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Journeys into the Rainforest

Journeys into the Rainforest: Archaeology of Culture Change and Continuity on the Evelyn Tableland, North Queensland OPEN ACCESS

Åsa Ferrier
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 43
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Journeys into the Rainforest
    Book Description:

    This monograph presents the results of archaeological research that takes a longitudinal approach to interpreting and understanding Aboriginal–European contact. It focuses on a small but unique area of tropical rainforest in far north Queensland’s Wet Tropics Bioregion, located within the traditional lands of the Jirrbal Aboriginal people on the Evelyn Tableland. The research integrates a diverse range of data sources: archaeological evidence recovered from Aboriginal open sites occupied in the pre- to post-contact periods, historical documents of early ethnographers, settlers and explorers in the region, supplemented with Aboriginal oral history testimony. Analyses of the archaeological evidence excavated from three open sites facilitated the identification of the trajectories of culture change and continuity that this investigation focused on: Aboriginal rainforest material culture and technology, plant subsistence strategies, and rainforest settlement patterns. Analyses of the data sets demonstrate that initial use of the rainforest environment on the Evelyn Tableland occurred during the early Holocene period, with successful adaptation and a change towards more permanent Aboriginal use of the rainforest becoming established in the late Holocene period. European arrival and settlement on traditional Aboriginal land resulted in a period of historical upheaval for the Aboriginal rainforest people. Following an initial period of violent interactions and strong Aboriginal resistance from the rainforest, Jirrbal Aboriginal people continued to adapt and transform their traditional culture to accommodate for the many changes forced upon them throughout the post‑contact period.

    eISBN: 978-1-925022-88-9
    Subjects: Archaeology, Sociology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
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Table of Contents

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  1. The archaeology of far north Queensland’s rainforest region has up until recently received relatively scant attention from Australian archaeologists. This is hardly surprising as rainforests are difficult to work in as a result of high rainfall, difficult terrain and dense vegetation. This monograph is concerned with the archaeology of Aboriginal–European contact in a previously unexplored area of far north Queensland’s rainforest region, investigating whether the application of a longitudinal (temporal) framework can produce useful new perspectives in the interpretation of the pre- and post-contact archaeological record. The contact and post-contact periods are a time when massive change and transformation...

  2. This chapter presents background information regarding (i) the understanding of the environmental context, (ii) the distinct Aboriginal rainforest culture recorded at the time of European contact, (iii) the outcomes of Aboriginal interactions and negotiations with Europeans over the decades that followed first contact and (iv) the archaeological evidence, to the study area. The first section describes the environmental setting of the rainforest region, and demonstrates that a great level of biodiversity exists in this region. Information from palaeoecological research in the region is summarised to facilitate an appreciation of the climatic and environmental variability of the late Pleistocene and Holocene...

  3. This chapter presents an analysis of ethnographic information available from the study area with the aim of assisting archaeological interpretation. Chapter 2 established that theJirrbalpeople from the Cedar Creek, upper Tully River area, were amongst the last rainforest groups on the Tablelands to come into permanent contact with Europeans. The documentary evidence from the Tablelands is presented first, followed by analyses of two documentary sources that are directly linked to the study area: the early observations by Michael O’Leary on the upper Tully River; and Eric Mjöberg’s documents, including his 1913 diary notes from the Cedar Creek campsite....

  4. 4 Urumbal Pocket (pp. 47-70)

    The principal site used to investigate the pre-European archaeological record of the Evelyn Tableland is the open site of Urumbal Pocket located on Koombooloomba Dam (Fig. 1.1). The aim of constructing a long-term history of Aboriginal occupation at the Urumbal Pocket open site is to create a small window of images into a pre-European Aboriginal rainforest society. Urumbal Pocket’s long-term occupation history is used here as a backdrop to the construction of occupation histories at two archaeological sites used in the more recent past by Aboriginal people, discussed in Chapters 7 and 8. This chapter commences with a background to...

  5. The significance of the archaeological record from Urumbal Pocket lies in the preservation of large amounts of cultural materials associated with a relatively high-precision temporal record. The archaeological evidence from Urumbal Pocket consists of two principal categories: a large stone artefact assemblage and a collection of carbonised plant materials (presented in Chapter 6). The analyses of the Urumbal Pocket archaeological material mainly relate to Aboriginal rainforest occupation before European arrival in and around the traditional lands of theJirrbalpeople. The aims of the analyses are firstly to explore change and continuity in stone artefact typology and technology, raw material...

  6. The analysis of carbonised plant remains recovered from Urumbal Pocket has two aims: (i) to identify the types of rainforest plants found in the archaeological record; and (ii) to investigate whether their presence in the archaeological record reflects human activity or site formation processes. The plant assemblage from Urumbal Pocket consists mainly of carbonised endocarp fragments, generically referred to as nutshells. Complete and incomplete seeds were also recovered and their identification was undertaken by using modern samples at the CSIRO herbarium in Atherton. The careful application of ethnographic analogy and comparison with a modern reference collection enabled the identification of...

  7. 7 Boignjul (pp. 117-142)

    Archaeological investigations were carried out at two open sites used byJirrbalpeople from the Cedar Creek–upper Tully River area in the contact period. The aim of the contact period archaeological investigations was to identify change and continuity in the following trajectories: (i) material culture and technology; (ii) plant subsistence strategies; and (iii) rainforest settlement patterns. Historical documents and oral traditions describe Aboriginal activities at both sites and document contact period Aboriginal rainforest occupation. These historical sources are drawn on to assist with the interpretation of the archaeological record. The focus of this chapter is the investigations of the...

  8. 8 Cedar Creek (pp. 143-156)

    The Aboriginal campground located at Cedar Creek in Ravenshoe is generally referred to as the ‘Golf Links’, ‘the old golf course’ or the ‘old peoples’ campground’ by senior Indigenous and non- Indigenous Ravenshoe residents. It has previously been suggested that the Golf Links property and surrounding land along Cedar Creek is most probably where, in 1913, Swedish scientist Eric Mjoberg documented Aboriginal culture and society and collected ethnographic items (see Chapter 3), a location he referred to as Cedar Creek (Duke and Collins 1994:61).Jirrbalelder Lizzie Wood remembers her early childhood years living at the Cedar Creek campground before...

  9. 9 Research Outcomes (pp. 157-162)

    The main objective of the research presented was to investigate long-term Aboriginal culture change and continuity in a small but unique area of northeast Queensland’s rainforest region. It is recognised that the relatively small amount of archaeological research conducted to date in the Wet Tropics Bioregion is an obvious shortcoming in an investigation of long-term change and continuity. Nevertheless, the research provides a valuable contribution to the discipline by furthering the knowledge of pre- and post-contact Aboriginal rainforest occupation in a previously unexplored part of Australia’s Wet Tropics Bioregion. The present aim is to draw together the threads of evidence...