Thesis abstract ‘Graman Revisited: An Analysis of Stone Artefact and Site Function at Graman Sites GB1 and GB4’

24th May 2014

Phillip G. Boot

MA thesis, Department of Prehistory and Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, The Australian National University, Canberra, May 1990

This MA thesis is an analysis of function based on four levels of interpretation. Those of individual artefact use, relationships between artefacts within a functional assemblage, assemblages as part of a functioning site, and changing artefact and site function over time.

Well over 2000 stone artefacts from two rockshelters in the Ottley’s Creek Valley near Graman in northern New South Wales were examined for the presence of use wear and residues. One hundred and twenty-nine experiments were conducted in order to replicate likely stone tool functions at Graman. Previous ethnohistorical and archaeological research at Graman was reviewed.

The resultant data produced from this research have led to interpretations of tool and site use at Graman which indicate substantial change in function over time. The sites appear to have been base camps in which stone tools were manufactured, used (predominantly for plant working), and discarded in distinct activity areas. These activity areas and the ways in which stone tools were used appear to have changed over time at both sites (although not simultaneously). However, the general subsistence strategies appear to have remained relatively unchanged.

Several methodological problems have also been addressed, particularly those dealing with variations in fracture damage rates and transverse snapping. Both of these areas of research require further investigation but it appears that edge fracture rates are linked both to intensity and duration of use and to the mechanical properties of the stone materials used. Transverse snapping can result from a number of factors, but certain forms of transverse snaps appear to be indicative of barbing functions among backed blades.

Generally, the results of the research lend support to previous research conducted by McBryde (1976, 1977, 1984), which indicated that substantial functional change has occurred at Graman over a relatively short period. The research has allowed an examination of such change in great detail and has shown that functional analysis is an ideal method by which the minutiae of prehistory can be observed.


McBryde, I. 1976 Subsistence patterns in New England prehistory. Occasional Papers in Anthropology 6:48–68.

McBryde, I. 1977 Determinants of assemblage variation in New England prehistory. In R.V.S. Wright (ed.), Stone Tools as Cultural Markers, pp.226–250. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

McBryde, 1. 1984 Backed blade industries from the Graman rockshelters, New South Wales: Some evidence on function. In V.N. Misra and P. Bellwood (eds), Recent Advances in Indo-Pacific Prehistory, pp.231–249. New Delhi: Oxford and IBH Publishing Company.

Boot, P.G.
Thesis abstract ‘Graman Revisited: An Analysis of Stone Artefact and Site Function at Graman Sites GB1 and GB4’
December 1990
Thesis Abstracts
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