most of which have no supplementary information’. Despite considerable subsequent work, that statement was still largely true when I began doctoral research in this region in 1988, because only two of the localities investigated previously had yielded radiometrically controlled sequences of stratified lithic assemblages.

Nonetheless, the numerous surface scatters of stone artefacts assignable to the ‘Small Tool’ tradition which had been recorded (Davies 1961; Davies et al. 1977; Pearce 1979; Byrne 1980), suggest that Aborigines had used the Murchison Basin extensively after 4000 BP. Earlier, beginning at least 11,000 BP, people occasionally used Walga rockshelter (Bordes et al. 1980, 1983), while, by at least 6000 BP, they were also using the bank of the Murchison River at Billibilong Spring. Other, tantalisingly inconclusive, evidence recovered in the Greenough and Murchison River valleys hinted that people, using stone artefacts which were thought on typological grounds to be of considerable antiquity since they could be assigned to the ‘Core Tool and Scraper’ tradition, might even have exploited this region much earlier (Merrilees 1968; Wyrwoll and Dortch 1978). The age of these artefacts remains controversial because the contexts from which they came lack radiometric dates. However, if their putative association with the extinct diprotodont Zygomatwus nilobus can be substantiated (Balme 1979), they could have been made before 30,000 BP. The radiometric ages of finds of this species from elsewhere in Western Australia suggest that it was extinct by that time (Baynes unpublished data).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Radiocarbon dates on shearwater bones from Beeton Shelter, Badger Island, Bass Strait

Atholl Anderson, John Head, Robin Sim and Darrell West


Excavation of the Beeton Rockshelter site on Badger Island (Furneaux Group) Bass Strait, produced numerous mutton-bird bones. These came from three 1 m2 squares which varied in depth from about 0.75 m near the rear of the shelter to about 1.5 m toward the front. All three pits displayed a stratigraphic sequence comprising two highly alkaline, coarse, calcareous sand units capped by a surface deposit of densely compacted sheep and cow dung. Bone from terrestrial mammals, emu eggshell and flaked stone and fossil shell artefacts were recovered from both sand units. Numerous shellfish and mutton-bird remains were recovered from the upper sand layer. This was darker in colour than the basal unit and generally between 35 cm and 45 cm thick. In the outermost excavated square, bird burrows were evident and one whole, juvenile, mutton-bird skeleton was found. The upper sand layer appears to have been formed by rookery activity reworking a surface deposit of midden throughout the upper level of the sand deposit.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Preliminary luminescence dates for archaeological sediments on the Nullarbor Plain, South Australia

Stratigraphy from Allen's Cave (published in Australian Archaeology 42:9).

Stratigraphy from Allen’s Cave (published in Australian Archaeology 42:9).

R.G. (Bert) Roberts, Nigel A. Spooner, Rhys Jones, Scott Cane, Jon M. Olley, Andrew S. Murray and M. John Head


Human occupation of the Nullarbor Plain in South Australia has been known to extend into the Pleistocene since a series of major archaeological excavations was begun in the 1950s and 1960s. An antiquity of more than 20,000 years BP for human presence in the region was established on the basis of 14C chronologies at Koonalda Cave and Allen’s Cave (also known as site N145). The oldest date reported for traces of human activity was ~22,000 years BP (or ~26,000 years BP after calibration) from Koonalda Cave. Here we present preliminary results of our luminescence dating investigations at Allen’s Cave and Koonalda Cave, and also report some new I4c age dewinations on associated charcoal. The wind-blown quartzose sediments deposited in Allen’s Cave were dated by optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL) and thermoluminescence (TL). A near-modern age was obtained for a near-surface sample and good agreement was obtained between the calibrated “C ages of a well-preserved ~10,000 year old hearth and the optical (OSL) and TL ages of the underlying sediments. An optical date of ~40,000 years was obtained for the sediments immediately overlying the lowest artefacts at Allen’s Cave, thereby extending the period of human occupation of the southern Nullarbor by 14,000 years. Optical dating was not successful at Koonalda Cave however, due to the probable intermittent storage and fluvial remobilisation of sediments en route to the cave floor in this deep karst system. An apparent optical age of ~9000 years was obtained for alluvium deposited recently on the cave floor close to the Gallus Site, and substantial optical age overestimates were obtained for lacustrine sediments collected from the ~20,000 years BP levels of the archaeological excavation. The validity of the 14C age determinations made in the 1960s was confirmed using state-of-the art 14C methods to date two charcoal samples collected in 1991.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Investigating changing stone technologies, site use and occupational intensities at Fern Cave, north Queensland

View of Fern Cave (published in Australian Archaeology 42:1).

View of Fern Cave (published in Australian Archaeology 42:1).

Lara Lamb


This paper presents the results of a technological analysis of the lithic assemblage of Test Pit 4 at Fern Cave, southeast Cape York Peninsula. My specific aims are to investigate David’s (1991) claim that deposition rates of stone artefacts at Fern Cave increased during the peak of the last glacial maximum (ca 20,890–17,200 BP). Deposition rates of other cultural components (mussel shell, faunal remains, burnt earth, ochre) are argued by David (1991) to have also increased at this time, but will not be further investigated here. David (1991) attributes this period of peak deposition and sedimentation to more intensive use of the cave.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Book Note of ‘Burning bush. A fire history of Australia’ by Stephen J. Pyne

Head Book Note Review Cover 1994‘Burning bush. A fire history of Australia’ by Stephen J. Pyne, 1992, Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 520 pp. ISBN 1-86373-194-6 (pbk).

Review by Lesley Head

‘Fire set to boil the whole biological billy that was Old Australia’ (p.8) … ‘Charcoal and eucalypt pollen march side by side in the geologic record of the late Pleistocene and Holocene’ (p.20) … ‘Lake George on the Atherton Tableland’ (p.2l). The hyperbole on the cover promises much, but I found this book an annoying mixture of heavy-handed prose and scientific inaccuracy. It’s easy to find holes in a work of such ambitious scope, but Pyne did set himself the task of using ‘fire as a means of historical understanding’ (p.xii). The flames are fanned across the page, fuses ignite, the ‘scleroforest’ marches, etc., etc. But in the 150 pages of pre-European fire there is a curious lack of discussion of how we know any of this. Or more specifically of the passionate (Pyne would call it fiery) scientific debate about the extent to which Aboriginal fire changed the face of the continent. There are other interpretations of Lake George, including one that puts it somewhere near Canberra. More heat than light.

Review of ‘The history and archaeology of the Sydney Cove shipwreck (1797): A resource for future work’ by Shirley Strachan

Review by David Cameron

Cameron Book Review Cover (Sydney Cove) 1994‘The history and archaeology of the Sydney Cove shipwreck (1797): A resource for future work’ by Shirley Strachan, 1986, Canberra: Department of Prehistory Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University, Occasional Papers in Prehistory, No 5. ISBN 0-86784-972-X.

This publication will be of great interest to maritime archaeologists, other archaeologists, historians and members of the public. In many aspects, Strachan sets the standard for future research for maritime archaeological studies. The report, however, does not successfully accomplish all of its stated aims.

Strachan gives a detailed historical account of the Sydney Cove and its sinking. This merchant vessel was wrecked northeast of the Tasmanian coast in 1797close to Preservation and Rum Islands. The cargo bound for Port Jackson was despatched from Bengal, and included 7000 gallons of rum, wine and spirits, numerous Indian goods and livestock. The wreck of the Sydney Cove was not a dramatic catastrophe in the sense that she sank within minutes or hours. Rather, Captain Guy A. Hamilton kept his ship from sinking for several weeks. Hamilton argues that the forced beaching on the 9th February 1797 was a result of rough hurricane weather, a leaky and water-logged hull and a ‘refractory lascar crew’.

After the beaching, a long boat was despatched for Port Jackson with 17 of the 35-40 crew members, while the rest of the crew awaited rescue on Preservation Island (the rum, wine and spirits were placed well out of reach on Rum Island). After beaching the longboat in the vicinity of Point Hicks (Victoria), only three men survived the 800 km walk to Port Jackson.  The remainder of the crew and some cargo were later recovered by the schooner Francis which made three voyages to the wreck in July and December 1797 and February 1798. A second schooner, the Elisa, was lost, with all hands, on the return journey from the Sydney Cove wreck (see also Henderson 1986 for an account of the Elisa wreck). All of the goods which Hamilton was able to recover and sell for the benefit of the underwriters fetched enormous prices.

The wreck of the Sydney Cove was rediscovered in 1977 by a group of recreational divers who salvaged the main rudder mechanism as well as tackle blocks which were later relinquished by the receiver of wrecks under the terms of the Commonwealth Navigation Act of 1912 to the Queen Victoria Museum for safe keeping and conservation (Strachan 1986:9; see also Henderson and Stanbury 1988:90). The site at this time was completely buried apart from a long wooden ‘beam’ later identified as the keel which was camouflaged by a heavy growth of seaweed.

Strachan presents four main research aims: 1) a comprehensive reference framework for research, 2) a management plan, 3) conservation, and 4) future fieldwork proposals (1986:ix). Strachan’s report successfully deals with aims 1, 3 and 4, but is lacking in any real investigation and/or discussion of aim 2, site management.

Strachan correctly argues that the wreck of the Sydney Cove is not only important because of its historical significance, but also because of its technological significance. The Sydney Cove was originally built by Indian ship builders and later enlisted into the British trading fleet. Thus Strachan suggests that a comparison of Indian and British ship building techniques can be ascertained by excavating the Sydney Cove. Indeed, Strachan’s discussion and description of the rudder mechanism particularly is very interesting and revealing (1986:40-3). While no in-depth comparison. beyond that of the rudder mechanism is presented, a good description of the material recovered has set the foundations for such future research. Perhaps more detailed analysis could have been presented of individual artefacts recovered from the wreck, similar to Staniforth’s description and analysis of casks recovered from the William Salthouse (1987:21). However, given the limited time, money and the three short field seasons, Strachan’s results are impressive.

Unfortunately, the report largely fails to come to terms with site management with little discussion of site conservation. Site management is of great importance to maritime archaeology particularly with exposed and secluded sites. This often results in recreational divers stealing objects from a wreck and disturbing the site. External factors such as environmental disturbances are elsewhere well documented and discussed (see Cleator 1973:82; Marsden 1973: 483-92; Muckelroy 1978:36-48; UNESCO 1972:155-61), but this report fails to come to terms with these important issues though presented as a main research aim. Thus in this respect Strachan’s publication is a little disappointing.

The importance of this publication is not only the wealth of information supplied about the site and artefacts recovered from the wreck, but it is one of only a few detailed reports relating to shipwreck sites in Australian waters. Thus it is of potentially great research use, especially given its emphasis on data description and presentation.


Cleator. P.E. 1973 Underwater Archaeology. Robert Hale and Company.

Henderson, G. 1986 Maritime Archaeology in Australia. Western Australia University Press.

Henderson, O. and M. Stanbury 1988 The Sirius: Past and Present. Collins Publishing.

Marsden, P. 1973 The Investigation of the Wreck of the Amsterdam. In D.l. Blackman (ed.) Marine Archaeology, pp.483-92. London: Butterworths.

Muckelroy, K. 1978 Maritime Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Staniforth, M. 1987 The casks from the wreck of the William Salthouse. Australian Historical Archaeology. 5:21-8.

UNESCO 1972 Underwater archaeology. A nascent discipline.

Review of ‘The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, ecological and material culture change in the Post-Glacial period’ by Darrell Lewis

Franklin Book Review Cover 1994‘The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, ecological and material culture change in the Post-Glacial period’ by Darrell Lewis, 1988, BAR International Series 415, 425 pp. ISBN 0-86054-532-6 (pbk)

Review by Natalie Franklin

Previous reviews of this book (Haskovec 1989; Sales 1990) were more concerned with Lewis’ determination of a chronological sequence for the rock paintings of Arnhem Land. By contrast, I will concentrate on Lewis’ interesting interpretations of change within this sequence.

Although in later chapters it becomes clear that Lewis’ aims were to order and analyse Arnhem Land rock art, and to link it to the archaeological and ecological evidence, an initial statement of research design, as well as a brief general description of the rock paintings, would have been useful in the introduction to this book.

Before setting up his own sequence, Lewis discusses in Chapter 1 some of the reasons for his ultimate rejection of Chaloupka’s chronology of Arnhem Land rock paintings, although a more detailed critique is presented in Chapter 6. I found this splitting of the critical analysis of Chaloupka’s work to be a structural flaw with the book, tending to detract a little from the overall value of Lewis’ critique, which is one of the few available in print.

It is also a little disappointing that Lewis does not discuss at any stage the place of Arnhem Land rock paintings within the overall context of Australian rock art (e.g. Maynard’s 1976, 1979 chronological scheme; see Franklin in press).

After describing his methods for determining a chronology at the end of Chapter 1, the next few chapters outline Lewis’ sequence of four periods in Arnhem Land rock paintings, which are labelled the Boomerang, the Hooked Stick/Boomerang, the Broad Spearthrower and the Long Spearthrower.

The second part of the book is more interpretive and contains overviews of Arnhem Land prehistory, ecology and climatic change, as well as the more detailed critique of Chaloupka’s dating scheme. The author also outlines his model for explaining the chronological changes in the art identified in Part 1 of the monograph.

The Boomerang Period is said to be highly formalised, and characterised by a single widespread style of human figures common throughout the Arnhem Land Plateau. Lewis argues that there is one widespread social identity at this time, expressing social and cultural stability and a desire to stress ‘sameness’ and reciprocity through the art. This is said to have adaptive value at a time of climatic aridity extant during the glacial period from c.18,00Q BP to c.9000 BP, in that access to the territories of neighbours at times of resource shortage was ensured. The territories of the inhabitants at this time would have been large, analogous to those of the present-day semi-arid and arid zones. Lewis also argues that similarities between Boomerang figures and the Bradshaw figures of the Kimberley may indicate that the two regions were part of the same extended information-exchange network at that time.

By contrast, the Hooked Stick/Boomerang Period is characterised by regionalisation in the styles of human figures, as well as the development of a widespread suite of motifs, the Composite Rainbow Snake Complex. Lewis interprets the Period as one of social reorganisation, with the appearance of smaller regional group identities emphasising mutual differences. Territories would have been smaller and more clearly defined, as expected from the demographic growth prompted by increased rainfall and an increased carrying capacity of the land. However, the Composite Rainbow Snake motifs, also extant at the same time, fail to show regional differentiation. These are interpreted as indicating an over-riding philosophy of conciliation at a time of social stress created by the displacement of coastal and riverine populations following sea level rise at c.8000 BP.

Although the interpretations drawn by Lewis are creative and stimulating, I have some misgivings with them, and it is here that the difficulties involved in dating rock art become a real problem. In this monograph, Lewis has attempted to use relative degrees of stylistic homogeneity or heterogeneity to date the art, in terms of its correlation with dated periods of climatic aridity or increased rainfall. In order to make his model ‘stick’, it is clear that Lewis requires independent evidence for the dating of the rock paintings, which can then be correlated with ecological changes through time. Such evidence is not available at present.

The interpretations drawn by Lewis for Arnhem Land rock paintings are analogous to models posed by Gamble (1982, 1983, 1986) to explain the homogeneity of Upper Palaeolithic Venus figurines, and Jochim (1983) to account for the concentration of Upper Palaeolithic cave art in southwestern Europe. I have shown that these models are based on various lines of evidence the analogues of which are not currently available in Australia (Franklin 1992). Therefore, the patterns outlined for the Boomerang and Hooked Stick/Boomerang Periods by Lewis may only be suggestive of open and closed social networks which correspond with periods of aridity and increasing rainfall respectively. Without the additional information of absolute dates and associated archaeological context, which is available for incorporation in the models of Gamble (1982, 1983, 1986) and Jochim (1983), it is not possible to correlate with any degree of certainty Arnhem Land rock paintings with the ecological backgrounds of the glacial and immediate post-glacial periods.

Another fundamental problem with Lewis’ model is his assertion, rather than demonstration, that the Boomerang Period comprises figures in one overall homogeneous style, while the Hooked Stick/Boomerang Period consists of separate regionally varied styles. In these terms, I concur with Sales’ (1990) earlier comments. I would like to have seen an empirical demonstration of the degrees of variation and similarity of the different periods, as I have done for the Panaramitee style and Simple Figurative styles (Franklin 1989, 1991, 1992). A series of multivariate analyses of Arnhem Land rock paintings would have been useful here. Haskovec’s (1989) comments with regard to Lewis’ failure to indicate the sample of paintings involved in his study also become relevant in this context.

In summary, this is a creative and innovative exploration of a complex corpus of rock art, well illustrated throughout with line drawings and plates. It represents an advance on the earlier chronologies of Chaloupka and Brandl, and it is hoped that future innovations in techniques for dating rock art (see Franklin in press) will enable a more precise articulation of Lewis’ model for stylistic change in the rock paintings of Arnhem Land. In the meantime, this book is certain to stimulate further research and debate.


Franklin, N.R. 1989 Research with style: A case study from Australian rock art. In S.J. Shennan (ed.) Archaeological Approaches to Cultural Identity, pp.278-90. London: Unwin Hyman.

Franklin, N.R. 1991 Explorations of the Panaramitee style. In P. Bahn and A. Rosenfeld (eds) Rock Art and Prehistory: Papers presented to Symposium G of the AURA Congress, Darwin 1988, pp.120-35. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Franklin, N.R. 1992 Explorations of Variability in Australian Prehistoric Rock Engravings. Ph.D. thesis, La Trobe University, Melbourne.

Franklin, N.R. In press Style and dating in rock art studies: The post-stylistic era in Australia and Europe? In M. Lorblanchet and P. Bahn (eds) Rock Art Studies: The Post-stylistic Era. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Gamble, C. 1982 Interaction and alliance in Palaeolithic society. Man n.s. 17:92-107.

Gamble, C. 1983 Culture and society in the Upper Palaeolithic of Europe. In G.N. Bailey (cd.) Hunter-Gatherer Economy in Prehistory: A European Perspective, pp.201-11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gamble, C. 1986 The Palaeolithic Settlement of Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Haskovec. J.P. 1989 Review of D. Lewis 1988 The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period. Archaeology in Oceania 24(1):42-3.

Jochim, M.A. 1983 Palaeolithic cave art in ecological perspective. In G. Bailey (cd.) Hunter-Gatherer Economy in Prehistory: A European Perspective, pp.212-19. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Review of ‘Owls, caves and fossils: Predation, preservation and accumulation of small mammal bones in caves, with an analysis of the Pleistocene cave faunas from Westbury-Sub-Mendip, Somerset, United Kingdom’ by Peter J. Andrews

Cameron Book Review Cover (UK) 1994‘Owls, caves and fossils: Predation, preservation and accumulation of small mammal bones in caves, with an analysis of the Pleistocene cave faunas from Westbury-Sub-Mendip, Somerset, United Kingdom’ by Peter J. Andrews, 1990, Natural History Museum Publications, 231 pp. ISBN 0-565-01118-9 (hbk).

Review by David Cameron

This book is the first volume of a series that examines the archaeological excavations at the Middle Pleistocene site of Westbury-sub-Mendip. On first reading it is clear that this book is a ‘must have’ for any archaeologist or palaeontologist. The same will apply to the forthcoming volumes if they are of the same standard as presented in this first volume.

While there are numerous important contributions to the taphonomy of large mammal assemblages (see Binford 1981, 1984; Frison and Todd 1986; Potts 1988), this is perhaps the first detailed account of small mammal taphonomy. This volume goes far beyond the familiar format of presenting the data, and then searching the literature or empirical record for ad hoc explanations which usually rely on simplistic and/or particular (and thus often unique) events that are then used to explain the observed archaeological pattern. Such approaches usually result in little understanding of the processes themselves but merely result in a search for similarities in form, and often confirm what the researcher is looking for. Instead Andrews’ first aim is to present a detailed account of what actually happens to numerous small mammal taxa during and after death (whether natural, accidental or due to predation) and what happens to the bones through a long-term study including varying climatic and environmental conditions. Thus an understanding of the processes involved in small mammal bone modification is presented before even considering the archaeological material. Andrews is concerned with teasing out the many factors involved in small mammal bone modification and preservation and is not involved in merely identifying a general similarity between extant and archaeological patterns. Andrews’ aim is to reach a fundamental understanding of small mammal taphonomy and uses Westbury-sub-Mendip as a laboratory in helping us understand the many problems. He does not review the small mammal bone assemblages in isolation but incorporates many avenues of research from micro-stratigraphy to extant small mammal community members and their correlation to ecological and environmental conditions. In so doing he gains some important insights into this Middle Pleistocene site.

Chapter 1 is an introduction to small mammal taphonomy. This chapter focuses on the many processes involved in the modification and preservation of small mammals. Chapters 2 and 3 examine the major influence on small mammal taphonomy, predation. Predation is the most important cause of death as well as the cause of their greatest modification. Chapter 2 addresses the problem of differential bias by a predator for particular prey. Chapter 3 continues the study of predation but concentrates on the differential modification to small mammal bone by numerous predator types. Chapter 4 presents an introduction to the taphonomy and micro-stratigraphy of cave systems. It examines the impact that this essentially closed environmental system has upon small mammal bone assemblages including deposition of animal carcasses; breakdown of carcasses; and movement of bone in cave systems. Chapter 5 introduces the cave deposits at Westbury and its context in relation to Chapter 4. Chapter 6 presents the small mammal faunas of the Westbury cave system. This examination enables Andrews to identify that a number of stratigraphic units are the result of a transported mixed assemblage, while others are due to either a European eagle owl or the result of one of his category 1 predators. Another bone assemblage from Unit 11 can be seen to have accumulated in a wet environment due to the great breakage, cave corrosion and manganese staining of the assemblage. Indeed, within a number of units several agents can be identified as having contributed to the archaeological assemblage.

Chapter 7 is the concluding chapter as it reconstructs the palaeoecology of the Westbury small mammal faunas. This concluding chapter is well founded and based on the previous discussions and analyses as systematically presented in Chapters 1 to 6. Thus by the time the reader has arrived at this concluding chapter some fundamental understanding of the processes involved in the formation not only of the site, but also the taphonomic modifications has been achieved. By examining the stratigraphic units of Westbury, Andrews has been able to identify a number of oscillating climatic conditions from warm-cool to warm-cold. This conclusion is based on the holistic approach of constructing a Taxonomic Habitat Index. This index system is based on extant small mammal taxa and its correlation to extant habitat types. It is clear that evolutionary forces are involved here. In order to account for ecological shifts through time by fossil mammals, Andrews calculates two sets of indices. The first set is based on extant species and their correlation to habitat types, while the second set is based on higher taxonomic units, i.e. genus, family, etc. Because many of the Westbury fossil faunas contain living”, species they are directly comparable to extant species and habitat correlations. In the case where extinct species are present within the Westbury system, they can usually be allocated to an extant genus and are correlated to a habitat type at the generic level. From this, a number of scores are constructed based on proportions of the different habitats occupied at the present time by these species or genera. From this scoring system all taxa identified within a unit or sub-unit are added together so that an average or peak is achieved to help define the most likely habitat of the assemblage. For example, if the majority of fossil species have relatively high index values for deciduous woodlands, it indicates that this habitat was present at or near the site.

Andrews’ microstratigraphic examination enables him to present the temporal sequence of Westbury and place numerous small mammal assemblages within this temporal context. In so doing Andrews has been able to identify the climatic oscillations during the accumulation of the deposits. From this analysis Andrews has refuted the previous climatic interpretations that suggested that this period was represented by a single interglacial episode. From a combination of the Taxonomic Habitat Index and pollen analysis it is further suggested that the region was characterised by broad-leaved deciduous woodlands during the warm climatic episodes while marked by pine-birch woodland during the cooler conditions.

Andrews presents a model of understanding and interpretation that is immediately applicable to any archaeological-palaeontological excavation. While the faunas that Andrews is investigating are European, his methodology is sound and is immediately applicable to Australian prehistory. For example, much of his discussion concerning bone modification is directly applicable and aspects of his Taxonomic Habitat Index can be modified for Australian fauna. Indeed much of Andrews’ methodology as outlined in this volume has been applied to other regions of the world including Olduvai Gorge (Andrews 1983), Laetoli (Andrews 1989) and the Miocene sites of Pasalar in Turkey (Alpagut 1990; Andrews 1990; Andrews and Ersoy 1990) and Rudabanya in Hungary (Andrews and Cameron in prep.).

In conclusion this book is a major contribution to taphonomic studies and is particularly important as it discusses small mammal taphonomy which, while long recognised as particularly important in the reconstruction of palaeoenvironments and ecologies has, however, been rarely examined in any detail. It is perhaps not unimportant that the author is not an archaeologist, but is best known for his work in Miocene hominoid evolution and palaeoecological studies. As such he brings a refreshing systematic approach to this area of study.


Alpagut, B., P.I. Andrews and L.B. Martin 1990 Miocene paleoecology of Pasalar. Turkey. In E.H. Lindsay (ed.) European Neogene Mammal Chronology, pp.443-59. New York: Plenum Press.

Andrews, P.I. 1983 Small mammal faunal diversity at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. In I. Clutton-Brock and C. Grigson (eds) Animals and Archaeology: 1. Hunters and their Prey, pp.77-85. BAR International Series 163. 

Andrews, P.I. 1989 Palaeoecology of Laetoli. Journal of Human Evolution 18:173-81.

Andrews, P.l. 1990 Palaeoecology of the Miocene fauna from Pasalar. Turkey. Journal of Human Evolution 19:569-82.

Andrews, P.l. and A. Ersoy 1990 Taphonomy of the Miocene bone accumulations at Pasalar. Turkey. Journal of Human Evolution 19:379-96.

Binford, L.R. 1981 Bones, Ancient Men and Modem Myths. New York: Academic Press.

Binford, L.R. 1984 Faunal Remains from Klasies River Mouth. New York: Academic Press.

Frison, G.B. and L.C. Todd 1986 The Colby Mammoth Site. New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press.

PottS, R. 1988 Early Hominid Activities at Olduvai. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Review of ‘Prodigious Birds. Moas and Moa-hunting in prehistoric New Zealand’ by Atholl Anderson

Marshall Book Review Cover 1994‘Prodigious Birds. Moas and Moa-hunting in prehistoric New Zealand’ by Atholl Anderson, 1989, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, xviii + 238 pp. ISBN 0-521-35209-6 (hbk).

Review by Brendan Marshall

Prodigious Birds compiles and extends Anderson’s earlier pieces on New Zealand prehistoric archaeology and the role of moas. The introduction summarises his research topics as eight major and seemingly easy questions. If you only want his short answers to ‘how many moas were there?’ and ‘ who were the moa-hunters?’ then you need only read the first eight pages and perhaps the conclusion. However, the real interest is the structure of Anderson’s investigations and the contents of his arguments, the implications of which go far beyond the shores of New Zealand. The book is divided into two parts of roughly equal length. The first ‘Discovery and Biology of the Moas’, is presented in five chapters. It begins with a detailed account of the scientific discovery of moas in the first half of the 19th century.  Here, Anderson shows how this was ‘no single event’ but a combination of scientific pursuit, serendipity and misunderstanding, involving no less than four major players, including Owen, who monopolised moa studies for forty years.

The voluminous literature on moa classification is reviewed and Anderson documents the changing importance of non-metrical and metrical taxonomic criteria. Thankfully, the progressive changes in family membership, genera and species numbers are made easier to follow with an appendix, ‘Taxonomies of Dinomithiformes’. Anderson’s history also discusses the theory underlying the various classificatory styles such as Cuverian Naturphilosophie. As intended, this reader was left with a very uneasy feeling about the science behind the systematics of moas in particular and of vertebrates generally.

The territory becomes more familiar or perhaps easier to traverse with discussions on moa palaeogeography. In these sections Anderson reveals the disparities in the timing of ratite divergences between phylogenetic sequences according to primitive characteristics or biochemical and molecular DNA analysis and continental separation. He convincingly argues that geotectonic variance does not fully account for ratite dispersal and that volancy was probably an important mechanism. Flightlessness is discussed more generally as an adaptive strategy of birds in Pacific environments where diets are primarily herbivorous and terrestrial predators are very thin on the ground.

Reviewing natural sites and moa ecology, Anderson attempts to correlate fossil sites and their represented species with past climatic and vegetational patterns. As this is arguably the purpose or endpoint of the preceding compilation it is of interest that it is one of the shortest sections, in spite of what appears to be one of the better fossil records of any group of vertebrates in the world.

Excluding chapters on Moa discovery and Maori traditions, the first half of the book is not for the fainthearted or the phylogenetically weak. Its detail (read authority) would impress vertebrate taxonomists and palaeontologists alike, particularly those interested in the evolution of ratites. It would test the patience of most Australian archaeologists however, even those of us who for inspiration tackle the biological literature on human prey animals. If nothing else, these chapters demonstrate the enormous information loss which accompanies species extinction, regardless of how recently this occurred or the quality of the faunal record.

The second part of the book, ‘Moa-hunting, Processing and Extinction’, is presented as seven chapters. It opens with the issue of the depositional association between moa bone and material culture. This develops into questions of chronology, the nature of colonisation, and eventually the ‘Transactions dispute’. Central to this discussion are Haast’s interpretations of a stratigraphic disconformity between moa bone and marine shell beds in terms of pre-Maori people (who used crude implements to hunt) and the Neolithic (Maori) people (polished stone tools, nephrite and cannibalism). We see how Haast’s ideas change in the face of new data, particularly from Moabone Point Cave.

The next three chapters (8-10) review recent archaeological evidence, broken down regionally according to the North Island sites, South Island coastal sites and South Island inland sites. Along with a listing of the main deposits, Anderson discusses issues ranging from the association of subfossil (natural) moa bone with cultural items in the north to the behavioural implications of site organisation (ovens, huts and butchery areas) and the differential distribution of moa body parts. The east coast of the South Island was the major focus of moa hunting. Of the South Island inland sites Hawksburn (naturally enough) is reviewed in some detail. For this assemblage Anderson proposes a processing sequence and how it has been obscured through site formation; calculates moa MNI’s, infers how kills were returned to the site and provides various ratios of moa ‘product’ according to different body parts.

Overall, there appears to be little detailed (or standardised) information on moa assemblages upon which inter-site comparisons can be securely made. Much of the physical evidence of moa-hunting was collected last century when excavation methods were less precise and the collection of moa bone highly selective.

Hawksburn shows what Anderson would have liked to know about other moa deposits and his discussion appears to be obstructed in places because of a dearth of quality data.

The taxonomic detail of the first half of the book becomes important with Anderson’s attempts to better define which species were common prey and the reasons why.

The chapter on processing technology looks at the distribution of artefact types (ulus and teshoas), raw material acquisition, flaked tools and the southern blade industry. Again Anderson relies heavily on analyses of the Hawksburn lithic material which include use-damage, artefact size, retouch and edge angles. He argues that moa butchery was ‘heavy work’ requiring tools with ‘robust edges’, and this may account for the large quantity of broken blades. Although a functional relationship between blades and moa assemblages has not yet been demonstrated, Anderson believes that this artefact is in some way directly associated with moa-hunting.

In ‘Chronology and Extinction’ Anderson attempts to better define the ‘when’ of moa-hunting and ‘why’ of moa extinction. Radiocarbon dates suggest that moa hunting varied regionally but was most intensive between 500 and 800 BP. In determining the time of extinction, Anderson discusses Maori accounts, the nature of the surface record and most importantly, the archaeological evidence which suggests a later extinction period of between 400 and 500 BP.

The discussion on the causality of extinction begins with a model of the relationship of consumers and moa numbers at three different levels of annual consumption. He attempts to quantify the overkill hypothesis, which leads to estimates of standing crops, culling and consumption rates. Although there is considerable discrepancy between ‘observed and expected rates of moa consumption’ (due to the incomplete nature of the moa record) he concludes that overkill is a ‘feasible hypothesis’ and looks at the various options – blitzkrieg, rolling waves and serial overkill. Features of the predator-prey relationship which ‘encouraged overexploitation’ were that moas were maladapted to a large terrestrial carnivore; the absence of alternative prey species; the non-selective behaviour of the hunters; ‘topographical fragmentation’ and the difficulty of recolonisation. Other causes of moa extinction such as the effects of disease, dogs, rats and habitat destruction are also discussed. Anderson is not committed to a single cause but favours serial exploitation of geographically separate moa populations in tandem with habitat destruction.

Throughout this book Anderson demonstrates the complexities of answering so-called simple questions. In doing so, his research is bold in its scope and blatantly ignores the conventional boundaries between archaeology, palaeontology and the biological sciences. Nor is it beyond Anderson to suggest solutions to problems traditionally seen as the stuff of other (non-archaeological) disciplines. He has produced a remarkably solid synthesis of past and present knowledge of moa biology and archaeology. The book will serve not only as an invaluable reference of New Zealand prehistoric archaeology, but as a guide for those who investigate the archaeology of other types of vertebrate prey, be it extinct or extant. I can only highly recommend it.

Review of ‘Invitation to Archaeology’ by Philip Rahtz

Holdaway Book Review Cover 1994‘Invitation to Archaeology’ Second Edition by Philip Rahtz, 1991, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 192 pp. ISBN 0-631-18067-2 (pbk).

Review by Simon Holdaway

Invitation to Archaeology is part of a series of books that introduce subjects like philosophy, industrial relations and law to the general reader. That Rahtz’s volume has now appeared as the only second edition in this series must attest to its popularity. Written ‘to show that archaeology is important to people and to society’ (p. vii) the book begins by defining the scope of archaeology in relation to other fields of study and outlining the nature of archaeological interpretation. Chapter 2 reviews how archaeologists finance their activities and then lists the reasons why archaeological work is undertaken. These range from intellectual curiosity, through promotion of tourism to the aggrandisement of the archaeologist’s ego. This later comment is typical of a number of statements in the book that Rahtz feels are ‘honest, uninhibited and indiscreet’ but which this reviewer (along with those who commented on the earlier edition) finds ‘anecdotal, prejudiced and inaccurate’ (p.vii). Part of Chapter 2, for instance, provides a ‘whirlwind tour’ (p.40) of archaeology in a number of regions of the world. Australian archaeologists will be gratified to learn that archaeological work at Sydney and Canberra (but not by implication at other universities) has shown the great antiquity of the Aboriginal people in Australia, but dismayed that this information has come too late to save them (i.e. the Aboriginal people) from some unspecified fate (p.34). Those of us who have worked in New Zealand will be equally surprised to learn that to study archaeology properly ‘one has to marry a Maori’ (p.36). These and a host of other comments (particularly the critical attacks on Irish and American archaeology) detract from a book that clearly conveys the enthusiasm Rahtz has for his subject. Perhaps a little more scholarly research – besides holidays abroad (p.64) – would have made his descriptions more factual.

Chapter 3 deals with archaeology in Britain which, according to Rahtz, is characterised by an even handed
treatment, free from any attempt to give priority to
nationalist interests (in contrast to the archaeology
practised in the rest of the world, see pages 41-2).
Chapter 4 deals with Rahtz’s own career culminating
in his appointment to the chair of archaeology at York.
In the chapter entitled ‘What do archaeologists do?’, sketches are provided from the point of view of a student at university studying archaeology, a person involved in an excavation, someone working in a professional (CRM) unit, and a professor of archaeology. Chapter 6 deals with how archaeologists draw
inferences from a range of observations of extant cultures; from the economic specialisation of cities in Morocco to the sale of religious paraphernalia at Lourdes. What Rahtz terms fringe archaeology is dealt with in the following chapter. Fringe archaeologists range from those who write science fiction and historical novels to those who seek in archaeology support of religious beliefs and myth. Chapter 8 provides two case studies, one concerned with the debates surrounding the new excavations at Sutton Hoo and the other with the excavations at the medieval village of Wharram Percy. A final chapter deals with archaeology and the public, exploring the ways public interest in the subject can be stimulated.

Invitation to Archaeology is not aimed at a scholarly audience, rather it is a book written by an archaeologist at the end of his career designed to capture the
imagination of a new generation. In this Rahtz is successful. But it is a pity that he finds it necessary to rely so much on anecdote rather than scholarly research to fulfill this worthwhile aim.

Review of ‘Pitt Rivers. The life and archaeological work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, DCL FRS FSA’ by Mark Bowden

Review by Ron Lampert

Lampert Book Review Cover 1994‘Pitt Rivers. The life and archaeological work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, DCL FRS FSA’ by Mark Bowden, 1991, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, xvi + 182 pp. ISBN 0-521-400775 (hbk).

For many people the name Pitt Rivers will evoke a museum – a ‘magnificently eccentric museum’ in the words of the author – at Oxford University. Archaeologists however will also associate the name with a great nineteenth century originator of archaeological method, though their reasons for holding this opinion are more likely to stem from reading the views of a few archaeological historians than from a first-hand assessment of the work of Pitt Rivers.

Before reading Bowden’s excellent biography my ideas on Pitt Rivers had been shaped to a large extent by such views. Like those of Wheeler (1956:13) who followed and developed Pitt Rivers’ methods and principles, seeing him as the ‘greatest of all archaeological excavators’; Piggott (1966:45) who notes that he:

suddenly, and entirely on his own, began to conduct large-scale excavations in what we would consider a wholly modem manner … he published his results with extraordinary speed;

and Daniel (1967: 291) who saw Pitt Rivers as one of ‘the great discoverers and innovators of the last quarter of the nineteenth century.’ Impressive though these views were to me, when I first read them twenty-five or so years ago, I was swayed more by examining Pitt Rivers’ Excavations in Cranborne Chase (4 Vols, 1887-98) with its magnificent leather bound volumes, its photographs showing trenches cut precisely through gigantic earthworks and page after page of beautifully drawn flints, skulls and pottery. With these images in mind it was of particular interest to me to read the broader and more fully argued assessment of Pitt Rivers that this new book provides.

Sketchier appraisals by recent commentators give a more varied range of views on Pitt Rivers than those expressed above, perhaps not surprising given the current vogue for the writing of revisionist histories. While to some he remains among the greatest of archaeologists, even ‘the father of scientific archaeology’, others see him as little more than ‘an amusing eccentric with a private band and a menagerie of exotic animals’. Mark Bowden sets out these varied opinions clearly in the first chapter, using them to pose a question about Pitt Rivers; status as an archaeologist which he attempts to answer in the remaining chapters.

One possible source of confusion in any work on Pitt Rivers is name change that occurred in mid-career. Throughout most of his life his surname was

Lane Fox, under which his early archaeological reports are published. In 1880 he had to adopt the Pitt Rivers name on inheriting from Lord Rivers an estate of more than 32,000 acres in Cranborne Chase (Dorset- Wiltshire). It is to the biographer’s credit that he manages to use both names, in accordance with the time each was valid, without confusing the reader unduly. Uncertain of my own skills however I will use the name Pitt Rivers throughout this review even where obviously anachronistic.

Pitt Rivers’ early career was as a soldier, a role in which he seems to have enjoyed success, rising to the rank of lieutenant-general and being responsible for training the army in new techniques in musketry around the time of the Crimean War. This background was to serve him well as an archaeologist, providing organisational skills, the ability to read topography and draw maps and plans, and a sense of judgement in the interpretation of the many defensive earthworks k was to excavate.

He moved in a remarkable intellectual group that included Charles Darwin, Thomas Henry Huxley, Herbert Spencer, Edward Burnett Tylor and John Lubbock. Small wonder then that he had a broad range of research interests, as can be deduced by merely scanning his bibliography. Among more than 40 scientific publications are works not only on archaeology but also on ethnology, anthropometry, taxonomy, military history and museology. Although excavation reports are most numerous, other topics include the Egyptian boomerang, Andamanese and Nicobarese artefacts, early locks and keys, Benin works of art, early navigation and primitive warfare. The title of one paper, ‘On measurements taken on officers and men of the 2nd Royal Surrey Militia’ indicates that he was not averse to using his position in the army to obtain anthropometric data.

Despite his wide interests and an ability to develop new archaeological methods, Pitt Rivers’ views on human culture were very much in the evolutionist mould of his times. Cultural change was seen as analogous to natural evolution, a system in which socially and intellectually inferior cultures would eventually fade away through processes of natural selection. To illustrate this, he collected ethnographical and displayed it in his museums largely to instruct the public on how societies could be seen as ranging from ‘primitive’ at one end of the scale to ‘civilised’ at the other, the motivation for which according to Bowden being a desire to reinforce the ‘existing social order’ even though it also ‘supported a dangerous form of racism’.

Pitt Rivers excavated sites throughout Britain and on leaving the army through ill health was appointed the first Inspector of Ancient Monuments. In later years however, after acquiring the Pitt Rivers inheritance, he focused his research on the numerous archaeological sites that lay within the bounds of his estate in Cranborne Chase. Bowden provides a useful precis of all of Pitt Rivers’ major excavations. These descriptions are used to underpin the main arguments in the final chapter where the question of the status of Pitt Rivers as an archaeologist is addressed.

I was surprised to learn that Pitt Rivers’ excavation technique, the mainstay of his reputation, left much to be desired. A major failing was a lack of any real understanding of stratigraphy: strata clearly visible in photographs taken during excavation often escaped mention in the text; many finds were not assigned to strata; and he excavated in deep horizontal spits irrespective of the direction of the stratigraphy – a photograph republished by Bowden (Fig. 42) shows the removal of the infilling of a ditch with spits cutting across the strata. His digging methods were rough and ready, teams of labourers being employed to literally shovel out the deposits. As a result many small finds were missed, something on which Bowden can speak with particular authority having re-excavated several of Pitt Rivers’ sites and examined his spoil heaps.

Pitt Rivers’ claim to fame rests on other attributes. 
His attention to the small finds he did recover was
exemplary. They are often exquisitely illustrated in
his reports. While not all readers might agree with
his biographer’s assertion that ‘curation is better than
publication’, the preservation of excavated finds of all
classes in his museum collections certainly allows
the better reinterpretation of his sites in more recent
times. Moreover he viewed archaeology as an extension of anthropology and, as a consequence, built up
matching collections of both archaeological and ethno-
graphic objects to show longer developmental sequences – albeit to support his ideas of cultural evolution.
In the classification of such objects he became an expert and is even credited with the invention of the
word ‘typology’. But a more likely explanation is that
he was the first to apply the word to material culture
given that my Oxford English Dictionary suggests a somewhat different coinage

He was without doubt a brilliant interpreter of excavated evidence as not only Bowden, but also Daniel has noted. Also of importance was his development of experimental techniques to pursue specific questions. Among these were the building up of type collections of contemporary animal skeletons for comparison with archaeological bones and the conducting of field experiments in ditch siltation.

It was the wide range of Pitt Rivers’ achievements that in the author’s view justifies the title ‘father of scientific archaeology’. I must confess to being a little less convinced about the merit of such an al embracing title. Certainly Pitt Rivers made an out- standing contribution to archaeology. Although not without shortcomings he established a range of methods and put forward ideas on which later progress towards modem archaeology was based. Mortimer Wheeler for example was able to further this process by adding his own special skills as a stratigrapher.

For those with an interest in the history of archaeology this is a book not to be missed. It is well researched and, even if some of the author’s conclusions are open to dispute, the evidence is at least laid out in a manner that allows reappraisal. It provides a balanced account of the work of a leader in the development of archaeology whose reputation had previously been known mainly from brief comments by other archaeologists.


Daniel, G. 1967 The Origins and Growth of Archaeology. London: Penguin

Piggott, S. 1966 Approach to Archaeology. London: Penguin.

Wheeler, R.E.M.1956 Archaeology from the Earth. London: Penguin.

Thesis abstract ‘Situating Style: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of Social and Material Context in an Australian Aboriginal Artistic System’


Claire Smith

PhD, Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale, September 1994

This is an ethnoarchaeological study of style in the visual arts of Aboriginal people living in the Barunga region of the Northern Territory, Australia. My main concern is the development of a practical framework for the analysis of style in indigenous visual arts. This framework integrates the notions of style, semiotics and social strategy in an attempt to deal with the dynamics of image creation and perception.

The principal result is that the morphological characteristics of style are influenced systematically by the historically situated positions of both producer and interpreter and by the differing strengths, possibilities and constraints of different raw materials. Moreover, each raw material has inherent qualities that make it particularly suitable for specific social uses. Since different media within an artistic system are likely to exhibit a unique combination of stylistic characteristics, including differing degrees of diversity, it is incorrect to assume that a single art form will be indicative of an artistic system as a whole.

My conclusions are that research needs to be focused clearly on the contexts in which archaeological art occurs and comparative studies need to compare like with like. Single explanations are unlikely to be sufficient since it is most likely that they tell only part of the story. In addition, seemingly anomalous evidence should not be discounted, but should be used as a basis for inquiry into the likelihood of alternative scenarios that coexist with the main explanation.

Thesis abstract ‘The Influence of Cave Topography on the Spatial Patterning of Stone Artefacts: A GIS Assisted Study in Horizontal Taphonomy at Petzkes Cave, Northern New South Wales’

Robert Theunissen

BA(Hons), Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale, August, 1995

Spatial patterns of artefacts produced by purposeful human behaviour are often, if not always, affected by subsequent disturbance processes. The precise effects of these disturbances on spatial patterning must be understood and identified before interpretation in terms of human behaviour can proceed. In cave sites there is also reason to believe that the effects of disturbance processes are concentrated in space by aspects of cave topography, such as the shape of walls and overhang, ceiling height, and sediment compaction. This research project aims to establish the extent to which the spatial pattern of stone artefacts at Petzkes Cave is the result of two types of disturbance, human trampling and drip-line run-off, operating under the influence of these aspects of cave topography.

A model is developed from the literature which predicts the frequency and average size of artefacts expected to occur in spatial ‘zones’ defined by particular conditions of cave topography, from the action of human trampling and drip-line disturbance. The exact spatial positions of individual artefacts were recorded during excavation using an EDM theodolite, and the topography at Petzkes Cave was subsequently mapped by taking point measurements of ceiling height using the EDM and sediment compaction using a home-made penetrometer. An innovative aspect of the study is the use of a Geographical Information System (GIS) to electronically capture and recreate both cave topography and the artefact distribution in three dimensional space. This facility makes it possible to test the model by providing a means to link the spatial distribution of artefacts directly to cave topography.

To verify the human trampling component of the model, a trampling experiment was conducted at the site. This confirms that cave topography, especially ceiling height, does indeed influence the spatial distribution and size-sorting of stone artefacts produced by human trampling. The horizontal displacement of artefacts is greater in areas of the cave with a high ceiling, where human movement is not restricted. Larger artefacts are displaced more than smaller artefacts, presumably because they are more likely to be scuffed by passing feet. Sediment compaction also influences lateral displacement of artefacts, but only in areas of the cave where ceiling height allows people to walk freely.

The experimental results were used to refine the model, and the predictions of the refined model were then sought in the excavated sample at Petzkes Cave. The match found is the experimental results, there is also a strong inverse relationship between artefact frequency/weight over space and cave ceiling height which can be linked to human trampling disturbance. In fact, the demonstrated influence of cave topography on the effects of such ubiquitous disturbance processes suggests that the spatial patterns of stone artefacts found in most caves will be extremely site-specific, reflecting variations in local topography as much as the original patterns produced by purposeful human behaviour. These findings suggest that Petzkes and other cave sites are inappropriate for the spatial study of discrete human activities.

The Gooreng Gooreng Cultural Heritage Project: First radiocarbon determinations

Ian Lilley, Sean Ulm and Deborah Brian


We report radiocarbon determinations from 1995 test excavations in two shell midden complexes on the central Queensland coast. The work was conducted as part of the Aboriginal cultural heritage study being undertaken in collaboration with the Gurang Land Council that we have described elsewhere (Lilley and Ulm 1995). The dates are the first to be reported from the 350 km stretch of coast between the Keppel Islands in the north (Rowland 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1992) and Booral in the south (Frankland 1990).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

An Aboriginal burial with grave goods near Cooma, New South Wales

Kangaroo teeth arranged to form a necklace, from the Cooma burial site (published in Australaian Archaeology 43:41).

Kangaroo teeth arranged to form a necklace, from the Cooma burial site (published in Australaian Archaeology 43:41).

Sue Feary


An Aboriginal site, accidentally exposed during a creek flooding episode in 1991, contained the skeletons of two individuals dated to ca 7000 years BP, together with a suite of rare grave goods. Although highly disturbed, the site is highly significant, both as the oldest recorded burial on the New South Wales southern tablelands and for the rarity of the grave goods. The pierced kangaroo teeth found with the burials and presumably once part of a necklace are the first of their kind to be found in Australia. Similar items recorded previously include a necklace of pierced Sarcophilous teeth discovered at Lake Nitchie in western New South Wales (Macintosh et al. 1970) and a headband of grooved macropod teeth at Roonka Flat on the Murray River (Pretty 1977).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

A note on the abandonment of raised field agricultural systems in the lower Bensbach River area, southwest Papua New Guinea

A mound and ditch taro garden in the Morehead District (around 1930) (published in Australian Archaeology 43:38).

A mound and ditch taro garden in the Morehead District (around 1930) (published in Australian Archaeology 43:38).

Garrick Hitchcock


Construction of raised field agricultural systems was once widespread throughout the lowlands of south coast New Guinea and on Saibai Island in northern Torres Strait, but is no longer practised in many parts of the region (Swadling 1983:26–27). This is the case along the lower Bensbach River in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province, near the border with West Papua (Irian Jaya), where relict field systems comprising long rectangular mounds separated by ditches are the most salient archaeological features. It has been suggested that these and other mound-and-ditch systems in western lowland Papua were abandoned some time prior to European colonisation (which began in the late nineteenth century) following a population decline in the area (Barham and Harris 1985, 1987; Harris 1995; Harris and Laba 1982). Recent ethnographic and archival research demonstrates, however, that abandonment of the Bensbach River systems took place more recently, and indicates that changes in local environmental conditions played a key role in this process.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

The Ngarrabullgan Homeland Project: Current research in Kuku Djungan country, north Queensland

Bruno David


View of Ngarrabullgan (published in Australian Archaeology 43:33).

View of Ngarrabullgan (published in Australian Archaeology 43:33).

In 1988, one of us (BD) visited Ngarrabullgan (Mt Mulligan) for the first time (Figures 1 and 2). The then lessee of the mountain, Mr Reg Adams, was a particularly conscientious grazier, with family members subscribers of the World Wildlife Fund, keen advocates for the protection of cultural heritage places, and firm believers that the cattle property containing Ngarrabullgan (Kondaparinga Station) should be returned to its rightful owners, the Kuku Djungan Aboriginal people.

Within four years of this initial visit, Kondaparinga Station was for sale. Despite a higher bid by a Japanese firm (who had already made plans for a tourist resort on the mountain), an 1lth hour deal between the recently formed Kuku Djungan Aboriginal Corporation and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage secured the mountain and surrounding areas for the traditional owners (via ATSIC funding—the history of this deal will be recounted elsewhere). Suffice it to say here that this tum of events had a major outcome for archaeological practice in the region, for during our first archaeological field visit to the area, one of us (BD) was directed to Ngarrabullgan Cave by Kuku Djungan Elder, Mr John Grainer Snr (also Chairperson of both the Kuku Djungan Aboriginal Corporation and the North Queensland Aboriginal Land Council). The ensuing excavation soon revealed one of the oldest radiocarbon dated Aboriginal sites in Australia, with a conventional radiocarbon date of >37,170 BP (David 1993).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Review of Devil’s Lair artefact classification and radiocarbon chronology

South sections of Trenches 9, 8(2) and 9, with trench plan inset from Devil's Lair (published in Australian Archaeology 43:30).

South sections of Trenches 9, 8(2) and 9, with trench plan inset from Devil’s Lair (published in Australian Archaeology 43:30).

Charlie E. Dortch and Joe Dortch


The radiometric chronology of the Devil’s Lair cave deposit in southwestern Australia, excavated during the 1970s by a Western Australian Museum team, is currently being assessed through luminescence and AMS 14C dating. Also underway is a long overdue inventory of this site’s stone and bone artefact assemblages. Our purpose here is to revise some previously published archaeological classifications of Devil’s Lair artefacts, and to confirm human occupation of the cave as early as ca 31,000 yr BP, as implied by conventional radiocarbon dates obtained 20 years ago.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Consultancy and thesis – what’s the difference? Two approaches to archaeological survey of Jumping Creek Valley, Queanbeyan

A brick limestone burning kiln (published in Australian Archaeology 43:25).

A brick limestone burning kiln (published in Australian Archaeology 43:25).

Phil Boot and Peter Kuskie


In this paper we present a discussion on two approaches used to study a 100 hectare block of land near Queanbeyan, New South Wales. The two approaches, that of a consultant and that of a research student, were based on different requirements, however they produced complementary results due to close liaison between consultant and student. We will be discussing the differences between the two approaches and the ways in which these differences produced results which are complementary, yet individual.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

A preliminary analysis of basal grindstones from the Carnarvon Range, Little Sandy Desert

View of Serpent's Glen, Carnarvon Range (published in Australian Archaeology 43:22).

View of Serpent’s Glen, Carnarvon Range (published in Australian Archaeology 43:22).

Peter Veth and Sue O’Connor


Australian prehistorians have devised morphological categories for grindstones in order to separate those assumed to be of a generalised function from those used more specifically for grinding seeds (cf. Cane 1984; Smith 1985, 1986). This division is a functional one, with grindstones, or ‘amorphous grindstones’, being multipurpose tools used to grind not only plants but also other materials such as animals and minerals. In contrast, seed-grinding implements are described as being more specialised tools. Their primary, if not exclusive, function is to process edible seeds. Amorphous grindstones are characterised as having a flat grinding surface, while formal grindstones used in the wet milling process have one or two deeper grooves.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

In defence of Arnhem Land rock art research

Darrell Lewis


In 1992 two papers dealing with Arnhem Land rock art were published by Ivan Haskovec. Both contain previously unpublished illustrations of rock paintings and increase the range of published material available for scholarly analysis. One paper examines a particular style of human figure found between Oenpelli and Magela Creek, which Haskovec has labelled ‘Northern Running Figures’ or ‘NRF’ (Haskovec 1992a). He begins his examination with an assessment of the existing Arnhem Land rock art sequences. Then he moves on to discuss the spatial and temporal distribution of the figures, and to describe the style and its content. Finally, he suggests absolute dates for the period during which the figures were produced.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Self-representation and Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory: Implications for archaeological research

Northern Territory languages with more than 100 speakers (published in Australian Archaeology 43:9).

Northern Territory languages with more than 100 speakers (published in Australian Archaeology 43:9).

Peter Thorley


Recent criticisms of ethnographic practice have focused attention on the way Aborigines (among other groups) are represented in anthropological literature (Carrier 1992, 1995; Myers 1986a; Rose 1992; Toussaint 1994, 1996). In archaeology, the notion of representation has been raised in relation to issues such as ownership of the past (McBryde 1985), the role of Indigenous communities in archaeological research (Pardoe 1992) and in the context of current theoretical discussions within the discipline (Hodder 1991; Smith 1995). It has been suggested recently that Australia is responding to broader trends in adopting reflexive approaches to archaeology, approaches which are directed toward the analysis of the author’s role, placing particular emphasis on the production of texts (Burke et al. 1994). My main concern here is with the practical implications of these ideas, that is, how they apply in the face to face situations in which archaeologists working in remote Australia are typically engaged. In this paper, examples are drawn from Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory to illustrate the complexities of self-representation through archaeological research.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Historical graffiti in northern Australia: Evidence of European settlement and society in the Selwyn Range of northwest Queensland

Detailed view of the balding man in a buttoned jacket image (published in Australian Archaeology 43:2).

Detailed view of the balding man in a buttoned jacket image (published in Australian Archaeology 43:2).

Hilary P.M. Winchester, Iain Davidson and David R. O’Brien


European graffiti dated 1905, including names, initials, and obscene drawings and verse, have been found interspersed with Aboriginal engravings in a sandstone rockshelter near the Mount Elliott copper mine in northwest Queensland (Fig. 1). These graffiti enrich our knowledge of both the town and the people of the area. The township of Selwyn developed after the opening of the Mount Elliott smelter in 1910, and the first official record of it occurs in the Queensland Towns Directory in 1911. However, the graffiti are indicative of European settlement in Selwyn-Mount Elliott some years prior to this. Some of the names and initials in the graffiti can be traced through historical records such as the state electoral rolls, which provide details of age, occupation and mobility. Furthermore, the drawings and verse provide evidence, albeit indicative and tentative, of the state of gender, sexual and ethnic relations in the Australian pioneer fringe environment. This study demonstrates the value of historical graffiti in reconstructing aspects of early European settlement.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Thesis abstract ‘Collectors as Taphonomic Agents for the Archaeological Record’


Jill L. Ruig

BA(Hons), Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale, October 1995

This thesis investigates the activities of collectors and the impact that collecting has had on the archaeological record in particular on historical sites. Despite heritage legislation, collectors have been allowed, through the inaction and therefore the passive sanction of heritage law enforcement agencies, to destroy historical archaeological sites for personal gain.

There is Federal, New South Wales and Queensland heritage legislation that is applicable to collectors of historical artefacts. However, the majority of the Acts are too restricted in their application, though some could prove useh1 if their provisions were enforced. Many have not been tested in a court of law. No precedents have been set and there has been little opportunity to identify inherent weaknesses. In order to determine how collectors perceive our heritage laws, various popular publications such as Australian Gold, Gem and Treasure, Australian Bottle Review, Australian Antique Bottle Collector and Australian Antique Bottles and Collectables were studied. Several of the Acts and their provisions are well known to collectors, the information (with some misinformation) being disseminated throughout the collecting community. Acts which are well known to the collectors are those administered by heritage officials who have implemented education programmes specifically aimed at collectors. However, the majority of the heritage Acts are blatantly ignored. Collecting continues apace, demonstrating that current enforcement procedures are ineffective in protecting historical archaeological heritage.

Published records of 440 collecting episodes provided the raw data for analysis of various aspects of collector behaviour: the scale of activities, collector methodologies, types of material collected and sites exploited, sector of the community most likely to target this source of collectibles and the Australian states where this type of activity is most frequent.

The illicit collection of artefacts has important implications for the archaeological profession. For accurate archaeological analyses and interpretation of artefact assemblages, it is essential that the effects of collectors are identified and taken into account. To do this, it is necessary to first gain an understanding of the field methodologies that are being promoted in popular magazines and subsequently employed by collectors on historical sites.

An analysis of the data shows that collectors are systematic and thorough in their approach to collecting archaeological materials. The methods and strategies used are very similar (albeit uncontrolled) to those used by the archaeological profession: preliminary research, predictive modelling, identification of potential sites, site reconnaissance, survey, test excavation, fill excavation, interpretation and dating of the cultural materials found. Each of these is illustrated in this thesis with actual accounts of use within Australia as described by the collectors themselves in the popular literature. Most of this material has been published over the last 25 years and is freely available to the general public. Through popular magazines, manuals, maps, videos, shows and meetings, collectors are actively promoting collecting to the wider community as an acceptable pastime, and the idea that heritage legislation is ineffective. Although these publications are widely available, I found no evidence of heritage law enforcement agencies using this source to stem the flow of historical archaeological materials into the hands of private collectors.

Thesis abstract ‘Salisbury Axe Quarry: The Acquisition, Distribution and Cross-Exchange Patterns from a Local Distribution Site’

Suzanne Hudson

BA(Hons), Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale, October 1996

This thesis analysed quarry products and their distribution across the landscape in order to obtain information on past exchange systems, technologies, social relations and population movements. It focused on the spatial distribution and technological variation apparent in stone from the Salisbury Aboriginal stone axe quarry, situated near Uralla in northern New South Wales. The results were then interpreted in terms of the social and resource landscape.

According to Binns and McBryde (1972), the Salisbury quarry was of ‘local’ rather than ‘long transfer’ type with a restricted dispersal of products. My study confirmed this finding but also showed that the Salisbury stone was highly patterned in its dispersal. Basically, no axes were found to the east of the quarry, but some specimens had been moved up to 50 km to the west. This pattern of dispersal closely matched the nature of the social relations between Aboriginal groups observed in the historic period. Specifically, there was traditional enmity between people of the New England Tablelands and the coast. In addition, the density of axe distribution closely matched the distribution of food resources.

The thesis also studied axes made from exotic material found in the Salisbury region. Most of the ‘exotic’ stone was provenanced to the Daruka quarry at Moore Creek some 80 km to the south. Exotic axes were found to be of similar size to axes made from local materials.

I also systematically examined surface material from selected sample squares within the Salisbury axe quarry in order to obtain information on manufacturing processes and dispersal patterns. Artefacts remaining at the quarry were then compared with off-site material. By gaining an understanding of the use of the Salisbury quarry, it was possible to interpret the importance of the minor quarries within the local area and the significance of exotic quarries to the Aboriginal people who once lived in the study area. The major findings of the study did not always agree with the hypotheses formulated by earlier researchers in the New England region. For instance:

1. Interpretation of the resource landscape indicates that the area was possibly not as resource-poor in stone and food resources as originally thought.

2. Oral history refers to the Tablelands people spending winters at the coast: this appears unlikely as the numbers of axes define the movement of people to the west of the region. There was a preference for locally obtained raw material over that from Moore Creek. The exotic material was not regarded as prestige but as utilitarian material.

3. A ‘no-person-zone’ has been identified to the east of the quarry, as no axes from either Salisbury or eastern sources were found in this area. Godwin (1990) states that linguistic evidence points to a break between eastern groups and the Anaiwan people living in the Uralla area.

4. Belshaw (1978) states that the Anaiwan area was used as a ‘marchland’ between two powerful groups, the Gamilaroi and Dainggati. This appears not to be the case, as there is no crossover of axes from the eastern groups.

5. No axes have been found near Mt Yarrowyck (an art site). It is suggested that this area was used for religious purposes only and that hunting was not carried out around the site.


Belshaw, J. 1978 Population distribution and the pattern of seasonal movement in northern New South Wales. In I. McBryde (ed.), Records of Times Past, pp.65–8 1. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

Binns, R.A. and I. McBryde, 1972 A Petrological Analysis of Ground-Edge Artefacts from Northern New South Wales. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

Godwin, L. 1990 Inside Information: Settlement and Alliance in the Late Holocene of Northeastern New South Wales. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale.

Thesis abstract ‘An Investigation into the Aboriginal Rock Art Paints of the Selwyn Ranges Region in North West Queensland’

Malcolm Ridges

BSc(Hons), Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale, October 1995

It has become well established that minute quantities of organic matter can be extracted from rock paints and dated using radiocarbon methods. Many of these dates have been used to suggest the antiquity of painting. This has led to discrepancies emerging between these dates and rock art chronologies determined using other dating techniques. Some researchers are now questioning how accurately the age of a painting can be determined by measuring the radiocarbon age of its organic contents. It was the proposition of this thesis that the analysis of prehistoric rock paints requires a greater emphasis on understanding the organic environment of a painting. It is believed that this would promote an understanding of the origin and history of substances found within rock paints. Specific organic substances could then be extracted and isolated from the paints for the purpose of radiocarbon dating, the age of these substances being more easily argued as having a similar antiquity as the act of painting.

This study was a baseline study, establishing that organic matter was present in the paints, that the amount of organic matter could be quantified and that different types of organic matter could be identified in different paints. An important aspect of this thesis was also to investigate the organic content of materials associated with the paintings, and the act of painting. Thus the organic composition of the supporting rock substrate, mineral skins forming on the rock surface and an ochre pigment source were also investigated. Analysis of the paints’ organic environment in the Selwyn region shows that sufficient organic material for radiocarbon dating was present in several paints that did not utilise a charcoal-based pigment. Importantly, it was also demonstrated that the organic material in these paints can have a multitude of origins. This implies that methods which seek to radiocarbon date the entire organic content of a paint, are not accurate indicators of a painting’s age. The resulting radiocarbon measurement will be an average of the different history of each organic substance, and is unlikely to reflect the actual antiquity of the painting.

This thesis concluded by suggesting that the analysis of the organic environment of rock paints is an equally important aspect of dating paintings, as the dating itself. It is suggested that the adoption of a methodology that seeks to characterise the organic composition of rock paints, before radiocarbon dating is considered, will lead to better approaches to determining the age of rock paintings by using their organic constituents.

Obituary: Sandor (Alexander) Gallus

Sandor (Alexander) Gallus.

Sandor (Alexander) Gallus.

Vincent Megaw

Obituary: Sandor (Alexander) Gallus (b. 15 November 1907, Sopron, Hungary; d. 29 December 1996, Melbourne, Australia)

The name of Gallus will mean little or nothing to most younger archaeologists who have received their professional training in Australia. Yet when an adequate historical survey comes to be written about the development of archaeology Down Under there is no doubt that Sandor Gallus will be found a place.

Sandor Gallus left Hungary in 1945 following the Communist take-over and after four years in Austria arrived in Australia in 1949. Previously, with degrees in both Szeged and Budapest, he had worked from 1931 to 1945 in the Prehistory Department of the Magyar Nemzeti Muzeum (Hungarian National Museum), latterly as its Head. His first substantial publication was of the extraordinary series of figural decorated pots of the early Hallstatt Iron Age found in the major barrow cemetery which, with its attendant fortified settlement, overlooked his home town of Sopron on the Hungarian-Austrian border (Gallus 1934). (One of my most valued books is a copy of Gallus’ study, formerly the property of the European Iron Age specialist, Wilhelm Jenny, which I found in 1974 in a Sopron antiquarian bookshop.) While most of Gallus’ early Hungarian field work and publications were centred on local Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age material, he also published a note on a newly identified Palaeolithic site (Gallus 1937)—a hint perhaps of the shape of interests to come.

The early post-War period was hard for many refugees and Gallus’ first five years in Melbourne in various unskilled jobs could be matched by the experience of many Central European intellectuals and professional people who, on arrival in Australia, found their formal qualifications unwanted and unrecognised. Also, there was not a single prehistorian trained in European prehistory in an Australian university until John Mulvaney’s appointment in 1953 to a Lectureship in the Department of History at Melbourne. In the ’60s the first archaeologists to be appointed as such arrived in Australia from Britain, with Isabel McBryde at UNE being the only other indigenous prehistorian in post. Hardly surprising then that a country which in 1957 could ignore the final homecoming of Vere Gordon Childe knew nothing of Sandor Gallus.

Finally, Gallus found a position in the Victorian Education Department where he remained in one capacity or another until he retired. Fortunately for Gallus, Victoria was the one State, with the exception of the ACT whose Canberra Archaeological Society was established by ex-patriot archaeologists from the UK, to have a flourishing and of necessity almost entirely amateur Archaeological Society. Be that as it may, Gallus soon had attracted to himself a devoted and enthusiastic collection of amateurs, physicists, geologists and even local professional archaeologists; subsequently he became President and then Honorary Member of what is now the Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria which in June 1983 dedicated a special volume of The Artefact to him.

While at the time some archaeologists queried the granting to him of research funds by the (then) Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, he was elected a Member of the Institute in 1966 three years after becoming an Associate of Current Anthropology, in whose pages he was a frequent commentator on such various and varied topics as genetics, human migration, artefact typology and symbolic systems. In his own Australian research, Gallus had two particular main themes, both really having their origins in interests he had developed as far back as his post-graduate studies in Budapest. First was the Pleistocene spread of humankind and second the examination of material remains as evidence of population movements. Supported by his team of loyal supporters (by whom he was always referred to simply as ‘the Doc? he set out to demonstrate his belief in an early, and for those days very early, Pleistocene occupation of Australia with excavations first at Koonalda Cave on the Nullarbor Plain (Wright 197 1) and secondly at Keilor on the terraces of the Maribyrnong River (for summaries of both sites see Flood 1995:57–59, 103 and 152–154).

His views were nothing if not controversial. But while most would still doubt Gallus’ claims that, rather than waste material, there is at both localities a definite Pleistocene industry with Old World links, it is indisputable that Koonalda’s rock art and mining site was in use between about 24,000 and 14,000 BP. Jim Bowler’s discovery at Keilor in 1971 of an undoubted flake implement in a clay bed which also contained remains of extinct megafauna, seems securely dated to between 45,000 and 36,000 BP. And after all, Gallus is not the only person to have claimed to have evidence of human occupation in Australia with an antiquity of 100,000 to 75,000 BP …

In his last years Gallus fell prone to a distressing illness which cut him off virtually entirely not only from his family but from that stimulus of intellectual debate which up till then he had never relinquished even in the xenophobic nightmare world of post-WWII Australia. In 1965 he had published an article entitled ‘Hungarian history: an analysis’ in the Hungarian language Australian Hungarian Association Calendar. He had often talked of writing a complete cultural, social and political history of his native land but that was not to be.

Early in the New Year of 1997, Sandor Gallus was laid to rest in the Hungarian Community Centre outside Melbourne where a very pretty modem version of a typical Hungarian village church has been built. The service was read—as Gallus would have wished—in Latin. Present were many of the ‘Doc’s’ old crew of volunteers from Koonalda and Keilor days. The occasion was also attended by many members of the local Australian Hungarian Association, of which he had been the first Melbourne President. Someone had found a rather scratchy tape of Gallus at the age of 75 lecturing on the Hungarian diaspora. His ashes have been placed in the crypt of the little church, safe from the uncertainties of burial in a public place.

Hungarians have always been renowned as consummate word-smiths and weavers of tales. Hungarians are also adept in telling stories both about and against themselves. For example, one definition of a Hungarian is ‘Someone who goes into a set of revolving doors behind one and comes out in front’. I’m sure it sounds better in Hungarian, but I like to think that, after having survived many obstacles in two very different parts of the world, now the ‘Doc’ can look back at us and say ‘Well then, who came out in front?’

Gallus Sandor—Viszontliitasra!


Flood, J. 1995 Archaeology of the Dreamtime. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Gallus, S. 1934 A Soproni Burgstall alakos urnai (Die figuralverzierten Urnen vom Soproner Burgstall). Archaeologia Hungarica (Budapest) 13

Gallus, S. 1937 Nehany ujabb magyarorszagi paleolit le16hely (Einige neuen Palaolithfundstellen Ungarns). Archeologiai Ertesito 137–139:121.

Gallus, S. 1983 Excavations at Keilor, Victoria. Report No. 3: Excavation in the ‘D’ clay. The Artefact 8(1–2):11–42.

Megaw, J.V.S. 1983 Sandor Gallus – Archaeologist in two hemispheres. The Artefact 8(1–2):3–8.

Wright, R.V.S. (ed.) 1971 Archaeology of the Gallus Site, Koonalda Cave. Australian Aboriginal Studies 26, Prehistory Series 5. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

I am much indebted to the Gallus family and in particular my colleague Dr Alex Gallus for allowing me to use material cited here and for supplying the illustration. James Evans and other members of the Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria also assisted me in finding a suitable image. A complete listing of Gallus’ published work up to 1982 can be found in Megaw (1983).

Obituary: Henry A. Polach

Mike Barbetti and John Head

Henry A. Polach (b. 6 May 1925, Churst, Czechoslovakia; d. 21 November 1996, Canberra, Australia)

Henry Polach.

Henry Polach.

Henry Polach died in November 1996 at the age of 71 years. He was very much the father of radiocarbon dating in Australia, and a significant player on the worldwide stage of radiocarbon.

Henry was born in Czechoslovakia in 1925. He was educated there, and was involved in the resistance movement during the Second World War. This may have been an early indicator of his character, his spirit of freedom, and his willingness to take a somewhat independent and unconventional approach. He completed third year medicine at the University of Brno, before being expelled from the University shortly after the 1948 coup d’etat. He became a political refugee, and escaped to France where he studied English, German and French at the Sorbonne. It was during this time he met and married Dilette.

Henry emigrated with his family to New Zealand in 1951, and worked at different jobs, often more than one at a time, sometimes as a carpenter, to make a new start and to provide for his family. In 1956 he was appointed as a Chemistry Technician at the Institute of Nuclear Sciences at Lower Hutt in New Zealand. In 1959 he was promoted to Technical Officer in Radiocarbon Dating under Dr Athol Rafter. He was also a part-time student and gained a Certificate and then a Diploma (with honours) as a Science Technician.

In 1965 he was invited by the Australian National University to set up a Radiocarbon Dating facility, based on gas proportional counting. He accepted a position as a Research Officer, on a temporary basis. This was another new start for Henry and his family. The new laboratory at ANU was a joint enterprise between the then Department of Geophysics and Geochemistry, Research School of Physical Sciences, and the Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies. In the early days, Henry had many problems in setting up the gas proportional counter for dating, using methane as the counting gas. The major difficulty was background instability. After a 6ustrating time trying to find patterns within the data, Henry was able to show a direct correlation between background fluctuations and the operation of an EN tandem Van de Graaf accelerator situated nearby in the Department of Nuclear Physics, Research School of Physical Sciences. Fortunately, one of the PhD students in the Department of Geophysics and Geochemistry at that time happened to be Jerry Stipp, who had been working on the early development of the liquid scintillation counting technique before he came to Canberra. Working together, the two of them quietly set up benzene synthesis lines, and produced a few radiocarbon ages using borrowed liquid scintillation counting equipment. Henry carried out a meticulous study of backgrounds and standards using both gas proportional counting and liquid scintillation counting, and also made contributions to the development of both methane and benzene synthesis techniques. This work convincingly showed that while gas proportional counting using existing housing and facilities was not a viable proposition, liquid scintillation counting certainly was. Shortly afterwards, Henry persuaded the Beckman instrument company to provide a liquid scintillation counter for the Radiocarbon Laboratory.

In 1967 Henry’s position as a Research Officer was made permanent. A series of promotions followed in later years, with the most significant being to the academic position of Fellow in 1977, and later to Senior Fellow (the equivalent of Associate Professor). This was a noteworthy achievement, since Henry did not have a formal degree.

In 1970 Henry was awarded a Churchill Fellowship, which enabled him and Dilette to travel outside Australia and visit radiocarbon facilities in various countries over a period of nine months. He made contact with most of the major radiocarbon practitioners, and several world-wide collaborations began. The 1972 International Radiocarbon Conference in New Zealand brought Henry firmly onto the international stage.

During the 1970s and 1980s the ANU lab became very well known for its contributions to Australian prehistory and Quaternary research. This was due in large measure to Henry’s commitment to ensuring that the work was of the highest technical quality and that the results were interpreted correctly.

Quite a few people received training in Henry’s lab. John Head joined the lab in June 1967. John Chappell and Jim Bowler prepared most of the samples for their PhD studies. Others went on to establish and run other labs—Richard Gillespie and Mike Barbetti in Australia, Alan Hogg in New Zealand, Jindarom Chvajarenpun in Thailand, Sushi1 Gupta in India and Zhou Weijian and Zhou Mingfu in China. Henry maintained good contact and working relationships with these and many other labs, including the lab at the then Australian Atomic Energy Commission under Graeme Calf, and a growing number of overseas labs.

The 1980s saw Henry embark on a research venture with Wallac Oy in Finland, which produced the Quantulus liquid scintillation counter, a wonderful instrument for low level counting of natural radiocarbon samples. These counters are now pretty well standard in radiocarbon laboratories throughout the world.

In retirement Henry remained active in an advisory capacity. He endeavoured to open the channels of communication with countries of eastern Europe (Poland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic countries, Ukraine, Russia) and visited there several times. He was for a time Chairman of a committee sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, whose aim is to facilitate and improve on quality control and assurance in radiocarbon dating worldwide. He was also a member of the Advisory Board of the National Science Foundation Radiocarbon Dating Facility at Woods Hole, USA, and a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Conference on Advances in Liquid Scintillation Spectrometry (LSC92 Vienna), as well as co-editor of its proceedings.

Apart from his scientific contributions, Henry is perhaps best remembered for his generosity of spirit, his wise counsel, and his hospitality to visitors and friends.

The 1970s and 1980s were important decades for archaeometry in Australia, and the scientists who learned from and worked with Henry are now the middle or older generation—so it is quite appropriate to think of Henry as the father of radiocarbon dating in Australia.

Body art and archaeological theory

Gender specific cicatrices on the arm of Paddy Babu (published in Australian Archaeology 44:53).

Gender specific cicatrices on the arm of Paddy Babu (published in Australian Archaeology 44:53).

Claire Smith


In my current research project, an ethnoarchaeological study of indigenous body art, I isolate a single art genre, body art, and consider its stylistic variation across a range of Australasian occur across cultures. This knowledge can be used to more securely identify and evaluate such relationships in archaeological contexts. At a later stage, this study will compare patterning in body art with that in other art forms, such as rock art. Rock art is crucial for such a project since this increases the time depth of the study and its relevance for archaeological analysis.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Australian Museum starch reference collection

Sago starch grains under cross-polarised light (published in Australian Archaeology 44:52).

Sago starch grains under cross-polarised light (published in Australian Archaeology 44:52).

Michael Therin, Robin Torrence and Richard Fullagar


One of the major limitations on research into plant management systems in Oceania has been the lack of appropriate methods for recovering macroscopic remains in these settings with high rainfall and acid soils. Starch grains have been recognised in archaeological sediments and as residue on the surface of stone tools (Loy 1994; Therin 1994; Therin et al. in press). Accurate identification of these grains would enable a much greater understanding of subsistence systems in Oceania. Previous species identification of starch from the surface of stone tools has been undertaken using very small reference collections, often containing less than 20 individual species (Barton and White 1993; Loy 1994; Loy et al. 1992). The limited range of these reference collections raises questions about the accuracy of the species identification.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Visualising archaeology: Has the past a future?

J. Vincent S. Megaw

In memory of Stuart Piggott (d. 23 September 1996) and in gratitude to Derek John Mulvaney and Donald Brook, the Three Wise Men in my academic life.

Vincent Megaw aged 7 (published in Australian Archaeology 58:28).

Vincent Megaw aged 7 (published in Australian Archaeology 58:28).


There seem to be no rules, no goals, no bench-marks to help those embarking on inaugural lectures; even that otherwise admirably comprehensive document, the Flinders University Guide to the Academic Staff Performance Review Scheme, avoids a mention of them. So how is it that one can present a vision which is concerned with future time as well as past time, with the visual arts as well as with archaeology, that ‘back-looking curiosity’ as William Camden called it? William Camden, it need hardly be added, was the seventeenth century scholar and identifier of the first British coinage dubbed by the late Glyn Daniel ‘the first great English antiquary’. It was Daniel, the first great Welsh—never English—teledon and certainly the only one regularly to appear in a strip-cartoon, who twenty years ago used the phrase ‘back-looking curiosity’ in the title of his own Inaugural Lecture as Disney Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge (Daniel 1976). And thinking of time, isn’t there something a touch bizarre in a Professor who will not see three score again professing to inaugurate anything?

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Happy 6000th Anniversary!

Jack Golson

The following is a slightly edited and fully referenced version of my after-dinner address at the 1996 Annual Conference of AAA, held at Normanville, South Australia, which took Creation as its theme, in acknowledgement of the creation of the Earth in 4004 BC according to the reading of the available evidence by the 17th century divines, Archbishop Ussher and the Reverend Lightfoot. 


The last talk I gave to this Association (Golson 1993), a few days before my formal retirement, was at the Jindabyne conference of 1991, which was devoted to the Pleistocene archaeology of Australia, New Guinea and Island Melanesia. Mine was the final presentation on the final day and I looked upon it, mistakenly as it has turned out, as a sort of swan song. What I tried to do on that occasion was to look at the achievements of the previous 30 years in the Pleistocene archaeology of Australia and New Guinea in some sort of historical perspective. I was in particular concerned to consider the chronological difficulties that faced our predecessors before the advent of radiocarbon dating.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Stone artefacts from the 1994 excavation at Mata Menge, West Central Flores, Indonesia

View across Mata Menge (published in Australian Archaeology 44:27).

View across Mata Menge (published in Australian Archaeology 44:27).

Mike J. Morwood, F. Aziz, G.D. van den Bergh, P.Y. Sondaar and J. De Vos


Homo erectus first appeared in Indonesia between 1 million (Itihara et al. 1994; De Vos and Sondaar 1994) and 1.8 million years ago (Swisher et al. 1994). This evidence comes from the island of Java, which at various times during Pleistocene sea level fluctuations was connected to the Asian mainland. East of Java/Bali, sea crossings were always required to reach the islands of the Lesser Sunda Island chain and ultimately Australia. It is generally thought that Homo erectus populations lacked the required intellectual, linguistic and technological capacity to make these crossings, and that the islands of eastern Indonesia were occupied relatively recently, between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago by fully modem humans (e.g. Bowdler 1993; Davidson and Noble 1992).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Residue and use-wear analysis of grinding implements from Puntutjarpa Rockshelter in the Western Desert: Current and proposed research

Peter Veth, Richard Fullagar and Richard Gould


The excavation of Puntutjarpa Rockshelter, located within the Western Desert Culture Bloc, provided the first complete Holocene sequence for Aboriginal occupation of the arid interior of Australia (Gould 1977). Continuities in artefact sequences at this site were used to typify the conservatism of desert adaptations in Australia generally (Gould 1977:75, 1980:146).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Information exchange, rock art and long run economic growth in Australia

John Fisher


Information and information flows are a critical part of the process of economic growth (as has been acknowledged, belatedly, in orthodox economic theory: Romer 1990a and 1990b). That much is truism; the difficulty lies in how such flows can be integrated effectively into a theoretical structure. The role of information goes beyond providing a basis for rational calculation or choice; its flow is not just a matter of effective processing, learning, exchange or control. It lies at the heart of the nexus of social and economic relations which provide the essential framework for economic growth.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Bradshaws: The view from Arnhem Land

Darrell Lewis


Mimi art from the NT (published in Australian Archaeology 44:10).

Mimi art from the NT (published in Australian Archaeology 44:10).

One of the features of north Australian rock art remarked upon by many researchers over the years is the apparent similarity between the ‘Mimi’ art of Arnhem Land and the ‘Bradshaw’ art in the Kimberley. Among others, Schulz (1956:12), Berndt and Berndt (1964:357, 365), Crawford (1968:82, 1977:357, 369), Brandl (1973:185–187), Chaloupka (1984:55, 1993:118) and Welch (1990:121–123, 1993:25–27) have all suggested a cultural connection between the two art bodies.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Thesis abstract ‘Off the Shelf, Out of the Museum: The Retrieval of Plant Material from the Australian Archaeological Record’

Marie Colville

BA(Hons), Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, The Australian National University, Canberra, November 1995

This thesis reviews techniques currently available for the study of archaeobotanical remains, details current archaeological methods and assesses their potential for retrieval of plant remains. Excavation and curation methodologies frequently ignore the potential of macroscopic plant remains, or contribute to its loss. By investigation of material available from two past excavations, Botobolar 5 rockshelter, NSW (Pearson 1981) and the Seton Site, Kangaroo Island, SA (Lampert 1981) it was possible to characterise the nature and extent of this loss and identify potential sources of more site information.

In the first case study, careful curation of Macrozamia remains from Botobolar 5 allowed a new synthesis of information from ethnobotanical, archaeological, taphonomic and toxicological studies which were not available at the time of excavation. Detoxification of Macrozamia, by roasting alone, is strongly supported for this site. Comparison with similar remains from other sites suggests the feasibility of extending this technique from the Aboriginal groups of northeastern New South Wales to other east coast groups.

The Seton Site case study, though supplying a wider range of curated material, clearly illustrated many of the problems associated with earlier approaches to plants in the Australian archaeological record. Examination of the plant material did not indicate plant subsistence strategies or even the wide diversity of habitats proposed by fauna1 studies. This could have been due to the continual reduction of potential plant data by cultural or environmental factors, or the methods of retrieval practised at this particular site.


Larnpert, R.J. l981 The Great Kartan Mystery. Terra Australis 5. Canberra: Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University.

Pearson, M. 1981 Seen through Different Eyes: Changing Land-Use and Settlement Patterns in the Upper Macquarie River region of NSW, from Prehistoric Times to 1860. Unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Prehistory and Anthropology, The Australian National University, Canberra.

Thesis abstract ‘The Importance of Quartz in Stone Artefact Assemblages: A Technological Analysis of Five Aboriginal sites in the Coonabarabran/Warrumbungle Region’

Patrick Gaynor

MA, Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale, July 1996

This thesis analyses a stone assemblage with a large quartz component spanning 20,000 years from the Late Pleistocene to contact time from the Coonabarabran/Warrumbungle region of northwestern NSW. Attributes applicable to quartz could be identified and linked to human behaviour, which was seen to vary over time. In addition, spatial variation in five stone assemblages from the study area, was analysed. Results from both analyses showed that there were some signs of human behaviour present in the quartz portion of the assemblages that were not present in the fine-grained portion and vice versa.

This research addressed some of the practical difficulties faced by archaeologists analysing quartz artefacts. These problems are generally well known to archaeologists. Many stone artefact assemblages in Australia and indeed around the world, contain large percentages of these types of artefacts. The problems archaeologists experience with quartz assemblages begin initially with the recognition of quartz artefacts as genuine artefacts. Following that is the difficulty of finding attributes that can be used for analysing whole assemblages regardless of the raw material present. The main attributes used in conventional methods of assessing artefact technology are seldom found in quartz.

These difficulties have been instrumental in leading many ‘researchers in the past to analyse only the fine grained artefacts in assemblages. Fine-grained artefacts were made of flint, chert, jasper, mudstone, chalcedony or any other microcrystalline stone. Due to the infrequent analysis of quartz, the technology of quartz artefacts is poorly known in Australia and in many other parts of the world.

This research suggests that the difficulties associated with the analysis of quartz may be overcome by selecting a range of technological attributes that can be compared with other raw materials. Selected attributes are tested in this thesis in order to determine whether leaving out the quartz portion of an assemblage would result in missing important aspects of Aboriginal behaviour. In this manner, the relative importance of quartz in assemblages could be assessed.

This thesis documents the importance of quartz in the Coonabarabran/Warrumbungle region as well as in a wider Australian context. As the technology of quartz is currently poorly known in Australia and the world, these findings will help researchers to better understand the importance of quartz to prehistoric knappers.

Thesis abstract ‘Aboriginal Art at Lofty Heights: The Distribution and Pattering of Aboriginal Art Sites in the South Eastern Lofty Ranges of South Australia’

April Blair

MLett., Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide, January 1997

The aims of this research were to attempt to ascertain something of the dynamism of an Aboriginal group, about which extremely little is known, through a synthesis of their rock art. For this purpose, the study focuses on two principal components. Firstly, the examination, definition and analysis of art styles at both inter- and intra-site levels and secondly, on the spatial patterning of the art sites within the landscape. This analysis identifies twelve distinct art styles and four site types.

Integration of the two components has not, unfortunately, yielded anything definitive, although there is compelling evidence for the preservation of group identity and boundary maintenance as a direct result of intergroup competition, which in this instance is aided and abetted by the geographical confluence of the Lofty Ranges with the River Murray. This is one of the basic convictions of advocates of the information exchange theory of style, but in this instance intergroup differentiation through style appears to have been extended to intragroup differentiation, as stylistic changes became increasingly localised. Similarly, there is the suggestion that the Aboriginal occupation of the region may never have been particularly dense, despite favourable water and food resources.

It is none the less recognised that the nature and distribution of the art sites is the final result of one range of natural and cultural processes which reflect the social institutions of the makers. The extreme stylistic variation which encompasses all of Maynard’s (1977) simple and complex, figurative and non-figurative categories within one aggregation, are thought to show how style plays a crucial role in the mediation of cultural information exchange over time. In this instance style was a specific means of proclaiming territorial ownership and affiliations, at both inter and intra-group levels, and a means of expressing site function.

Thesis abstract ‘Accommodating the Destitute: An Historical and Archaeological Consideration of the Destitute Asylum of Adelaide’

Susan Piddock

MA, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, May 1996

This thesis centres on the Destitute Asylum of Adelaide, an institution established in 1849 to provide relief for the poor of Adelaide, South Australia. The Destitute Asylum is viewed from the perspective of historical archaeology. In the thesis, I have sought to elucidate the origins and history of the Destitute Asylum using documents, plans and photographs. From a theoretical standpoint, I have considered whether the Asylum in its built form follows any particular model, and if so, what were the origins of this model? What ideas and beliefs informed its creation and operation?

This research seeks to identify to what extent the colonists of South Australia bought with them ideas about poor relief from England. This has particular importance as South Australia, which was founded in 1836, was without a resident convict population, and the colony was established two years after the introduction of the New Poor Law in England. This law saw the widespread institutionalisation of the poor.

The thesis provides an overview of English Poor Law history with particular attention being focussed on sources of information about the workhouses: their design, layout, and stated purpose. From these sources a model was developed of the characteristics that defined a workhouse, including room and space allocation. The thesis goes on to argue that, while the Destitute Board sought to operate the Destitute Asylum as a form of workhouse, it was frustrated in its attempts by the nature of the buildings given to it by the colonial government, and by the lack of authority it had over its own buildings. This in turn led to the failure of attempts to establish a moral environment where the inmates might be reformed. By outlining the history of the buildings and the development of the Asylum site, this thesis identifies factors that led to the failure of the stated of the Destitute Board.

When viewed in the light of the workhouse model, the Destitute Asylum shows a marked similarity in room and space allocation. These similarities include the division of the overall site into male and female areas, the provision of wards with some rudimentary classification, dining rooms, workshops, a chapel and lying-in wards. But as the thesis indicates the use of buildings and the space within them goes beyond room identification, and relates to the rules and regulations that controlled the inmates’ lives within them. A building is in effect a shell, human activity shapes the space, and understood meanings within society identify a building and its role. Room provisions may present a guide to a building’s function, but identification of the exact role and the social meanings implicit in a building may need to be found in documents and oral histories that relate to the structure in question.

Obituary: David Banggal Mowaljarlai

Kamali Land Council

Obituary: David Banggal Mowaljarlai (b. 1 July 1925, Kunmunya Mission, Western Australia d. 24 September 1997, Derby, Western Australia)

‘That country is our own living body, flesh and blood. How can we be smashing up our own body? Can’t do it’. D.M.

In the early hours of Wednesday, 24 September, David Banggal Mowaljarlai passed away after a heart attack. David was a Ngarinyin man of the Brrejirad (Pink Hibiscus) clan whose traditional country is in the Roe River area of the west Kimberley. David fought an indefatigable battle over forty or more years for the Ngarinyin people to reoccupy and regain title to the country from which so many of his kin had been displaced. Fortunately, the Ngarinyin communities on the pastoral stations provided an ever-present focus for families who had been shifted to Mowanjwn on the edge of Derby in 1956. These networks of families enabled Ngarinyin people to maintain rich associations with their land, and David was the instigator of the Ngarinyin homeland projec