Environment, landscape and stone technology at Lake Mungo, southwest New South Wales, Australia

19th December 2012

Jacqueline N. Tumney

This study investigates one methodology for extracting useful information about variability and change in human behaviour from low density surface archaeological remains scattered across a large, complex and eroding Pleistocene landform. Lake Mungo, part of the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area in southwest New South Wales, provides the setting for this case study. Stone artefacts in eroding surface contexts form a large proportion of the Willandra Lakes archaeological record, yet have contributed little to our understanding of past behaviour in this area. This study is among the first to apply the combination of a landscape approach to  data  collection,  GIS  modelling  and  theories of technological organisation to the interpretation of this unique and important record.

Two study areas at Lake Mungo contain sediments representing a change from consistently high lakes to fluctuating and drying lakes, between approximately 25 ka and 15 ka. Detailed mapping and analysis of geomorphology and artefact distribution indicate that, although geomorphic processes have redistributed some of  the surface material, there are areas that have retained some stratigraphic integrity. This study defines three assemblages of chipped stone artefacts that can be reliably associated with particular stratigraphic layers and thus with particular environments and landscapes. These assemblages are interpreted using the framework of technological organisation. Differential use of raw materials from different sources, the intensity of stone use, and the relative frequency of particular artefact types are investigated. This enables inferences about raw material conservation, strategies of provisioning and the movement of people around the landscape. Differences between the assemblages do not correspond in a straightforward way to differences in palaeolandscape or palaeoenvironmental context, and this provides a springboard for discussions about the structure of the archaeological record and the way in which we derive information from assemblages that have accumulated over different time spans.

Jacqueline N. Tumney
Environment, landscape and stone technology at Lake Mungo, southwest New South Wales, Australia
2012
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Thesis Abstracts
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