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Title: Aboriginal resources change through time in New England upland wetlands, south-east Australia
Contributor(s): Beck, Wendy Elizabeth  (author); Haworth, Robert (author); Appleton, John  (author)
Publication Date: 2015
Open Access: Yes
DOI: 10.1002/arco.5048Open Access Link
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Abstract: It has previously been assumed that New England high-country environments were not conducive to intense Aboriginal occupation and associated ceremonial activities. How productive were upland wetlands (lagoons) for Aboriginal occupation of high country in eastern Australia through time? Especially during their intermittent phases, upland lagoons provide a diverse and changing mix of deep water, marsh and the green pick of recently exposed lake bed, a rich aggregation of both plant and animal resources not available in other environments. Upland wetlands can be a surprisingly productive Aboriginal resource in an otherwise harsh country, and would at times allow for high population aggregations, such as for ceremonies. We surveyed the ecological literature on New England lagoon characteristics, on vegetation and on birds and other fauna used as resources by Aboriginal people. This was then compared with palaeo-environmental data to prepare an account of potential resources for the New England region over time. We found that overall productivity of lagoons can be high, with large numbers of plant and animal species present in the wetland environment, especially in the early and very late Holocene. Productivity is highest not at the lake-full stage, but when the moist littoral zones are at their most extensive. The reasons for the apparent sparseness of occupation of the high country before the mid-Holocene are unresolved but open to informed speculation about the changing resource inventory of the wetlands, and the mid-Holocene appearance of new technologies that may have enabled more efficient use of resources. In the later Holocene, Aboriginal occupation in upland areas became visible in the record, and included an exceptionally high number of ceremonial sites juxtaposed with the areas of greatest lagoon concentration. This suggests either that these wetlands had become more productive and diverse over time or that people had learnt how to make better use of the available wetland resources, to the point of supporting the larger numbers often associated with ceremonial activity. More research into the location and chronology of wetland archaeological sites is required to resolve the question of whether the apparent early lack of sites is a question of visibility or a real hiatus.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Archaeology in Oceania, 50(Supplement), p. 47-57
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Asia
Place of Publication: Australia
ISSN: 0003-8121
Field of Research (FOR): 210101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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