Postgraduate students research a broad range of topics across the School disciplines.
Spoilt for choice: an investigation of Wajarri tool-stone selection practices and management strategies in the Weld Range, Midwest region, Western Australia
The Midwest region is home to some of the most important archaeological sites in Western Australia including the nationally heritage listed Wilgie Mia Aboriginal Ochre Mine and Walga Rock. Yet, published research remains limited. This is despite increasing numbers of heritage compliance surveys which have crisscrossed large portions of this region. My thesis will begin to address this gap in knowledge by harnessing data collected during compliance surveys in the Weld Range to investigate tool-stone resource management. The Weld Range, located some 50 km north of Cue in the eastern Midwest, has an abundance and variety of quarried tool-stone outcrops. Flaked stone artefact data generated by Wajarri Traditional Owners and UWA archaeologists over a seven year period are used to determine a) whether some tool-stone types were preferred over others and b) how supply of these resources was managed. The tool-manufacture qualities of Weld Range tool-stone are also investigated, using an experimental knapping program, to better understand why tool-stone selection practices and management strategies were employed. My research will provide insight into the choices made by Wajarri people in the past to manage the plentiful but unpredictable tool-stone resources of the Weld Range.
At present, the motivations for selecting material suitable for stone tool manufacture and the strategies employed by Aboriginal people in the past to manage resource availability are poorly understood in the Murchison region. My study, in addition to understanding these processes at a local level, will provide a theoretical and methodological model for investigating resource management elsewhere in the Murchison. For the first time common tool-stone types will be systematically described and assemblage characteristics during stone tool production discussed facilitating regional comparative studies. The value, as well as the inherent problems, of the vast bodies of heritage survey data collected every year in Western Australia will be explored. Drawing on studies of surface assemblages in similar arid environments, methods will be developed to harness these large data sets for research purposes.
At the wider discipline level my work will contribute to knowledge of the strategies hunter-gatherer groups used to manage tool-stone resources. Studies of regional or local tool-stone resourcing, while increasing in number, remain spatially disparate within Australian archaeology and often focus on large scale, regional or national trade networks. Furthermore, previous studies of local tool-stone resourcing have concentrated on just one source or investigated response to tool-stone paucity or abundance. My research will contribute to an understanding of localised strategies for managing raw material sources which are abundant and varied. Research into quarries in Australia also remains limited despite their importance in understanding lithic production and, more specifically, tool-stone resourcing strategies. While not the focus of this study, the data presented in my study will explore how the material from quarries is distributed, used, maintained and discarded.