Review of ‘Between Plateau and Plain’ by June Anderson

11th February 2014

‘Between Plateau and Plain’ by June Anderson, 1984, Occasional Papers in Prehistory No. 4. Canberra: Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University, 44 pp. ISBN 0-86784-402-7 (pbk)

Review by Madge Schwede

The focus of this report was based on a 1982 archaeological survey which was part of an environmental impact statement for the proposed South Canning Dam to be situated southeast of Perth, Western Australia. Although the database was small with emphasis on inland areas, Anderson approached her research from a broad regional perspective. Specifically, Anderson investigated Aboriginal exploitation of three environmental regions, the Swan Coastal Plain, the Darling Range and the Darling Plateau. Anderson combined data from archaeological, environmental and ethnohistorical resources, and other Australian investigations. The presentation of this data through maps, tables and figures was clear and comprehensive.

The land use model that Anderson proposed was general, and definitely needed to be addressed in more detail. The initial proposition that groups which resided on the coastal plain splintered during times of sparse resources to utilise food found in the Jarrah forest during the winter and spring is questionable. Based on my own survey (Schwede 1990) of the Helena River Valley, which cuts across the same environmental zones investigated by Anderson, I suggested that the Jarrah forest was used by both coastal and plateau groups primarily as sources for stone and food year round. In addition, groups travelling between the two areas used the river valleys such as the Canning and Helena as direct routes for social, ceremonial or trade purposes. As Strawbridge (1984) pointed out in a similar study to the north, rather than camping within the Jarrah forest during the winter months (a cold and wet proposition), the forest was utilised from base camps on the coastal plain during these months. While this paper is almost a decade old, it remains a unique document on southwestern Australian archaeology. Very little subsequent research has been published on the southwest forests although various contract reports have been prepared over the last eight years. As Anderson has rightly pointed out. more research is needed in this zone, especially excavation of stratified sites. Until further surveys are completed on the forest areas and related to information from both coastal and plains sites, the above propositions must remain speculative.

References


Schwede, M.L 1990 Quartz, the multifaceted stone: A regional prehistory of the Helena River Valley on the Swan Coastal Plain of southwestern Australia. PhD. thesis, University of Western Australia, Nedlands.

Strawbridge, L. 1984 Aboriginal archaeological sites in the proposed Brigadoon Estate Development Darling Scarp, Western Australia. Unpublished report prepared for T.S. Martin and Associates, by Centre for Prehistory, University of Western Australia, Nedlands.

Schwede, M.
Review of 'Between Plateau and Plain’ by June Anderson
December 1993
37
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