AbstractHunter-gather settlement patterns in the Ord-Victoria River region are examined and used as a case study for addressing methodological problems common in settlement pattern studies but which have not been uniformly addressed by other studies in northern Australia. These problems including sampling issues, environmental change, chronological control, site formation and disturbance processes and control over site function, particularly the use of ethnographic and historic data.
A review of settlement pattern studies, environmental data and previous archaeological research precedes a critical assessment and evaluation of historic and ethnographic data relevant to the region. Models of land use are developed using the historic and ethnographic data and used to generate predictions concerning the archaeological record. Prior to testing these predictions the impact of site formation and disturbance processes upon the archaeological record are identified and where possible quantified. The biggest impact upon sites in the region are fluvial processes. Experimental research suggests that these processes are likely to have a similar impact on sites elsewhere in northern Australia.
These predictions are then tested against data from previously recorded, collected and excavated sites in the study region and the results indicate that there is no tight fit between the historic and ethnographic models and the archaeological data. Some of the discrepancies between the two datasets arise as a result of sampling phenomena, the nature of previous research, preservation and other site formation and disturbance processes. However it is also argued that the failure to have a tight fit between the models and archaeological record results from a change in settlement patterns during the contact period.
The implications of these results are far-reaching in terms of the use of ethnographic and historic data and I conclude that such data does not illuminate pre-contact hunter-gatherer settlement patterns.
|Date of Award||1998|