Thesis abstract ‘Go Fish! Using Archaeological Fishbone to Investigate the Enigmatic Stone Structure at Arrawarra Beach, NSW’

02nd January 2014

Deborah Vale

BA(Hons), School of Human and Environmental Studies, University of New England, Armidale, October 1998

An unnatural stone arrangement at Arrawarra Beach, on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, has been the subject of debate for at least two decades. Previous archaeological research has produced conflicting ethnographic and historical accounts of the origin and use of the structure. The excavation of a large quantity of fragmented, though well-preserved, fishbone from a nearby shell midden has provided a unique opportunity to investigate the questions of age, origin and use of the stone structure.

To obtain high quality data for investigating fishing strategies at Arrawarra Beach, particular attention has been paid to the retrieval and identification methodologies employed on the fishbone assemblage. Small-mesh sieving ensured the recovery of the optimum amount of fishbone from the deposit. Taxa previously unidentified from archaeological sites on the mid-north coast of New South Wales have been identified through increasing the number of diagnostic elements to include some post-cranial elements.

The possible environments exploited for resource procurement were identified through an ecological study of the fish represented archaeologically. The Arrawarra 1 fishbone assemblage represents a fish ‘catch’ of primarily small- to medium-sized taxa, with both carnivorous and herbivorous species represented. A small number of larger, carnivorous fish are also represented. The identification of taxa and their habitats suggests a shallow-water environment, rich in food suiting both the herbivorous and carnivorous fish. The rocky platform on which the Arrawarra stone structure is constructed provides this environment. A number of other fishing methods could account for this assemblage, but the use of a large-scale fishing technology, such as a stone fishtrap, provides a single means of obtaining the resources represented by the archaeological assemblage.

Vale, D.
Thesis abstract 'Go Fish! Using Archaeological Fishbone to Investigate the Enigmatic Stone Structure at Arrawarra Beach, NSW'
June 1999
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Thesis Abstracts
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