Aboriginal Occupation around Tropicana in the Great Victoria Desert, Western Australia

23rd November 2014

Mattner, JoeAlmost no archaeological research has been conducted in the Great Victoria Desert, a very extensive area north of the Nullabor Plain comprised mostly of dune fields and sand plains. Ahead of development of the Tropicana Gold Mine, joint-venture partners AngloGold Ashanti Australia and Independence Gold commissioned a series of widely distributed archaeological surveys. Contrary to the expectation of little Aboriginal activity in this sandridge desert, more than 60 archaeological sites have been recorded in the Tropicana tenements. The artefact scatter sites range from basecamps to satellite campsites to very small overnight camps. The stone procurement sites range from very large and intensively exploited quarries to small knapping centres. A number of rockshelters and an ochre quarry have also been identified. There is strong patterning in the distribution of sites and the use of certain types of stone at the artefact assemblages. A significant part of the archaeological signature are the large basecamps at rockholes and along a creek system, as well as very large quarries showing intensive exploitation of stone resources. Ethnographic evidence of important ceremonial places located near some of the major archaeological sites indicate a long tradition of Aboriginal occupation. The results of the archaeological work to date have established that past occupation of the Great Victoria Desert was a complex affair, and not limited to visits by small groups ‘chasing rain’. Rather, there has been regular and repeated occupation by groups relying on widely distributed but well-known rockholes to extensively exploit the sparse resources of the Tropicana region. Further research of the Great Victoria Desert region is warranted as it has the potential to contribute answers to questions surrounding the methods and timing of Aboriginal colonisation of the sandy deserts, and the adaptations required to subsist in this most arid of environments.

Citation for this poster:

Mattner, J. and  N. Grguric 2014 Aboriginal Occupation around Tropicana in the Great Victoria Desert, Western Australia. Poster Presented at the AAA/ASHA Annual Conference, 1-3 December, Cairns.

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