Prehistoric and World War II use of shell mounds in Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia

13th November 2013

Peter Hiscock and Philip Hughes

Introduction*

Middle arm in Darwin Harbour, showing the location of the Haycock Reach study area (published in Australian Archaeology 52:41).

Middle arm in Darwin Harbour, showing the location of the Haycock Reach study area (published in Australian Archaeology 52:41).

Darwin Harbour is one of the largest bays along the Northern Territory coastline. Some shell mounds around the Harbour are renowned as the creations of the scrub-fowl Megapodius reimwardt (Stone 1989). However, the abundant archaeological middens that exist within the region have received little attention. While this failure to explore the archaeology of Darwin Harbour is being remedied in the regional study by Bums (1999), there is still a need for specific studies of site patterning within the region. In particular investigations of chronological and morphological variation in anthropogenic shell deposits and their environmental contexts will assist the evaluation of land-use models. Shell structures in Darwin Harbour exist within a geomorphic context underrepresented in studies of archaeological mounds in the “Top End”. Shell mounds studied elsewhere in northern Australia by archaeologists are generally on near-flat depositional surfaces produced by coastal progradation and composed entirely of alluvium or coastal sediments, and the interpretation of these sites is tied to the growth of coastal plains (e.g. Bailey 1975; Baker 1981; Beaton 1985; Woodroffe et al. 1988). In contrast, Darwin Harbour consists of a flooded valley that has had relatively little sediment infilling, leaving a coastline that consists of bedrock and steep colluvial slopes that terminate below the high tide limit. Middens in Darwin Harbour, located on these steep rocky surfaces, are subject to different geomorphic conditions and reflect an environmental history different from mounds in regions such as Kakadu or Princess Charlotte Bay.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Hiscock, P. and P. Hughes
Prehistoric and World War II use of shell mounds in Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia
2001
52
41–45
Article
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