Aboriginal perceptions of their stone tool technology: A case study from the Western Desert

22nd May 2014

Scott Cane

Introduction*

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.

Cane, S.
Aboriginal perceptions of their stone tool technology: A case study from the Western Desert
December 1992
35
11–31
Article
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