Mound over matter
: origins of shell and earth mounds of northern Australia

  • Patricia Mary Bourke

    Student thesis: Other thesis - CDU

    Abstract

    Issues addressed in this thesis stem from the current debate concerning a possible megapode rather than human origin of the large shell and earth mounds of northern Australia. Shell mounds attributed by archaeologists to human agency, are claimed by Stone (1989) to be identical to scrubfowl mounds, apparently requiring a reassessment of the criteria used to define the archaeological significance of shell mounds. 

    This thesis examines Stone's hypothesis, by differentiating the content of the argument put forward, from the approach used in its presentation. It is argued that not only are the conditions necessary for a theory to be considered scientific not met by Stone's methodology, but that elements of cult archaeology are exhibited in his style of argument. 

    Comparative field data is provided in this thesis, on shell mounds on Channel Island, interpreted by Stone (1989) as built by scrubfowl, and on shell mounds on nearby Middle Arm mainland, interpreted by archaeologists as built by humans. Significant differences are observed between the composition of shell mounds on Channel Island and those on Middle Arm, which are not explained by Stone's hypothesis of the same formation processes for both types of mounds. It is concluded that archaeological criteria for differentiating agencies of formation provide a more coherent explanation for these differences.

    Note: Now known as Bourke, Patricia Mary
    Date of AwardNov 1994
    Original languageEnglish

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