Thesis abstract ‘Station Camps: The Ethnoarchaeology of Cultural Change in the Post-Contact Period in the Southeast Kimberley Region of Western Australia’

13th November 2013

Pamela A. Smith

PhD, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide, May 2000

This ethnoarchaeological study seeks to understand the socioeconomic contexts in which cultural change, adaptation and the maintenance of cultural continuity occurred in one Aboriginal community during the transition from a mobile hunting and gathering lifestyle to a less mobile lifestyle in station camps. An objective of the study is to identify a methodology through which elements of cultural continuity and adaptation are able to be identified and located in time, an important issue for archaeologists working with Native Title claimants. The study area is in the southeast Kimberley region of Western Australia. In that region most of the Aboriginal population were incorporated into the hierarchical structure of the pastoral industry during the first eighty years following European colonisation in the 1980s.

The methodology is based on middle-range theory. This approach to the analysis allows for a defined range of inputs from each of the four periods identified between the 1880s and the 1960s. These periods represent stages of European colonisation. The four data sets are then compared in order to derive information about the nature and extent of cultural change and adaptation. The data sets are based on: (i) the archaeological records of camp sites dated to each period; (ii) interpretations of the cultural landscape and changing land uses; and (iii) nutritional data derived from the records of three diets. Archival, historical and ethnographic records are used to locate the data within appropriate socioeconomic contexts and to reconstruct a model of cultural change for each of the four periods.

This study provides a methodology for demonstrating changes in the use of technology and material culture through time and provides information about how and when those changes occurred. From the analysis of diet and of changing patterns in land use and it was concluded that the nature of stock work provided most Traditional Owners with continuous access to their traditional country and to bush foods throughout the station times. Stock work also ensured that hunting and gathering skills continued to be maintained. The analysis of material culture across the four periods demonstrates the extent to which metal and glass manufactured artefacts were recycled and utilised, particularly for the manufacture of traditional type points and scapers. The number of traditional-type artefacts (including glass and metal) associated with food functions decreased across the four periods some remained in the archaeological record until the 1970s, the end of the ‘station times’. Artefacts believed to be associated with ceremonial activities also decreased, although the decrease was less sharp than for those associated with food, and demonstrates that cultural activities associated with ceremony and ritual also continued until the end of the ‘station times’.

Smith, P.A.
Thesis abstract 'Station Camps: The Ethnoarchaeology of Cultural Change in the Post-Contact Period in the Southeast Kimberley Region of Western Australia'
Thesis Abstracts
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