Now, are you going to believe this or not?’ Addressing neglected narratives through the maritime cultural landscape of Point Pearce Aboriginal Mission/Burgiyana, South Australia

23rd December 2015

Madeline Emma Fowler

Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, PhD, October 2015

This thesis investigates the maritime cultural landscape of Point Pearce  Mission/Burgiyana, in the Yorke Peninsula/Guuranda region of South Australia. The research seeks to understand Indigenous maritime activities within a defined conceptual framework through a case study-based, inductive and interpretive approach. This interpretation perceives the participation of Indigenous peoples in Australia’s maritime industry as an important component of Australian maritime heritage with the potential to shed light on a number of areas including boatbuilding, labouring in the shipping trade—both at sea and on land—and working in the fishing economy. Previous archaeological research has not employed a maritime cultural landscape framework to explore issues of importance to Indigenous communities. The framework, arguably one of the most popular in the maritime archaeology field, is derived from research conducted in Europe and hence has had a Western focus and research agenda. Further, maritime archaeological studies have neglected Indigenous missions as potential sites/landscapes and, similarly, archaeological research at missions has largely ignored maritime aspects.

This study is based upon the collection of 13 oral histories, as well as terrestrial, coastal and underwater archaeological investigations and primary archival research. The data was collated taking into account the 11 thematic facets of the maritime cultural landscape as advocated by Westerdahl (2008, 2011). The latter information was then used to explore the usefulness and suitability of the maritime cultural landscape approach in an Indigenous Australian postcontact context. In particular, an assessment of the maritime cultural landscape was conducted in this research to consider whether it provided the necessary suite of methods (and associated rationale) to accommodate a cohesive recording of areas important to Indigenous Australian communities (i.e. beliefs, knowledges and lived experiences) and whether it provided a useful interpretive structure.

The research revealed that the maritime cultural landscape framework is generally, with qualifications, suitable for the investigation of Indigenous Australian post-contact contexts and is worthwhile in the sense that it can foreground the contribution of Indigenous peoples to Australia’s maritime industry. The aforementioned 11 thematic facets of the maritime cultural landscape are demonstrated in this research to be flexible across contexts, but several issues emerge from this case study. These issues have been broadly grouped into five themes as follows: 1) colonial archives and local histories often silence Aboriginal peoples; 2) maritime cultural landscape facets need to encompass non-Western systems of knowledge; 3) maritime archaeology discourse and underpinning attitudes need to be deconstructed; 4) maritime archaeology in Australia is generally Eurocentric; and 5) oral histories are an integral source for exploring Indigenous maritime cultural landscapes. Consequently, it is argued that the maritime cultural landscape approach should be adopted more frequently, taking into account Indigenous themes in maritime archaeology, although the research process should be carefully examined for Eurocentricity. Additionally, the outcomes of the project illustrate that Indigenous maritime cultural landscapes are not only a prominent part of the Australian landscape, but also provoke reconsiderations regarding how we see the relationship between maritime and Indigenous archaeology. The implications of these findings are that the seascape framework is not the only concept available within maritime archaeology for investigating Indigenous contexts. As a result, it is proposed that maritime archaeologists should consider employing a maritime cultural landscape framework within other themes of cultural contact, as well as at missions situated on other waterways and in similar contexts in other countries.

Fowler, M.E.
Now, are you going to believe this or not?’ Addressing neglected narratives through the maritime cultural landscape of Point Pearce Aboriginal Mission/Burgiyana, South Australia
December 2015
81
S61
Thesis Abstracts
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