Australia’s first marine Aboriginal archaeological site questioned
A new study from the University of Western Australia has disputed previous claims that Aboriginal stone artifacts discovered off the coast of Pilbara in Western Australia represent Australia’s first undisturbed underwater archaeological site.
The original findings were made in a study published in 2020 in PLOS ONEby a team of archaeologists and scientists from Flinders University, UWA, James Cook University, ARA (Airborne Research Australia) and the University of York.
The team worked with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation to locate and investigate rock scattering at two sites in the Dampier Archipelago.
The “underwater” sites at Cape Bruguieres include hundreds of stone tools found thousands of years ago in an area that was dry many thousands of years ago.
Co-author of the new article, published in Geoarchaeologygeoarchaeologist Dr. Ingrid Ward of UWA’s School of Social Sciences, said it questioned two key claims in the original paper: that the artifacts were “permanently submerged” and that they were “in situ” and had not been moved since their original deposit.
“In fact, the artifacts occur in a channel well above the low tide, so not permanently submerged,” said Dr. ward.
“Further, past and present oceanographic and sediment transport processes indicate that the scattered lithic artifacts were almost certainly displaced by waves and currents from where they were first discarded.”
The new study was conducted in collaboration with UWA’s Dr. Piers Larcombe, Dr. Peter Ross of Flinders University and Dr. Chris Fandry of RPS Energy.
The multidisciplinary team examined the assumptions and claims made in the original document and concluded that the analysis was insufficient to justify its findings.
“It hasn’t been tested yet how old the artifacts are — they could be 200 years old, 2,000 years, or 20,000 years old — it’s completely unknown at this stage,” said Dr. ward.
Despite this, she said we could learn a lot from reworked sites.
“For all archaeological sites, the scientific narrative depends on defensible interpretation, which means understanding the processes that shaped the sites we find today,” she said.
“Science progresses through repeated cycles of research, publication, challenge and correction, and articles that challenge ideas are a normal part of sound science. Archaeological investigations of indigenous coastal and marine sites in Australia are still at an early stage.”
Aboriginal Artifacts Reveal Australia’s First Ancient Underwater Cultural Sites
Ingrid Ward et al, Applying Geoarchaeological Principles to Marine Archaeology: A Reappraisal of the “First Marine” and “In Situ” Lithic Scattering in the Dampier Archipelago, NW Australia, Geoarchaeology (2022). DOI: 10.1002/gea.21917
Jonathan Benjamin et al, Aboriginal artifacts on the continental shelf reveal ancient drowned cultural landscapes in northwestern Australia, PLOS ONE (2020). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0233912
Quote: Australia’s first marine Aboriginal archaeological site surveyed (2022, June 21) retrieved June 21, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-australia-marine-aboriginal-archaeological-site.html
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