Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Rocky Cape North Cave

The shell midden in this cave was 3 m deep, the lowest 60 cm of which corresponded to the occupation of Rocky Cape South Cave. 2 major phases can be seen at the Rocky Cape sites, In the north cave the lower 2 m contained a large faunal assemblage from which the diet of the occupants can be worked out.

During the early phase there was a bone-working tradition of well made implements, such as points and spatulas, made from wallaby fibula. During this phase stone tools consisted of unifaced pebbles and flakes that were retouched, that were relatively undifferentiated, most of which were made from local quartzites.

Beginning at about 5,500 years ago, at first the cave appears to have been used only intermittently, probably until the south cave filled with refuse. The upper phase was characterised by many stone artefacts such as small concave-edged flake tools, as well as many very small flakelets. After about 2,500 years ago, spicular chert from west-coast quarries are are also being used to make the stone implements.

From the bone remains in the middens it appears the occupants had a mostly littoral source for their food, fur seals, southern elephant seals, fish and shellfish, being the predominant animals exploited at this time, between 3,800, and 3,400 years ago fish have gone from the deposit.

30 species of fish have been identified from the deposits at Rocky Cape, mostly fish found on rocky reefs, such wrass and leatherhead, which were the most commonly found in the middens, as well as fish from other habitats such as sandy bays, estuaries and the open sea. It has been suggested that most of the fish may have been caught in baited box traps set from small rocky peninsulas between the rocky cliffs of the Cape. It has been suggested that other fish traps such as cobble walls set in tidal areas, where leatherjacket, mullet, whiting and barracouta could be caught.

Between the north and south caves at Rocky Cape they cover a time span of about 8000 years, more than 6 m of midden, from about 5,500 to 500 years ago, making it the site of the most complete and longest sequence of occupation of a group of coastal Tasmanian hunter-gatherers, giving insights into the changes in their technology and diet over time.

Bone and Stone use at Rocky Cape

Food at Rocky Cape

Sources & Further reading

Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J.B. Publishing, 2004


  1. Prehistory of Australia
  2. The Tasmanians: Part 8b: Archaeology and the Oldest Tasmanians

Trade - Macassan Traders

Aboriginal Australia
Anthropological History
Aboriginal History
Aboriginal Occupation Sites-Tasmania
Aboriginal physical type
Archaeological Sites
Birrigai Shelter
Fire-Stick Farmers
Genetic Evidence
H. erectus near Australia
Cloggs Cave
The First Boat People
Evidence from Lake George
Regional Continuity Theory
Social Organisation
Journey Back Through Time
Experience Australia
Aboriginal Australia
National Parks
Photo Galleries
Site Map
                                                                                           Author: M.H.Monroe  Email:     Sources & Further reading