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Lithics in the Land of the Lightning Brothers

Lithics in the Land of the Lightning Brothers: The Archaeology of Wardaman Country, Northern Territory OPEN ACCESS

Chris Clarkson
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 25
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hb95
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  • Book Info
    Lithics in the Land of the Lightning Brothers
    Book Description:

    Lithics in the Land of the Lightning Brothers skilfully integrates a wide range of data-raw-material procurement, tool design, reduction and curation, patterns of distribution and association-to reveal the major outlines of Wardaman prehistory. At the same time, the book firmly situates data and methods in broad theoretical context. In its regional scope and thorough technological approach, this book exemplifies the best of recent lithic analysis and hunter-gatherer archaeology. Any archaeologist who confronts the challenge of classifying retouched stone tools should consult this volume for a clear demonstration of reduction intensity as a source of size and form variation independent of “type.” Yet the demonstration is not merely methodological; Clarkson shows how the measurement of reduction intensity informs analysis of technological diversity and other cultural practices. In Clarkson's hands, Wardaman prehistory emerges as a particular record of the human past. Yet the book is also a case study in prolonged cultural response to environmental conditions and the way in which cultures persist and reproduce themselves over long spans of time. The result is an analytical tour de force that will guide hunter-gatherer archaeology in Australia and elsewhere for years to come.

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-29-5
    Subjects: Archaeology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Foreword (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Peter Hiscock

    Although Chris Clarkson journeyed to the remote Victoria River region of the Northern Territory to investigate the prehistoric past, it is not the exotic location of the study that makes this an important work. Rather, it is the new intellectual landscape in which he has situated this project that created the praiseworthy volume you hold. Developing the already distinctively Australian approach to flaking technology, Clarkson presents quantified analyses of the ways artefact attributes changed during manufacture and varied through time and space. While his results are congruent with earlier generations of typological research, Clarkson has gone far beyond the constraints...

  2. Archaeologists have long sought the meaning of variation and patterning in the stone artefact assemblages strewn across the landscape and buried in the ground. Foraging theory and theory stipulating the strategic role of lithic technology in hunter-gatherer societies suggests that much of this variation could reflect responses to different settlement and subsistence practices as well as responses to varying levels of risk and uncertainty. This monograph explores whether temporal variation in stone artefact assemblages from four rockshelters in one region of the Northern Territory could reflect changes in such factors over the last 15,000 years. The study provides a detailed...

  3. Like many aspects of life, successful foraging depends on continuous monitoring and optimization of subsistence related behaviours to suit changing circumstances, so that returns in critical resources such as food, water, raw materials, etc. match or exceed the effort expended in procuring them. There are various ways in which people might improve their subsistence strategies in response to changing conditions. These include modifying techniques of locating, capturing and processing resources, as well as modifying the efficiency or other properties of the technologies that are vital to making a living.

    We can better understand how people might optimize their subsistence and...

  4. Understanding and depicting all aspects of a technological system should properly begin with the methods of manufacture themselves. Perhaps the best way to examine the manufacturing process is to understand the various procedures and strategies knappers employed to gain control over the material being worked and determine their frequency in archaeological assemblages. From this we may determine their significance in relation to other features of the assemblage (such as the geographic location of the assemblage relative to the occurrence of raw materials, the type and quality of raw materials, etc.). By briefly reviewing the methods of stone fracture and its...

  5. Wardaman Country is a region of spectacular mesas, deep and unscalable gorges, broad black soil plains and gently rolling hills and woodlands. Standing above the plains in places are red sandstone outliers, deeply weathered by time and the ravages of the tropical climate. These outcrops provide numerous overhangs, crevices and declivities that have offered shelter to people and preserved their artistic activities over thousands of years. In places among the rocky hills and gorges, and on the flood plains, water holes dot the landscape and act as loci for human and animal habitation alike in what is otherwise a hot,...

  6. This chapter presents descriptions of the four rockshelter sites discussed in detail in this monograph, focussing on the location, environs, excavation, stratigraphy, dating and cultural materials. These sites are known to Wardaman People as Nimji (Ingaladdi), Garnawala 2, Gordolya and Jagoliya. All appear to date to the terminal Pleistocene/early Holocene period and contain a large number and diversity of stone artefacts, and so are well-suited to answering chronological and technological questions. The sites are located in quite different environmental settings (Table 5.1), and yet similar changes in the nature of stone artefact manufacture and discard can be identified in each....

  7. Understanding stone artefact manufacture and the effects of intensity of reduction on lithic implement form and other kinds of debris are crucial steps in understanding similarity, difference and change in Australian technological traditions. As explained in Chapter 1, such an understanding should also underwrite attempts to compare industries and to determine the ways in which people organised technologies to meet their various needs. This chapter constructs reduction sequence models for a range of common stone artefact forms found in Wardaman Country, including cores, flakes (including lancets), retouched flakes (scrapers), points, burins, tulas and burrens. I will begin by exploring the...

  8. Chronological changes in the organisation of technology in Wardaman Country can be seen from the sequence of stone artefacts deposited at the four rockshelter sites described previously. This chapter examines changes in technological design, organisation and provisioning in relation to changes in resource structuring, abundance and heightened climatic variability during the last 15,000 years that were discussed in Chapter 3. This is achieved by documenting fluctuating discard rates, changing reduction intensity, alterations to toolkit diversity and their relationship to resource stress, subsistence risk, changing levels of mobility and changes to technological provisioning. Changing patterns of stone artefact manufacture also form...

  9. Based on the preceding observations of changing lithic technology, land use and provisioning we can begin to formulate a new and perhaps more dynamic interpretation of cultural change in Wardaman County than those presented before. There may also be potential to discover similar trends in other sites across the ʹTop Endʹ. Following Davidʹs (2002) recent work on pre-understanding and ontology, it is probably appropriate to suggest that major changes in subsistence and ecology were accompanied by significant alterations to the way people conceived of places, themselves and others in the landscape. The final chapter of this monograph deals with all...