Thesis abstract ‘Unravel the Gravel: A Study of Hunter River Mudstone and Silcrete Gravels, an Archaeological Perspective’

02nd January 2014

Victor Esteves

BA(Hons), Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, School of Human and Environment Studies, University of New England, Armidale, June 1998

The Hunter River is a source of mudstone and silcrete raw material utilised in the manufacture of stone implements in the Central Lowlands of the Hunter Valley. The innate differences in the physical properties of these materials provide a potential source for raw material variability in lithic assemblages. The aim of this study was to experimentally investigate this variability and identify any patterning. A limited survey of the Hunter River channel was undertaken to determine the occurrence of the materials. Samples were taken from two locations where both mudstone and silcrete occur in the gravel deposits. A controlled experiment was devised to objectively test the differences in the materials’ physical properties, as expressed by their flakability and heat induced variation. To produce results in a consistent manner, and to eliminate subjective human input in the flaking process, a flaking machine was designed to simulate the human model of hard hammer percussion flaking. Also, similarly shaped rectangular cores were used. Experimental data suggests that the differences in the physical properties of the two materials can account for some of the variability in artefact form, and even assemblage variation. Heat treatment provided the Aboriginal stone worker with a lithic reduction strategy to effectively minimise the behaviour differentials of the two materials, and significantly enhance the flaking properties of one of the materials, silcrete. Experimentally heat treated mudstone and silcrete also exhibited macroscopically distinct colour change.

Esteves, V.
Thesis abstract 'Unravel the Gravel: A Study of Hunter River Mudstone and Silcrete Gravels, an Archaeological Perspective'
June 1999
Thesis Abstracts
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