Phased redevelopment of an ancient Gunditjmara fish trap over the past 800 years: Muldoons Trap Complex, Lake Condah, southwestern Victoria

23rd December 2015

Ian J. McNiven, Joe Crouch, Thomas Richards, Kale Sniderman, Nic Dolby and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation

Critics point out that a weakness of Lourandos’ ‘intensification’ paradigm for southwestern Victoria is a lack of dates for iconic fish traps of the Lake Condah region. McNiven et al. (2012) detailed excavations at Muldoons Trap Complex at Lake Condah in Gunditjmara Country, where charcoal recovered from channel infill sediments indicated initial construction at least 6600 cal. BP, making the site one of the world’s oldest known fish traps. Channel excavations also revealed the addition of basalt block walls dating to ca 600–800 cal. BP. Subsequent excavations at a second location at Muldoons demonstrate that a barrier/dam feature associated with artificial ponding of flood waters and containment of eels was added to the site complex ca 300–500 cal. BP and possibly elaborated in the nineteenth century. These results show that Muldoons Trap Complex underwent phased redevelopment and major elaboration over the past 800 years. This redevelopment followed little or no activity during the preceding 4000 years, which we argue reflected drier climatic conditions and the inability of flood waters to reach the site. Use of the site complex 5400–6600 and <800 years ago took advantage of regional increases in effective precipitation and lake water levels. Redevelopment of Muldoons Trap Complex within the past 800 years coincided with increased use of occupation sites across the broader region. Importantly, our research presents a methodological way forward to document the history of construction and use of stone-walled fish traps in the Lake Condah region.

McNiven, I.J., Crouch, J., Richards, T., Sniderman, K., Dolby, N. and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation
Phased redevelopment of an ancient Gunditjmara fish trap over the past 800 years: Muldoons Trap Complex, Lake Condah, southwestern Victoria
December 2015
81
44-58
Article
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