Geoarchaeological investigation of Aboriginal landscape occupation in Paroo-Darling National Park, western NSW, Australia

Simon J. Holdaway, Patricia C. Fanning, Justin Shiner

    Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


    This report provides a preliminary statement of the scientific (archaeological) significance of Aboriginal stone artefact scatters and associated heat-retainer hearths at three locations in Paroo-Darling National Park in western NSW, by undertaking reconnaissance geoarchaeological surveys and analyses of artefact assemblages at these locations. It extends previous studies undertaken by WNSWAP (Western New South Wales Archaeological Programme) in the western region of NSW by studying the relationship between geomorphological history and surface archaeological exposure in environments that are unique to Paroo-Darling National Park. Geoarchaeological survey techniques developed elsewhere in western NSW were applied at each of the three locations to provide the information needed to assess the nature, extent and scientific significance of stone artefact scatters and the likely impacts of visitor activity. The three locations preserve dense concentrations of artefacts that, when treated as three separate assemblages, reveal a varied behavioural record. The Peery (Pine) Creek (CW) location contains a high proportion of lightly worked silcrete cores, many retaining cortex, suggesting that the people who occupied this place were not concerned to conserve the raw material they introduced. The assemblage features an unusually high proportion of adzes, many as expended slugs that have been resharpened to exhaustion. Evidently, the people who occupied this place had the time to repair the tools for which these adzes formed the cutting edge. By contrast, at the Peery Lake foreshore (NP), adzes are not frequent but pirri points and backed blades are unusually common. The assemblage from Round Hill is also distinct, being dominated by flakes and cores as would be expected if this location were used primarily as a source for abundant good quality raw material. Radiocarbon age determinations on charcoal extracted from the remains of heat-retainer hearths at CW and NP provide evidence for Aboriginal occupation in the last 2000 years. Like other locations in western NSW, the nine age determinations from CW are clustered into three groups, separated by gaps, rather than evenly or randomly distributed through time. However, the pattern of clusters and gaps at CW appears different to those from other locations we have studied, and will require further verification. There were no hearth remains at the Round Hill location, so no absolute determination of the timing of use by Aboriginal people is possible. However, it may support a much longer record, perhaps tens of thousands of years, as it is a residual surface not subject to the kinds of geomorphic processes that obliterate or obscure the record at valley floor locations. The archaeological material preserved at the three locations in Paroo-Darling National Park contains a regionally specific record of past human behaviour when compared to other similarly studied locations in western NSW, and therefore is of archaeological significance. Efforts should be made to ensure the protection of the archaeological record from damage caused by an increase in visitors from the present levels. If visitor facilities are to be created at these areas, consideration should be given to positioning them so that the artefacts are not further disturbed or damaged, and that they are located to keep visitors at some distance from the artefacts and hearths. Alternative locations for the proposed visitor facilities are suggested for each location.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationAuckland, NZ
    PublisherDepartment of Anthropology, University of Auckland
    Number of pages82
    ISBN (Print)0958274401
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

    Publication series

    NameResearch in anthropology and linguistics-e
    PublisherDepartment of Anthropology, University of Auckland


    • archaeology
    • social anthropology

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