Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (23.89 MB)

Reading archaeological landscapes: the surface Aboriginal record in Western NSW, Australia : challenges for cultural heritage management

Download (23.89 MB)
posted on 2022-03-28, 16:07 authored by Tessa Glen Bryant
One of the aims of archaeological investigations of Australian Aboriginal material culture is to understand how Aboriginal people used Australian landscapes in the past. One of the main ways that the Aboriginal archaeological record at a regional scale is interpreted is through the construction of settlement systems. In the Australian arid zone these settlement systems tend to use water availability (both water permanency and distance from source) as predictors of the distribution of the record. In cultural heritage management (CHM) archaeology, as part of the NSW regulatory framework for Aboriginal archaeology, physical environmental variables are used as predictors for the distribution of the Aboriginal archaeological record. The use of these kinds of environmental variables as predictors is somewhat problematic. In western NSW surface exposures of stone artefacts (open sites) and heat retainer hearths are common. A large recorded stone artefact assemblage (over 27,000 stone artefacts) and assemblage of heat retainer hearths (over 90 hearths) from surface deposits in the Rutherfords Creek catchment in western NSW was used to test whether water availability did have an impact on assemblage composition and therefore past Aboriginal behaviour. Spatial autocorrelation and one-way ANOVA was used to test the geographical location against arange of assemblage attributes, including artefact density, tool type, flake to core ratio and flake to tool ratio, for 97 sample areas spread across the valley floor of Rutherfords Creek. Across the valley floor there were no consistent differences in assemblage composition from the study areas that indicated a settlement system based on distance from the lake was operating within the single catchment. The second part of this research examined the surface record at a larger spatial scale. Transect surveys across seven catchments in the Peery section of the Paroo Darling National Park, including the Rutherfords Creek catchment, were used to record artefact presence/absence and density as well as a range of environmental variables including dominant geomorphic process, surface visibility, distance from water and landform unit. Statistical tests were used to investigate the relationship between artefact density, commonly recorded in CHM surveys, and the different environmental parameters within and across the catchments. While there was a relationship between some of the variables, particularly the dominant geomorphic process either deposition, erosion or residual, overall none of these variables could account for the current distribution of stone artefacts across the catchments surveyed. Based on these analyses, the relationship between the distribution of the surfacearchaeological record and current environmental conditions is not as simple as is generally assumed. For aspects of CHM archaeology such as significance assessment to be used to truly create and preserve a representative sample of the Aboriginal archaeological record more research effort is required to provide a good understanding of the regional archaeological record and the behavioural interpretations that are made from it.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. The surface Aboriginal archaeological record in New South Wales - interpretative framework and legal protection -- 3. Assemblage composition and spatial patterning in the Rutherfords Creek catchment -- 4. Spatial patterning in the surface archaeological record at a regional scale -- 5. Synthesis - Surveys of the regional surface archaeological record in Western NSW and the implications for cultural heritage management.


"November 2013". Includes bibliographical references (pages 193-203) Thesis by publication. "Thesis presented for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University, Sydney NSW".

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Science, Department of Environment and Geography

Department, Centre or School

Department of Environment and Geography

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Trish Fanning


Copyright Tessa Glen Bryant 2014. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xvi, 271 pages) illustrations (some coloured)

Former Identifiers


Usage metrics

    Macquarie University Theses


    Ref. manager