Thesis abstract ‘Prehistoric Aboriginal Land and Resource Use in Southeast Cape York Peninsula: A Technological View’

23rd May 2014

Warwick Pearson

BA(Hons) thesis, Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, November 1990

This research for a BA (Hons) thesis was concerned with two issues of current debate in Australian prehistory. These were: the nature and timing of Pleistocene occupation of inland areas of the continent, and the nature and behavioural implications of mid- to late Holocene changes in the archaeological record.

To address these issues, a model of land and resource use throughout the period of Aboriginal occupation of a study area in southeast Cape York Peninsula was constructed. This was tested and refined using a technological analysis of Aboriginal stone artefacts from Sandy Creek 1, a rockshelter providing a dated occupation sequence from the early Pleistocene to European contact. Other, previously excavated, sites in the area provided comparative data.

In constructing a model of behavioural change during the occupation of the study area, an historical model was derived from ethnographic and ethno-historic studies of the area and from surveys of resource distribution in the area. Changes to this model in prehistory were hypothesized from discussions of climatic and environmental change in the area during the period of human occupation.

The issues concern behavioural change in patterns of land and resource use. It is well known that different patterns of land and resource use produce different spatial and temporal patterns of artefacts in the archaeological record. These patterns are particularly evident in prehistoric stone artefact flaking strategies. It is also well established that behavioural change in stone flaking strategies (e.g. efficiency of reduction, raw material use) may be reconstructed from technological analysis of the artefacts.

The study area is noted for a resident Aboriginal population throughout the arid phase of the last glaciation, and for a mid- to late Holocene increase in the intensity of exploitation of land and resources, visible simultaneously in a number of archaeological media. Aspects of mid- to late Holocene economic and demographic change in the study area differ from those described for other parts of the continent. This demonstrates that prehistoric behavioural change is best examined in a regional context.

Pearson, W.
Thesis abstract ‘Prehistoric Aboriginal Land and Resource Use in Southeast Cape York Peninsula: A Technological View’
December 1991
Thesis Abstracts
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