‘Life in a Corridor’: An Archaeological Investigation of the Diamantina Channel Country – a Western Queensland Corridor

01st December 2009

Anthony Simmons

PhD, School of Social Sciences, The University of Brisbane, June 2007

In models put forward to explain Aboriginal occupation of the Australian arid zone, the Diamantina River is characterised as a corridor, linking refuge areas – occupied for much of the arid period – to barriers that prevented occupation. The Diamantina River is part of a larger arid zone river catchment that flows into Lake Eyre. The catchment is an extensive but isolated area with much potential to increase our understanding of how inland river systems may have influenced arid zone colonisation, particularly the role of rivers as corridors. The focus of the study is Diamantina National Park (DNP) and this thesis is the first substantial archaeological research on this park and the Diamantina River. One of the key aims of this thesis is to establish a regional perspective on the archaeological record and to investigate whether current behavioural models for colonisation of the arid zone are appropriate for this corridor.

Initial surveys of key environments across DNP determined that the archaeological record was mostly restricted to open sites influenced by key environmental settings. A detailed and systematic survey to identify this patterning in the archaeological record was conducted via a series of continuously sampling transects that examined a cross-section of the key land zones found across DNP. The survey stage was complemented by an excavation programme that focused on nine hearths from five open site locations across DNP.

Survey results show that while archaeological evidence is found in most land zones, there is a clear preference for certain land zones over others, particularly dune fields associated with riverine environments. The hearth excavations confirmed a late Holocene age for the surface archaeological record (c.800 BP). Further, the environmental detail of the Diamantina catchment offers a microcosm of land zones that loosely fit the biogeographic concepts of refuge, corridor and barrier. These concepts provide a satisfactory framework to describe and predict the archaeological record and are the basis for a residential mobility model that explains the distribution of people across DNP in the recent past.

Anthony Simmon
December 2009
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Thesis Abstracts
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