Klaver, Jan Maria
The archaeological record of southeastern Australia, from the Pleistocene to the mid-tolate
Holocene, is seen to reflect a transition from dispersed Aboriginal land use patterns to
those of increasing) y populous, sedentary and socioeconomically complex hunter
gatherers. This unilinear development model is nevertheless based on broad trends in
rates of site formation and intensity of use, limited dating and functional analysis of
spatially patterned evidence, and scarce data for the...[Show more] comparative complexities of the
Pleistocene cultural environment. The present study reviews assumptions and evidence
underlying this model, and contributes the results of a new large scale sample survey, and
excavation program, in the Central Murrumbidgee Riverine Plain. The regional study
enables a reformulation of the Holocene land use model, especially for riverine plains
environments, and identifies avenues for further investigation.
A major weakness underlying the population-sedentism model is the inadequate
understanding of the definition, formation processes, functions and dating of the 'mound'
sites which are common in some southeastern Australian environments. These were
therefore a special focus of the research. The vast majority of such sites in the study
region were formed as a result of the operation of earth ovens. Multiple dates from
individual oven mounds demonstrated the very long periods over which they were
revisited and used. Such use highlights the caution required in interpreting their surficial
groupings, and relationship to proximate artefact scatters and other sites, as
contemporaneous settlement patterns. Their formation, even in large groupings, is
argued to be well within the capability of a population of modest densities within a regime
of seasonal or semi-sedentary usage.
The unilinear development model is also found to inadequately appreciate the degree to
which Aboriginal peoples reorganised their regional land use pattern at different times
within the Holocene. The major Pleistocene-Holocene environmental transition has been
a moment of expected cultural change, whilst intra-Holocene change has been more
readily interpreted as a result of a socioeconomic transition. Nevertheless, Holocene
environments underwent punctuated localised change. These are important parameters in
explaining the archaeological record. Such change was managed through complex and
flexible subsistence patterns, and elaborate technology and socioeconomic organisation,
which characterised the hunter gatherer societies of Aboriginal Australia from the mid
Holocene to the 19th century. It is argued, for the Central Murrumbidgee Riverine Plain,
that this process did not necessarily involve dramatic population increases, demographic
pressures, or a substantial adoption of the strictures of sedentism.
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