Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Coastal Moreton Region, Queensland, Australia, Geoarchaeology and the Archaeological Record

A large database of dated sites that record at least 20,000 years of Aboriginal occupation in coastal Southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales has accumulated over about 30 years of intensive archaeological research. Robins, Hall & Stock say this database, and the spatio-temporal distribution of dated sites in particular, has been employed somewhat uncritically as a representative sample to support various interpretive models of cultural change in the region. However, not much attention has been paid to the substantial sample biases that are inherent in this important work such as interpretive arguments that have remained as rather speculative scenarios. In this paper Robins, Hall & Stock identify and explicate (explain in detail) critical issues relating to the use of such data  in constructing models of cultural change in this region via 3 case studies and closes with an appeal for consideration of these in future research.


According to Robins, Hall & Stock devolving interpretive schemes of cultural changes based on the archaeological record of the region of the study is laudable aim is not one that can be achieved readily by using the current extensive, though biased, record. Through 3 case studies Robins, Hall & Stock have identified a number of critical issues in respect of developing an archaeological record which could be representative of space and time. Some geomorphic research is necessary to identify the locations, character and history of such landforms in order to identify archaeological remains on Pleistocene to mid-Holocene landforms. When they have been identified they may be targeted for specialised, robust survey and investigative strategies to assess their archaeological potential. When archaeological methods have revealed cultural materials within these sandy deposits their age should be assessed by the use of at least 2 relevant dating techniques, such as 14C and TL/OSL. It will be crucial in most cases to undertake taphonomic investigation in order to tease out post-depositional agencies from the original deposition matrix. Use-wear and residue analyses should be carried out, in respect of the cultural content, in order to assess past natural resource procurement and processing as one key to revealing changing cultural practices. An example is the documenting of the age and distribution of specialised resource processing technologies, such as that used in the processing of the fern Blechnum indicum (Gillieson and Hall, 1982; Higgins, 1988), may refine knowledge about the timing of Aboriginal technological adaptation to Holocene environmental change in coastal Southeastern Queensland/northern New South Wales. There is also a need for the development of other approaches to these cultural materials, such as the one that has been developed (McNiven, 1999) which used the distribution of stone raw materials from known quarries on Fraser Island to identify and explain cultural change in the archaeological record. Another approach with considerable potential is to identify the age of, and the differences between, stone technologies. An example is the analysis by Moore of the Cobaki stone assemblage that identified some artefact production techniques not known for sites further to the north, though still within the study area (Moore, 2011; Robins et al., 2013). The understanding of site-specific taphonomic and/or environmental factors remains an integral part of constructing detailed individual site sequences.

Sources & Further reading

  1. Robins, R., J. Hall and E. Stock "Geoarchaeology and the archaeological record in the coastal Moreton Region, Queensland, Australia." Quaternary International(0).


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 22/05/2015
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