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Coastal Themes (Terra Australis 24)

Coastal Themes (Terra Australis 24): An Archaeology of the Southern Curtis Coast, Queensland

Sean Ulm
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: Terra Australis 24
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Coastal Themes (Terra Australis 24)
    Book Description:

    Coastal archaeology in Australia differs in many respects from that of other areas, with the potential to examine relatively fine-scale variation. Nevertheless, there has been a general tendency in Australian archaeology to play down the variability and to subsume the evidence into broader homogenising models of Aboriginal cultural change. This case study clearly and self-consciously addresses the need to focus on local and regional patterns before moving on to more general levels of explanation. Coastal Themes builds a detailed chronology of Aboriginal occupation for the southern Curtis Coast in Queensland. Innovative analyses refine radiocarbon dates and explore discard behaviours and post-depositional processes affecting the integrity of coastal archaeological sites. The resulting insights highlight major changes in Aboriginal use of this region over the last 5,000 years and disjunctions between the course of occupation in this and adjacent regions.

    eISBN: 978-1-920942-96-0
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-vi)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Ian Lilley

    THE RESEARCH DOCUMENTED here represents the first systematic archaeological work in this area of the southeast Queensland coast and was undertaken as a major part of a larger, multicomponent project concerning archaeology and cultural heritage in the traditional country of Gooreng Gooreng speaking people. Sean’s task was to build upon the results of exploratory site survey and excavation to address two key concerns. The first was the relationship of patterns of cultural change in his study area to those described elsewhere in southeast Queensland. The second was to ensure that any such comparisons were taphonomically well-founded, particularly with regard to...

  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xxviii)
  5. 1 Introduction: investigating the archaeology of the southern Curtis Coast
    (pp. 1-12)

    Southeast Queensland is one of the most intensively studied archaeological provinces in Australia, incorporating some 73 dated Aboriginal sites (Ulm and Reid 2000, 2004). Over the last 15 years, general syntheses of regional archaeological patterns have emerged which emphasise significant increases in site numbers and use since the mid-Holocene, especially on the coast (e.g. Hall 2000; Hall and Hiscock 1988; McNiven 1999; Morwood 1987; Walters 1989; Ulm and Hall 1996). Many of these studies emphasise the primary role of marine resources in the elaboration of social complexity in the region.

    The research presented in this monograph assembles a regional archaeology...

  6. 2 The study region: the southern Curtis Coast
    (pp. 13-36)

    This chapter contextualises the study with brief outlines of the physical environment, Aboriginal cultural setting and previous archaeological investigations in the region. The first section covers geology, climate, hydrology, flora, fauna and palaeoenvironment to provide a background to regional landscape development, resource availability and dating issues. Local ethnographies, documentary histories and oral histories are reviewed in the second section to create an overview of recent Aboriginal lifeways and historical transformations in the region. The final section summarises previous archaeological work in the broader region before focussing specifically on the results of Gooreng Gooreng Cultural Heritage Project investigations on the southern...

  7. 3 Methods of investigation
    (pp. 37-46)

    This chapter outlines the methods used to address data recovery and analytical issues. Excavation strategies and methods are outlined and sampling issues discussed. Analytical procedures adopted for the major classes of recovered materials are also presented. Detailed justification of the use of these methods is presented in Ulm (2004a: 55–74).

    Excavations targetted a range of sites located throughout the study area in order to develop a basic understanding of coastal land-use and construct a regional chronology upon which to examine continuities and disjunctions within and between individual site sequences (Table 3.1). Access to sites was constrained by land tenure...

  8. 4 Marine and estuarine reservoir effects in central Queensland: determination of ΔR values
    (pp. 47-64)

    This chapter forms the first of two chapters addressing technical issues critical to the rest of the study. Uncertainty in radiocarbon ages introduced by variation in marine and estuarine reservoir effects through space and time are a major issue in the investigation and dating of coastal archaeological deposits. In areas where no local studies have been undertaken reliance on generic regional correction values can reduce confidence in the accuracy of individual radiocarbon dates obtained on marine and estuarine samples (e.g. mollusc shell, fish bone etc) and the chronologies constructed on the basis of these dates. As a technical component of...

  9. 5 Bivalve conjoin analyses: assessing site integrity
    (pp. 65-78)

    Conjoin (also refitting or cross-mending) analyses of stone artefact, ceramic and faunal assemblages have long been employed to assess the integrity of various archaeological deposits (see, for example, collected papers in Cziesla et al. 1990; Hofman and Enloe 1992). Only two systematic studies have been conducted in Australia, both concerning rockshelters in the Central Queensland Highlands (Richardson 1992, 1996; Stern 1980; see also Leavesley and Allen 1998). No comparable studies are available for open coastal midden sites despite explicit and implicit reference to this site type as stratigraphically problematic (e.g. Gillespie and Polach 1979; Lourandos 1996, 1997; Roberts 1991; Stone...

  10. 6 Seven Mile Creek Mound
    (pp. 79-96)

    Archaeological excavations of the Seven Mile Creek Mound revealed a dense cultural deposit dominated by marine shell dated to c.3,950 cal BP. This result provides some of the earliest evidence of focussed marine exploitation from an open archaeological site on the Queensland coast. This chapter describes the site and its stratigraphy, chronology and contents, followed by a discussion of the implications of the data for understanding the archaeology of the study region.

    The Seven Mile Creek Mound is a discrete shell mound located on a low, sandy ridge isolated on tidal flats fringing Seven Mile Creek, approximately 35km southeast of...

  11. 7 Mort Creek Site Complex
    (pp. 97-114)

    This chapter reports the results of archaeological excavations undertaken at the Mort Creek Site Complex. Previous surveys and test excavations undertaken by Lilley et al. (reported in Carter et al. 1999) in 1995 revealed the potential of the site to contribute to a regional understanding of early coastal occupation with cultural deposits dated to before 2,000 BP. These excavations and subsequent analyses demonstrated a complex history of landscape formation, with interfingering natural and cultural shell deposits in some areas of the site. The excavations reported below were part of a detailed reappraisal of the site complex in 1998 which sought...

  12. 8 Pancake Creek Site Complex
    (pp. 115-130)

    This chapter reports the results of archaeological excavations undertaken at the Pancake Creek Site Complex. The large size, linear structure and recent chronology of this site are features common to other major archaeological deposits identified on the lower margins of the main estuaries in the region. Similar sites investigated in this study include the Ironbark Site Complex on Middle Creek (Chapter 9) and Eurimbula Site 1 on Round Hill Creek (Chapter 12). The excavations and analyses reported in this chapter demonstrate that although the cultural deposits at the Pancake Creek Site Complex are of a relatively low density, the large...

  13. 9 Ironbark Site Complex
    (pp. 131-156)

    This chapter describes archaeological investigations of a major stone quarry/shell midden complex in the approximate centre of the southern Curtis Coast study region. In addition to an extensive, low density linear midden common to the archaeological record of the region, the Ironbark Site Complex features evidence for major stone quarrying and reduction activities. The site has yielded evidence for Aboriginal use from around 1,500 years ago into the post-contact period. Survey and excavation methods are outlined and the results of excavations are presented. Analyses demonstrate that activities at the site were focussed on the reduction of rhyolitic tuff, with edge-ground...

  14. 10 Eurimbula Creek 1
    (pp. 157-168)

    This chapter reports archaeological excavations at the site of Eurimbula Creek 1, a small shell midden on the north bank of Eurimbula Creek. Small, stratified middens are rare on the southern Curtis Coast, where the archaeology is dominated by large linear deposits. Other recorded small middens are limited to surface contexts and/or exhibit signs of significant disturbance. Excavations and analyses presented in this chapter demonstrate that Eurimbula Creek 1 represents a single or limited number of occupation events over a relatively short interval in the recent past. The restricted range of activities represented at the site may indicate a specialised...

  15. 11 Eurimbula Creek 2
    (pp. 169-176)

    This brief chapter describes archaeological investigations at a small shell midden, Eurimbula Creek 2, on the north bank of Eurimbula Creek just southeast of the site of Eurimbula Creek 1 reported in Chapter 10. As noted in the previous chapter, small stratified middens are rare in the region. Investigations at Eurimbula Creek 2 were undertaken to explore the nature and chronology of these smaller assemblages. Excavations and analyses indicate that the site represents a single ephemeral occupation event in the recent past, probably pre-dating European invasion of the area. The limited range of remains suggest that the site was a...

  16. 12 Eurimbula Site 1
    (pp. 177-200)

    This chapter reports the results of archaeological investigations at Eurimbula Site 1, a large site complex on the eastern margin of Eurimbula National Park. Test excavations conducted in 1995 (reported in Ulm et al. 1999a) revealed a low density cultural sequence with marked discontinuities in the distribution and antiquity of remains across the site complex. The densest and oldest deposits, dating to shortly before 3,000 BP, were located along the southern margin of the site with lower density deposits dating to the recent past across the northern two-thirds of the site. Densities of cultural material were also found to decrease...

  17. 13 Tom’s Creek Site Complex
    (pp. 201-224)

    This chapter reports archaeological investigations at the Tom’s Creek Site Complex, located at the confluence of Round Hill Creek and Tom’s Creek. It is the only excavated site to the east of Round Hill Creek in this study. Findings are consistent with those from sites to the north, showing repeated deposition of cultural materials from around 1,000 years ago. Like the Ironbark Site Complex, the Tom’s Creek Site Complex provides direct evidence for persistence of occupation into the historical period, with flaked bottle glass recovered from the surface of the deposits. Survey and excavation methods are outlined before results of...

  18. 14 Synthesis of results: towards an archaeology of the southern Curtis Coast
    (pp. 225-246)

    This chapter synthesises the data detailed in the preceding eight site report chapters and also draws on survey data discussed earlier. It focusses on major indices used to identify continuity and change in the regional archaeological record. These data have quantitative and qualitative dimensions. First, the distribution of radiocarbon dates is used to describe and evaluate regional chronology, with comparisons drawn from the broader southeast Queensland area. Second, site contents are examined with an emphasis on shell, fish bone, charcoal and stone artefacts. Shellfish remains inform on diet breadth, intensity of occupation and habitat preferences. Fish bone and other marine...

  19. 15 Wider implications and conclusions
    (pp. 247-256)

    This chapter briefly discusses the project’s results in the context of key models for southeast Queensland and adjacent regions which emphasise recent intensification of settlement and subsistence strategies. The chapter concludes by considering directions for future research which will improve our understanding of the archaeology of southeast Queensland as well as coastal archaeology in Australia more generally.

    The main findings of this study can be summarised as follows:

    significant estuary-specific radiocarbon reservoir offsets of up to ΔR= –305±61;

    generally high integrity of open coastal deposits;

    first occupation of the region by 4,000 BP;

    presence of fish bone in deposits pre-dating...

  20. References
    (pp. 257-278)
  21. Appendix 1: Radiocarbon dates: technical data
    (pp. 280-282)
  22. Appendix 2: Recorded archaeological sites on the southern Curtis Coast
    (pp. 283-292)
  23. Appendix 3: Site name synonyms for recorded sites on the southern Curtis Coast
    (pp. 293-296)
  24. Appendix 4: Excavation data
    (pp. 297-312)
  25. Appendix 5: Shellfish reference collection
    (pp. 313-314)