Thesis abstract ‘Ngarranggani, Ngamungamu, Jalanijarra: ‘Lost Places’, Recursiveness and Hybridity at Old Lamboo Pastoral Station, Southeast Kimberley, WA’

14th November 2013

Rodney Harrison

PhD, Discipline of Archaeology, School of Social and Cultural Studies, University of Western Australia, Crawley, 2002

People use the traces of the past to construct social and political identity in the present. Archaeology, as physical traces of the past that are experienced as part of the embodied engagement with landscape, is integral to this creative act of making history. The various ways in which people use the traces of the past in the present are examined in this thesis with reference to a case study in archaeological and ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in the southeast Kimberley with the ‘Lamboo mob’, a group of Jaru language speakers who are former pastoral workers from Old Lamboo Pastoral Station. The Lamboo mob directed the process of site survey, which focussed on identifying places with an archaeological component which they felt were important to the story of their ancestors’ past and to their sense of identity in the present. A sample of these places was then selected for more detailed archaeological study. Finally, the significance of this series of places to the story of the Jaru past and present is articulated both through archaeological analysis and through oral narrative and biography.

Central to the Lamboo mob’s understanding of the past are their locally mediated experiences of colonialism during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This has been principally associated with the intrusion of gold-miners and settler pastoralists, and eventually their almost wholesale inclusion as labourers in the pastoral industry, followed by a much more recent period of diaspora from these same pastoral properties to settle on the margins of towns throughout the study area. Of critical importance to understanding these events of the recent past are deeper historical structures that have continually re-emerged over the past 5,000 years, which have ultimately impacted on the way that the history of the pastoral industry in the southeast Kimberley has been experienced by both Aboriginal and settler pastoralists. While it was my intention to study the archaeology of encounters between Aboriginal and settler pastoralists in the southeast Kimberley, the project developed through collaboration between myself and the Lamboo mob to explore both the recent and deep pasts of the study area, and the role of the material remains which relate to these pasts in articulating contemporary attachments to place. Drawing on archaeological research. documentary research and oral history, the thesis makes a methodological contribution to the growing field of ‘contact archaeology’ in Australia, and to an understanding of the agency of Aboriginal people in developing hybrid social structures within the context of the pastoral industry in the Kimberley.

Archaeological mapping, surface collection and excavation focussed on a series of historic Aboriginal pastoral worker’s encampments associated with the Old Lamboo Homestead site. Aboriginal people provided detailed accounts of the history and importance of Old Lamboo and its material remains. A dialectic approach, involving the recording of particular archaeological remains and community dialogue regarding their significance and meaning, was employed. This allows me to analyse the ways in which both the spatial and the social order of the pastoral property was used in the past (and present) by Aboriginal ‘insiders’ to develop new, hybrid social identities as pastoral labourers. Further excavations at two pre-contact rockshelter sites detail long-term historical trajectories in the meaning of particular artefact forms and the perception of inside and outside space which give context to these ‘changes’ that occurred within the pastoral industry in the southeast Kimberley during the first part of the twentieth century.

Analysis of artefacts from a series of pre-and post-contact open artefact scatters is employed to develop a model of post-contact changes in stone tool manufacture in the study area. Within the study area, stone tools, in particular the finely pressure flaked biface ‘Kimberley’ point, continued to be manufactured throughout the twentieth century; however, the meaning of these objects changed such that they become aesthetic objects devoid of function. The ‘intensification’ in the manufacture of stone and glass spearheads after AD 1890 is linked to their role as collected objects and as symbols associated with changing notions of masculinity on the pastoral frontier.

I have coined the phrase vernacular archaeologies to refer to the ways in which non-archaeologists interrogate the traces of their past in the present, due to the similarities between this act of creative recursiveness and the archaeological project that is carried out by professional archaeologists in the modern world. What is different about these two approaches is the way in which vernacular archaeologies draw on embodied and profoundly local understandings of the landscape, which I term landscape biographies, to make meaning from these traces in the present.

Harrison, R.
Thesis abstract 'Ngarranggani, Ngamungamu, Jalanijarra: ‘Lost Places’, Recursiveness and Hybridity at Old Lamboo Pastoral Station, Southeast Kimberley, WA'
2004
58
44–45
Thesis Abstracts
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