Posts Tagged ‘Australia’


Topic: ancient occupation

Prof Veth says the team will also be looking for evidence of any continuing Aboriginal presence between that time and the next known occupation, a 19th century pearling camp. Image: Mushroom Bay, Barrow Island, neomyrtusA NEW archaeological survey will investigate human occupation sites at Barrow Island, from the time it was joined to the mainland between seven and eight thousand years ago.

UWA Archaeologist Professor Peter Veth, who has excavated ancient archaeological sites in the Monte Bello Islands over the past two decades, says Barrow Island is the next logical place to look for sites of human occupation that probably ended as sea levels rose.

“We’d been looking at the opportunity for recovering drowned paleo-landscapes and sites for a long time,” he says.

“You look offshore and you are going to get islands which were once part of the mainland and they register oceanic sea level fluctuations, changing maritime systems, a whole range of configurations of faunas, human economies, behaviours which won’t be the same as those on the retracted mainland today.”

Prof Veth says the team will also be looking for evidence of any continuing Aboriginal presence between that time and the next known occupation, a 19th century pearling camp.

“There are modified glass artefacts, remains of fauna, turtle bones and lots of other materials from that period,” he says.

He says a later occupation appears to be a base for a 1920s trepang (Holothuroidea) fishery.

“We will have one crew working on what we call aerial or open-site survey,” he says.

“The second will be working on [two] rock shelters or caves. The Indigenous archaeology [is] quite substantial and should have good deposits.

“The third crew will be working down on Bandicoot Bay on the historic pearling camp and they will be surveying the extent of the site and … doing limited test excavations in the historic material area.”

The excavation team will employ what he describes as “wet sieving”, a newly-developed technique designed to retrieve minute particles of organic matter such as bone fragments, seeds and charcoal on site.

“We’re using super-fine sieves,” he says.

“We’ll be setting up what are called floatation bins or ponds, and everything that comes from the deposit will actually be wet-sieved and anything organic right down to one millimetre will be retrieved.

“We hope to get charcoal from fuel that’s many thousands of years old … possibly up to about 40 [or] 45 [thousand years].

“[Also collected will be] seeds and plants that people may have eaten, and tiny things like fish bones and remains of mammals that you normally wouldn’t get.”

Original article:
May 30, 2013



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Topic: ancient clam sites

The excavation of what appears to be an ancient food storage system along the beach of Russell Island, between Fulford Harbour and Swartz Bay, is helping to cast more light on the history and development of local aboriginal groups.

Six years after researchers discovered two clam gardens along the beachfront, University of Victoria students are sifting through sand, gravel and shells to figure out how and when the gardens were built. Some researchers have suggested the gardens helped augment a community’s food supply.

The gardens are beach areas where clams grow naturally and have been enhanced to increase clam production.

“From some groups of elders we’ve talked to, they say these clam gardens basically acted as food banks,” said Nathan Cardinal, the cultural resource management adviser for the Gulf Island National Park Reserve. “If they couldn’t get enough food to get through the winter, they could come here and grab shellfish.”

For the past three years, anthropology students have pitched their tents and spent May and part of June studying historical aboriginal sites around Vancouver Island. The clam gardens they are studying are small fields built on the beach at low tide with surrounding rock walls. The walls acted as a barrier to keep out seaweed and prevent predators from destroying the growing clams and other shellfish.

Like vegetable gardeners, those who tended the clam beds would till the sand, turning it over to provide the clams more oxygen.

“It shows that people didn’t passively react to their environment but rather created their own landscape,” said instructor Eric McLay.

McLay estimates the gardens on Russell Island are at least 1,000 years old. The island was once home to an aboriginal community and the clams may have been used for trade.

Clam gardens are a relatively new discovery for archeologists. The first one was found in the Broughton Archipelago in 1995. Since then, gardens have been discovered along coastlines from B.C. to Alaska.

For the UVic students, this week marks the one time each year that there’s a three-day window when the tides will be lowest, helping them get a clearer picture of the gardens.

Aboriginal representatives have joined the students to help teach about the role the gardens played in their culture.

Phillip Joe, a member of the Cowichan Tribe, said he remembers his grandparents telling him stories about the gardens. “The clam gardens are only a little bit of our culture, and there’s a lot more to be explained,” he said.

Original article:

times colonist

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Topic Ancient fish traps

In a remote corner of the world, east of Esperance, in Western Australia, a stone fish trap has been re-discovered by Traditional Owners and an integrated research team operating within the Gabbie Kylie Foundation (National Trust of Australia, W.A.).

The find is the first fish trap so far recorded in the wEsperance region. For Esperance Traditional Owner and Coordinator of the Foundation, Doc Reynolds, the find is a powerful reminder of his community’s connection to Country.

“I remember using this area as a child, with the Old People catching a good feed here all the time. The old fellas had a very complex understanding of the seasons, tides, and animal behaviour, and were able to utilize sustainable techniques to harvest a catch with great skill and efficiency.”

A Substance Strategy

The site comprises a number of placed stones across a tidal creek and estuary, that were most likely supported by wooden stakes and other fibrous meshing, that have long since deteriorated. The trap was created as a subsistence strategy, harnessing the natural tidal cycles of this estuary, whereby fish move in and out with the tides but then some are blocked by this fish trap; and are therefore more easily speared or caught. People traditionally fished and hunted in seasonal cycles, careful to not over-exploit any one resource, to ensure sustainable futures.

During a survey of this region in October 2012, local Elder Gail Yorkshire-Selby noticed a large stone protruding from the sand, though still partially submerged. The team investigated and identified a discrete alignment; waiting until low tide before excavating the beach sands and exposing the entire feature. They then busily went about photographing and mapping the feature before the high tide returned. The site was recorded and will be submitted to the Department of Indigenous Affairs who provide legislative protection of important heritage places. The Gabbie Kylie team will continue to monitor and manage this area.

Elaborate fish traps have been documented throughout the Southwest and South coast, most notably the heritage-listed fish traps of Oyster Harbour in Albany. It is difficult to determine how long these traps have been used, and further work is necessary to document the way people utilized the area and adapted to changing environments.

Complex human occupation on several islands

During the mid-Holocene (c.a. 7,000 to 3,000 years ago), the local environment is likely to have had a different configuration associated with changing sea levels and coastal formation processes. Indeed, the Gabbie Kylie team and other archaeologists from the Western Australian Museum have documented archaeological sites and evidence of complex human occupation on several offshore islands; demonstrating that people were able to once walk through a vast coastal plain that is now the Islands of the Recherche Archipelago.

The fish trap site is one of hundreds of archaeological places, historic structures, and maritime sites being recorded and managed by the Esperance Traditional Owner community, together with various specialists, and with support from the Department of Environment and Conservation.

A integrated approach

Archaeologist David Guilfoyle (Applied Archaeology International) believes it is the integrated approach adopted by the Foundation that underlies much of the success of the programme. “This works because we all have different perspectives but share the same goal – to learn how best to manage and protect our natural and cultural landscapes. We have Elders, young fellas, students, archaeologists, land managers, and botanists all in the field together. Everyone has something to contribute; everyone’s perspective is respected and incorporated into the field work and research.”

Genevieve Carey, a student from the University of Montana in the USA, who participated in this most recent field trip, believes the programme is something special. “I was able to listen, learn and experience a great deal during my time on this field school. But more than that, I was treated not solely as a student, but as an active member of the team. It was a great honour to work alongside the Elders and specialists in such a way, and experience the thrill of discovery and adventure together.”

The team was joined by Professor Steve Hopper, Winthrop Professor of Biodiversity, from the Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management and School of Plant Biology, within the University of Western Australia. Professor Hopper agreed that the holistic nature of the programme, and working with the Indigenous community, is vitally important:

“Sharing cross-cultural and cross disciplinary knowledge is a powerful way to achieve the best outcomes for caring for country and conserving biodiversity. It was a personally enriching and moving experience for me to join the elders, archaeologists and students on the Field School and explore plant life while learning about how humans lived and adapted to one of the world’s most beautiful and enigmatic landscapes.”

Support partners

The programme is also greatly supported by long-term partners, the Western Australian Museum (WAM). Representing WAM on the field trips is Ross Anderson, a maritime archaeologist who has been researching aspects of the early whaling and sealing period along the south coast.

Ross says: “The Gabbie Kylie Foundation (GKF) research and field school programme aims for excellence in community development and natural and cultural heritage site management. In achieving its aims the GKF programme is both grass-roots and academic in its philosophy, and represents all that is positive in cross-cultural sharing between Traditional Owners, researchers, students, and management bodies. The WA Museum is proud to be a supporter of the GKF programme.”

The programme is further supported by historical archaeologist, Renée Gardiner, managing director of Earth Imprints Consulting. Her work with the Traditional Owners is uncovering some exciting aspects of the more recent past through investigation of several remote homesteads.

Enables Traditional Owners to re-establish connections

The Gabbie Kylie Foundation was established in late 2007 to conserve and interpret the Indigenous heritage values of the south coast region and enable Traditional Owners to re-establish connections with country.

In order to achieve these objectives, the Foundation has adopted a holistic, community-based approach that integrates education and training programmes with on-ground conservation works. Field schools enable high school students, university students and members of the broader community to undertake on-ground conservation work, while receiving instruction in archaeology, geography, restoration ecology, heritage conservation and landscape management. The programme is supported by the W.A. Museum, the Federal Government’s Indigenous Heritage Programme, and BHP Billiton.

David Guilfoyle says the programme is highly important and relevant. “Understanding the complex connections and knowledge people have of the land is the most important avenue of inquiry for our generation as we strive toward achieving ecological, economic and social sustainability. Western science and society is, in many ways, still trying to catch up to the complexity and ingenuity of Australia’s First Nations. A fish trap and a programme like this one provide many insights. We only need open our eyes to the past to see sustainable pathways for the future.”

Original article:

past horizons
March 9, 2013



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English: A sketch of two prehistoric fish hook...

Image via Wikipedia

Topic: Ancient fishing Gear

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Fish hooks and fishbones dating back 42,000 years found in a cave in East Timor suggest that humans were capable of skilled, deep-sea fishing 30,000 years earlier than previously thought, researchers in Australia and Japan said on Friday.

              The artefacts — nearly 39,000 fishbones and three fish hooks — were found in a limestone cave in Jerimalai in East Timor, 50 metres (165 feet) above sea level, said Sue O’Connor from the Australian National University‘s department of archaeology and natural history.

              “There was never any hint of (what) maritime technology people might have had in terms of fishing gear 40,000 years ago,” O’Connor, the study’s lead author, told Reuters by telephone from Canberra.

“(This study showed) you got ability to make hooks, you are using lines on those hooks. If you can make fibre lines, you can make nets, you are probably using those fibres on your boats.”

              “It gives us a lot of information on how people subsisted on these very small islands on their way to Australia,” she said.

              Modern humans were capable of long-distance sea travel 50,000 years ago as they colonised Australia, but evidence of advanced maritime fishing has been rare.

              Researchers until now have only been able to find evidence of open-ocean fishing up to 12,000 years ago.


              O’Connor and her colleagues, who published their findings in the journal Science, found the bones and hooks in a 1 sq metre “test pit” in the cave, 300 metres (985 feet) from the coast.

              “All the bones we got inside were just the result of human meals, 40,000 years ago,” said O’Connor.

              “They were living in that shelter and we are fortunate that all the materials are preserved so well in that limestone cave, which preserves bone and shell really well,” she said.

              The fish hooks were apparently made from the shells of the Trochus, a large sea snail.

              “They are very strong shell … we think they just put bait on and dropped the hook in the water from a boat (at the) edge of a reef,” O’Connor said.

              The fish bones were traced to 23 species of fish, including tuna, unicornfish, parrotfish, trevallies, triggerfish, snappers, emperors and groupers.

              “Parrotfish and unicorn were probably caught on baited hooks … but tuna are deepwater, fast-moving fish. Tuna and trevallies were probably caught by lure fishing,” O’Connor said.

Original Article:


By Tan Ee Lyn | Reuters – Sat, Jan 14, 2012

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