Toolkits and utility in Australian lithics: A comparison of a comprehensive woodworking kit and discard assemblages

01st June 2011

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJohn Hayward

BArchaeology(Hons), Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, October 2010

The concept of a ‘toolkit’ has been used to describe functional aspects of lithic assemblages since the 1960s, but has proved difficult to define. The history of the concept, which emerged from the analysis of European Mousterian assemblages by Binford and Bordes, is traced from its roots to the present-day. In Australia it has become a generalised term which has been used to explain the complete range of technologies available to a culture, as well as defining strategies for risk management and mobility. This research investigates the concept and its applicability to Australian lithic assemblages.

In 1970 a cache of 105 stone artefacts was discovered at the top of a sand dune in the arid landscape around Lake Hanson on South Australia’s Arcoona Plateau. Its finder interpreted the cache as ‘a comprehensive woodworking kit’. This ‘tool-kit’ is compared with assemblages from four sites collected from nearby Mungappie Creek by the same person. The analysis compared the number of artefact types, their sizes and the materials used at each of the Mungappie sites, including the Lake Hanson cache. Using the notion that a functional toolkit would need to have more potential utility than a discarded one, an assessment of the potential use life of an artefact in the form of ‘utility units’ was employed to indicate the possible presence of toolkits at each of the Mungappie sites. Results indicated that the toolkit cache was a unique collection of artefact and material types that were rare in any of the four Mungappie assemblages. There are profound differences between discard assemblages and discrete entities such as caches and toolkits, suggesting the need for a revision of the ‘toolkit’ concept from a generalised to a specific terminology.

Image caption: Artefacts from Mungappie Creek (photograph courtesy of John Hayward).
John Hayward
Toolkits and utility in Australian lithics: A comparison of a comprehensive woodworking kit and discard assemblages
June 2011
72
64-65
Thesis Abstracts
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