Thesis abstract ‘Stone Artefact Assemblage Composition at Stud Creek, Sturt National Park, New South Wales, Australia’

22nd November 2013

Justin Shiner

BA(Hons), Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland, Auckland, November 1999

This thesis presents an analysis of the composition of the silcrete dominated flaked stone assemblages recorded during the 1996 and 1997 field seasons of the Western New South Wales Archaeological Project in the Sturt National Park, arid far northwestern New South Wales. The objective of the analysis is to investigate patterning in the structure of lithic assemblages from the surface archaeological record. It is argued that the Stud Creek assemblages are palimpsests that represent the accumulation of material from a number of behavioural events within the last 4000 years. Therefore, the assemblages are regarded as time-averaged records of human behaviour whose interpretation is beyond the scope of ethnographic scales of explanation. Rather, they have the potential to inform about the long-term processes that structure the archaeological record at Stud Creek.

To analyse the composition of the Stud Creek stone artefact assemblages the concepts of curation, artefact use life, occupation duration and the intensity of raw material utilisation are used to examine artefact discard as a time dependent process. Heavily curated artefacts with long use lives (tulas and scrapers) have a lower probability of discard than lightly curated artefacts with a short use life (utilised and unretouched flakes). As occupation duration increases so does the intensity of raw material utilisation. An assemblage from an intensively occupied place will contain a .high proportion of curated artefacts and have evidence for the intensive utilisation of raw materials. By analysing assemblage composition from this perspective, it is possible to examine the long-term use of places in the landscape by Aboriginal people.

Two types of silcrete were recorded in the Stud Creek assemblages; local clast silcrete occurring as gibber and imported microcrystalline non-clast silcrete obtained from quarry sources. Analysis of the assemblages reveals a number of differences between the reduction of local and imported silcrete. The presence of cortical flakes with greater than 50% cortex in both classes of silcrete indicates that cortical nodules were transported to Stud Creek. In situ reduction of these nodules is suggested by the reduction of flake size with decreasing proportions of cortex and a larger surface area relative to thickness for cortical flakes compared to non-cortical flakes. A higher flake to core ratio and noncortical to cortical core ratio for imported silcrete indicates that imported silcrete cores were more intensively reduced than local silcrete cores. This is also suggested by a higher ratio of imported silcrete non-cortical flakes to cortical flakes compared to equivalent local silcrete flakes. More intensive utilisation of imported silcrete than local silcrete in both assemblages is demonstrated by the lower flake to tool ratio for imported silcrete.

Applying these concepts and methods to the analysis of the stone artefact assemblages from Stud Creek indicates that this is a place where Aboriginal people spent enough time to discard heavily curated tools and intensively utilise imported non-clast silcrete. It is concluded that Stud Creek represents a persistent place on the landscape because it was abandoned and re-occupied on many occasions. However, the composition of the Stud Creek assemblages suggests that these visits were most likely fleeting and sporadic in nature.

Shiner, J.
Thesis abstract 'Stone Artefact Assemblage Composition at Stud Creek, Sturt National Park, New South Wales, Australia'
December 2000
Thesis Abstracts
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