Didthul, Bhundoo, Gulaga and Wadbilliga: An Archaeological Study of the Aboriginals of the New South Wales Coast Hinterland

01st June 2009

Philip G. Boot

PhD, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, The Australian National University, December 2002

The hinterland of the New South Wales South Coast has long been considered a cultural heritage backwater in comparison to the adjacent coastal strip. While the coast has been a focus of intensive archaeological research for several decades, the forested hills, mountains and plateaus between the coastline and the Southern Tablelands have only been investigated by a small number of archaeologists. Paradoxically, many coastal researchers developed models of hinterland Aboriginal occupation without conducting any field research there. Before commencement of the research programme described here, only two hinterland sites had been excavated and dated, compared to over 20 on the adjacent coast. The research described in this thesis was developed to provide more balance between coastal and hinterland archaeological knowledge.

The research programme included reviews of previous work, existing site distribution data and ethnohistoric records coupled with an extensive fieldwork programme of survey, excavation and artefact collection. The materials and data obtained in the field were subjected to a wide-range of laboratory and computer analyses. An extensive radiocarbon dating programme was also undertaken, revealing hinterland rockshelter occupation from 18,810±160 BP (ANU-9375) at Bulee Brook 2 and use of open locations, such as the alluvial terrace at Blue Gum Flat on the ClydeRiver, from 4050±210 BP (ANU-8768). Results are interpreted and synthesised to provide a preliminary prehistory of the South Coast hinterland.

Results have led to revision of some previous hypotheses, while others have withstood rigorous testing. The research has demonstrated that hinterland Aboriginal occupation was extensive and wide-ranging, was probably not seasonal and has a late Pleistocene antiquity. The results also indicate that the intensity of hinterland occupation fluctuated geographically and temporally, possibly in relation to environmental change, local resource abundance, spiritual associations and Aboriginal economic and subsistence strategies.

The work has allowed the identification of preferred resource exploitation and habitation zones within the hinterland, which range from a Pleistocene preference for well-watered and protected locations to a Holocene focus on highly biodiverse hinterland valley woodlands. The research has shown that, although exchange networks were largely restricted to within the hinterland, Aboriginal occupants had extensive social and ritual networks which linked them with coastal areas to the north, south and east and with the tablelands to the west.

Overall the research indicates that Aboriginal people successfully inhabited and exploited a diverse range of hinterland environments over many millennia. The descendants of those original inhabitants still maintain strong connections with the hinterland’s unique cultural heritage.

Philip G. Boot
Didthul, Bhundoo, Gulaga and Wadbilliga: An Archaeological Study of the Aboriginals of the New South Wales Coast Hinterland
June 2009
Thesis Abstracts
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