Examining Variation between North and Northwestern Tasmanian Stone Artefact Assemblages: A Comparative Study of the Armistead Property and Rocky Cape

01st June 2007

Chris Kaskadanis

BArch(Hons), Archaeology Program, School of Historical and European Studies, La Trobe University, October 2005

In December 2003, La Trobe University conducted a large-scale pedestrian survey and three-dimensional mapping of Aboriginal stone artefact scatters found on the ‘Armitstead Property’, a tree plantation owned in northern Tasmania. The Armitstead study area is approximately 90 hectares and is bounded by the Dasher and Mersey Rivers. Subsequent ploughing of terraces exposed over 4300 Aboriginal artefacts including other cultural material such as ochre.

Over 36% of recorded stone artefacts are complete flakes, nearly 13% are broken flakes, over 25% are flaked pieces, with cores/core fragments comprising over 13%. Tool types include Rhys Jones’ scraper types: roundedgedscrapers (Type I), small and large steep-edged scrapers (Types 2A and 2B), flat/straight-edged scrapers (Type 3), notched scrapers (Type 4) and concave/nosed scrapers (Type 5) numbering 129 artefacts. Eighty-three complete Ballywinnes and 254 Ballywinne fragments were also recorded, a tool possibly used to grind ochre and for other ritual practices.

A primary objective of my thesis was to compare and contrast the Armitstead stone artefact assemblage to the Rocky Cape assemblage and to discuss variation between inland and coastal scrapers. The study investigates whether Jones’ Rocky Cape Holocene stone tool typology is useful as an analytical manual for the study of inland open sites. Another aim was to establish a culture-historical sequence for the Armitstead assemblage; however, this was not possible because there is little technological change through time demonstrated for the Rocky Cape assemblage. Despite this limitation, the functional significance of the site is assessed using formal tool types such as the various scrapers and the culturally and socially significant Ballywinnes. Typological/attribute analysis demonstrated variation in the size of the scrapers and their edge characteristics compared to the Rocky Cape assemblage.

Even though tillage has impacted on the ‘original’ distribution of the surface scatters, the composition of the Armitstead artefact assemblage is typical of a Tasmanian Holocene flaked stone assemblage. In addition to the Ballywinne stones, the assemblage contains the cores, flakes and broken flakes, scraper types and broken scrapers, and other flaking debris that would be expected on the basis of previous research. Added to this is the exploitation of locally abundant raw materials such as quartzite and chert-hornfels.

I conclude that Jones’ Rocky Cape tool typology is still a practical ‘manual’ for archaeological investigations in present-day analyses and interpretations of Aboriginal archaeological sites. Technological and typological/attribute analyses were useful in detecting artefact variability such as variation in scraper size and the frequency of worked edges. The cultural significance of Armitstead is underscored by the presence of Ballywinnes and its association with ochre, an artefact not recorded at Rocky Cape.

Chris Kaskadanis
Examining Variation between North and Northwestern Tasmanian Stone Artefact Assemblages: A Comparative Study of the Armistead Property and Rocky Cape
June 2007
Thesis Abstracts
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