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What's Changing: Population Size or Land-Use Patterns?

What's Changing: Population Size or Land-Use Patterns?: The archaeology of Upper Mangrove Creek, Sydney Basin OPEN ACCESS

Val Attenbrow
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 21
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    What's Changing: Population Size or Land-Use Patterns?
    Book Description:

    The Upper Mangrove Creek catchment was an ideal locality in which to undertake field investigation into Aboriginal use of the coastal hinterland. The area, 101 square kilometres in size, is rich in sites that provided significant archaeological evidence of Aboriginal use of the coastal hinterland. The catchment became the focus of major archaeological salvage work in the late 1970s, prior to the construction of the Mangrove Creek Dam. Further research, undertaken by Val Attenbrow, on the total catchment expanded upon the results of earlier work. This monograph describes the later research project and summarises the salvage program results. This evidence is used by the author to explore current research issues relating to the interpretation of the mid- to late-Holocene archaeological record in Australia, particularly quantitative changes relating to population numbers and aspects of human behaviour, such as risk management, subsistence, mobility and land-use patterns.

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-05-9
    Subjects: Archaeology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Foreword (pp. 7-8)
    J. Peter White

    One of the most common problems in archaeology is the publication of excavations — a problem because it is done cursorily, or by someone else decades later, or not at all. The thrill of fieldwork past dulls as the enormity of necessary analytical tasks become apparent and the romance of further fieldwork calls. Those who do produce the results in a timely fashion should thus be honoured in the profession. Even more praiseworthy is when these results move beyond a dry catalogue to be presented in the frameworks not only of the original investigations but also of those which have...

  2. 1 Introduction (pp. 1-10)

    Often-used indicators of cultural and demographic change include changes over time in numbers of sites and stone artefacts. They have often been interpreted as indicators of population increase in continent-wide and regional prehistories in Australia. At a regional or local scale, variations in numbers of sites and artefacts over space and time have been used as the basis for proposing changes in land and resource-use patterns which include the redistribution of populations. In addition, changes in artefact numbers in individual sites have been used as evidence for the extent to which the use of specific locations varied over time —...

  3. The archaeological record indicates that many aspects of Aboriginal life and culture — tool kits, technology, use of raw materials, and modes of subsistence — changed throughout the period of Australian prehistory. In addition, although finding them archaeologically is difficult, it is acknowledged that changes occurred in the demographic, social, ideological and political aspects of life throughout this period. Stanner (1965: 4) believed Aboriginal society and culture were ʹthe end-products of millennia of non-linear developmentʹ and ʹwere made up of forms and values far removed and transformed from an adaptive planeʹ. White and OʹConnell (1982: 133) stated that the many...

  4. The fieldwork program was designed and implemented within the focus of the original research project, which was to study site and artefact distribution patterns across the catchment to investigate past land-use and subsistence strategies in the coastal regions of south-eastern NSW. Although these specific aims — to investigate relationships between coast and hinterland — were not pursued, the fieldwork framework and the data it produced proved ideal for the research directions ultimately taken: the interpretation and explanation of chronological changes in numbers of sites and artefacts.

    Terms commonly used by archaeologists to describe Aboriginal sites that occur in the Upper...

  5. During the fieldwork, several different types of archaeological evidence relating to Aboriginal occupation of the catchment were located and recorded in the random sampling units: archaeological deposits, images, grinding areas, a burial and isolated finds. Only those archaeological traits that are used to estimate the temporal trends in the quantitative changes in the catchment’s archaeological record are described below; that is, the archaeological deposits and isolated finds. Data presented in this chapter provide the bases for calculations in future chapters, for example, for producing depth/age curves and estimated total numbers of artefacts in archaeological deposits. In addition, data are presented...

  6. Biases that may have been introduced into the archaeological record and data sets by both natural events and human behaviour were examined to help establish the degree of reliability that can be placed on the results of the analyses. Incidents — taphonomic processes — affecting the deposits may have occurred during the course of each habitationʹs use and its abandonment. In addition, methodological procedures adopted for the research project may have affected the results, e.g., during the fieldwork (outside procedures relating to sample selection) and analysis of data.

    Methodological factors which may have affected the fieldwork results concern the way...

  7. Radiocarbon ages were obtained for 15 of the 35 archaeological deposits in the random sampling units (Table 6.1). Eleven of these ages were reported in Attenbrow 1987 (Table 7.1) and an additional four were obtained in 1995. All dated samples were charcoal. The depth from which each sample came is shown in the tables in Appendix 2. Radiocarbon ages for SUA-1124, SUA-1125 and SUA-1206 from Loggers Shelter were revised after completion of the salvage excavation report and the ages given for these samples in Table 6.1 differ from those in Attenbrow 1981 (p. 70).

    The earliest date, 11,050±135 BP (SUA-931),...

  8. Chronological changes in the numbers of habitations and/or artefacts were assumed by many researchers in the 1970s and 1980s to have been produced by changes in the size of populations. Explanations entailing continuing population increase were based, in some cases, on the belief that the rate of artefact production and/or the number of habitations used continued to increase throughout the period of Aboriginal occupation until European colonisation. Archaeological evidence for quantitative changes in several eastern Australian regions is reviewed below with two aims in mind:

    firstly, to show that trends identified in the Upper Mangrove Creek catchment are not anomalous....

  9. A review of 1970s and 1980s archaeological studies showed there were numerous interpretations and explanations for dramatic changes in habitation and artefact indices in several regions of eastern Australia (Chapter 2). In this chapter, these explanations and interpretations are compared with the archaeological evidence on which they were based (presented in Chapter 7 and Appendix 4). This comparison shows that in many instances the explanations and interpretations cannot be sustained. Equally, it shows that a wide range of interpretations and explanations are possible, but that simplistic relationships between numbers of sites/artefacts and numbers of people, or between numbers of artefacts...

  10. Environmental changes associated with global climatic changes of the late-Pleistocene and Holocene in south-eastern Australia included changes to vegetation patterns and lake levels, as well as rising sea-level. Along the NSW central coast, these changes were of sufficient magnitude to affect both the land and subsistence resources available to inhabitants of the Upper Mangrove Creek catchment and the surrounding regions. People would have responded to these changes, but in doing so, climatic and environmental conditions were determining variables only in so far as they provided a series of options/opportunities and constraints within which the societies operated. Decisions about which options...

  11. Many cultural and natural processes have been proposed as explanations for the type of quantitative changes that have been documented in the habitation and artefact indices of the Upper Mangrove Creek catchment. In interpreting the catchmentʹs long-term trends, general broad-scale demographic changes that affected the whole continent since initial colonisation cannot be discounted as having played a role. However, the catchmentʹs population trends may not have followed continent-wide trends, which have long been debated (Birdsell 1953, 1957, 1977; Beaton 1983, 1985, 1990; Lourandos 1985b; Rowland 1989; Davidson 1990). An interesting aspect of the catchment data set is that trends in...