Thesis abstract ‘Numerous Indicators: The Archaeology of Regional Aboriginal Behaviours in Northwest Central Queensland’

19th November 2013

Mal Ridges

PhD, Department of Archaeology, University of New England, Armidale, 2003

This thesis examines the dynamics of regional Aboriginal behaviour in northwest central Queensland as it is indicated by several scales of spatial patterning in archaeological evidence. Using geographic information system (GIS) analysis and multivariate statistical techniques, patterns in the distribution of archaeological features were derived using a combination of two spatial scales and three levels of archaeological feature classification. The two spatial scales comprise analysis performed for the entire region and more detailed analysis performed within two smaller areas within the region. The classificatory scales include modelling the distribution of locations containing archaeological features; modelling the types of features occurring at these locations; and modelling spatial variation in the attributes of these features. For example, at two different spatial scales, models are presented for the location of places containing any type of archaeological feature; for the location of places containing stone artefacts; and for locations containing stone artefacts made from various rock types. In addition, point pattern analysis is used to examine patterns in the distribution of different rock art figures and spatial variation in the form of one particular type of figure.

The results of this study illustrate that several levels of spatial patterning can be identified in northwest central Queensland. Specifically, these reveal that at the regional level, the occurrence of locations containing archaeological features is primarily driven by proximity to water. However, the types of features occurring at these locations is driven by a multitude of other factors, such as proximity to stone raw materials, stream order, terrain, and geology. Importantly, the way these factors combine varies throughout the region. For example, in one part of the region, the most important factor determining the location and type of archaeological features is the location of outcrops suitable for manufacturing stone axes. In contrast, in another part of the region, the important factors become proximity to escarpment areas that produce places suitable for depicting rock art. In addition, analysis of the distribution of rock art figures shows that the depiction of different types of figure demonstrates a northeast to southwest trend, corresponding to trends in regional drainage, and consequently, the movement of people into and out of the region. In contrast, the variation in the form of one particular figure demonstrates spatial patterns that trend northwest to southeast, relating to the movement and information flow between people within the region.

The thesis argues that these results demonstrate patterns in behaviour operating on several different levels. Some of the archaeological patterns discerned correspond with levels of behaviour described anthropologically, such as the extent of linguistic groups, or descriptions of foraging behaviour. However, other archaeological spatial patterns do not fit into such anthropological classifications of hunter-gatherer behaviour quite so easily. Consequently, it is argued that the recognition of archaeological pattern, and its behavioural interpretations, is dependent upon the spatial, temporal, and categorical scale at which they are examined. In doing so, the thesis illustrates that understanding the dynamics of regional hunter-gatherer behaviour requires an understanding of the factors driving archaeological pattern occurring at a variety of scales, and across a range of evidence. The thesis suggests that scale is therefore a critical, but little explored component of archaeological theory generally, and which has important implications for the understanding archaeologists have of Australia’s prehistory, and particularly interpretations relating to mid-Holocene change. It is also argued that the study demonstrates how useful GIS and statistical modelling approaches are for visualising the trends and variation in archaeological spatial pattern occurring at the regional level. Such tools offer potential benefits to the research and management of Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Ridges, M.
Thesis abstract 'Numerous Indicators: The Archaeology of Regional Aboriginal Behaviours in Northwest Central Queensland'
Thesis Abstracts
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