Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Stone Artefacts - Tasmania                                                                                                       

Preliminary analysis of the stone artefacts from Tasmania has established a Southwestern Tasmanian Pleistocene province. The distinctive assemblage of this area is reflected in the pattern of animals hunted in the area, as indicated by the animal remains found at the archaeological sites. It is believed the stone tools in this area may be a regional variant of the Australian core tool and scraper tradition.

There are steep-edged flat and notched scrapers, that are characteristic of the tool and scraper tradition at Mungo. The raw materials used in the manufacture of the tools is linked to their availability in a particular area, quartz being most common in the western sites, but rare in the eastern sites. The richness and presence of thumbnail scrapers, that are common in Holocene deposits on the mainland, but rare in mainland sites dating to the Pleistocene, distinguishes the Pleistocene southwestern assemblages from the wider core and scraper tradition.

It is believed that thumbnail scrapers were used for butchering animals and processing plant material, and working with skin, bone, wood. The ORS 7 site, the most southeasterly site among the known occupation sites of southwest Tasmania, is the only site where thumbnail scrapers aren't found, small numbers being found in all other sites in the southwest.

Thumbnail scrapers were used as early as 24,000 years ago, but were more common from about 18,000 years ago, after the end of the glacial maximum.

In the southwest of Tasmania, Darwin glass was used for at least 12,000 years, but its first known use was at Nunamira as far back as 27,770 years ago. At some sites the use of Darwin glass seems to have increased during and immediately after the glacial maximum, about 18,000 years ago. It has been suggested that the increase in use may have resulted from the treeless conditions on the path to Darwin Crater after the glaciers retreated but before the trees grew thickly. Nunamira was 75 km from the crater and Bone Cave was 100 km from it by direct lines, but the actual routes used are unknown, so the distance travelled is also unknown. As with thumbnail scrapers, Darwin glass has not been found in the OSR 7 deposit. OSR 7 is about 10 km further than Bone Cave from the crater. It has been speculated that the lack of Darwin glass at OSR 7, and probably also with lack of thumbnail scrapers, was probably a cultural difference, particularly as at this site there are other differences between OSR 7 and the other southwestern sites. There was also a lower number of artefacts, and big differences between the technology, raw materials, faunal quantities and processing methods.

It has been concluded that the OSR 7 site has a much different archaeological signature from the sites on the other side of what appears to be a boundary between the southwestern sites and those on the other side of the boundary during the Late Pleistocene.

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Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 30/09/2011
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