Variation in the Aboriginal material culture of the Alligator Rivers region

  • Robin Ruth Hodgson

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    This is a study of material culture variation within the Alligator Rivers region of the Northern Territory. Variation in Australian Aboriginal material culture has usually been assessed by analysing differences between regions. This study aims to explore objects from specific localities within a region.

    The thesis addresses the question of whether there is intra-regional variation, and if so, how it is manifest. Factors affecting this are considered to determine if local, intra-regional or inter-regional influences are of more significance to the attribute compositions of local assemblages. The relevance of local analogies is also explored in the context of archaeological studies. The aims are achieved through an investigation of ethnographic and ethnobotanical information allied to an analysis of the distribution of component attributes of artefacts in museums and archaeological sites.

    It was found that significant variation in material culture did occur between localities. The different emphases were found to be intimately connected with raw materials used which had consequences for manufacturing techniques practised: Locally available raw materials were more likely to be used. When the relative importance of local, intra-regional and inter-regional influences were considered, it was found that local influences were of primary importance, intra-regional influences were of secondary importance and inter-regional influences were of minimal significance. The social significance of the latter items increased with distance from the source and tended to be items connected with the male domains of ceremony and warfare.

    When patterns of attribute distribution were compared with archaeological findings in the region they were found to be broadly similar. This suggested there was continuity in the influences affecting the indigenous material culture between early historic and proto-historic times. There were however found to be some dissimilarities in the use and distribution of shell and in the stylistic features of barbed wooden spears. These differences were found to be related to methodological issues or intervening historical events. The use of the museum collection in the manner described was found to be integral to the findings of this thesis.

    Date of AwardFeb 1995
    Original languageEnglish

    Cite this