A Technological and Functional Analysis of the Stone Artefacts from Ngaut Ngaut (Devons Downs), SA

21st April 2013

Catherine Bland

BArch(Hons), Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, November 2012

This thesis presents the results of a technological and functional analysis of the stone artefacts from the Ngaut Ngaut (Devon Downs) rockshelter, South Australia. In particular, this thesis presents new information and interpretations through the re-analysis of the stone artefact assemblage relating to artefact numbers, the identification of raw materials, manufacturing processes including core rotation, flake termination types, platform preparation and usewear patterns. This information and related interpretations are considered in relation to prior hypotheses about stone artefacts from Ngaut Ngaut and nearby sites, largely through comparison with the works of Tindale, Mulvaney and Smith.

The results show that discrepancies exist between researchers in relation to the identification of stone artefacts from the Ngaut Ngaut assemblage. It is argued that the predominant discrepancy between researcher artefact counts and identification arises due to the typological biases of past researchers.

A re-analysis of the raw materials in the stone assemblage identified previously unrecorded materials, including silcrete, mica schist and compressed limestone. Further, it is argued that there are changes in raw material use over time, with some raw materials only present in certain stratigraphic layers.

In addition, the re-analysis undertaken in this research more adequately defined the range of core types present in the assemblage in comparison to previous studies. Aspects of the analysis, such as flake terminations, show that feathered terminations (which arguably reveal greater control of force variables by knappers) may have increased through time, thereby potentially conflicting with Mulvaney’s ‘degeneration’ theory. Similarly, the research also shows that retouch increases over time. If one considers retouch to be either the intensity of resharpening or as a result of deliberate manufacture, either scenario could be interpreted as an increase in stoneworking rather than a general decline, as suggested in Mulvaney’s broader hypothesis. From the results of the research it can also be argued that neither of the latter aspects of the analysis showed any observable dramatic changes in manufacturing processes over time, which would be expected if one were to adhere to Tindale’s cultural succession theory. Thus, whilst certain changes can be demonstrated through this research and reveal the dynamism and skills of people who occupied the site the interpretations stemming from these results differ from previous hypotheses.  Furthermore, Mulvaney has suggested that the range of raw materials being utilised in this region changed significantly during the past 5000 years; he suggested that organic materials were being more intensively utilised in recent times. For this theory to be supported one would expect to find usewear associated with the production of organic (wood, grass and fibre) artefacts in recent layers, however the results of the usewear analysis do not fit with this assessment.

Catherine Bland
A Technological and Functional Analysis of the Stone Artefacts from Ngaut Ngaut (Devons Downs), SA
June 2013
Thesis Abstracts
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