The sea people: Maritime hunter-gatherers on the tropical coast: A late Holocene maritime specialisation in the Whitsunday Islands, central Queensland

Barker, Bryce. (1996). The sea people: Maritime hunter-gatherers on the tropical coast: A late Holocene maritime specialisation in the Whitsunday Islands, central Queensland PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland.

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Author Barker, Bryce.
Thesis Title The sea people: Maritime hunter-gatherers on the tropical coast: A late Holocene maritime specialisation in the Whitsunday Islands, central Queensland
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1996
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Total pages 317
Language eng
Subjects 200201 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies
Formatted abstract       'The Sea People'
      Maritime Hunter Gatherers on the Tropical Coast
      A Late Holocene Maritime Specialisation in the Whitsunday Islands, central Queensland coast.

This thesis examines prehistoric coastal use on the tropical east coast of Australia. Concepts of maritime hunter-gatherers are usually associated with complex, sedentary, politically hierarchical peoples of the northern hemisphere. On the tropical coast of Australia there is clear evidence for highly specialised coastal peoples who can clearly be termed maritime hunter-gatherers, despite lacking this degree of complexity. Explanations for coastal occupation in Australia focus largely on the late Holocene, the period to which the over-whelming number of coastal archaeological sites are dated. Models of coastal occupation explaining the late Holocene pattern of coastal use in Australia tend to give primacy to 'external', single cause, 'prime mover' explanations. These include inherent biological population increase, technological change, site preservation factors and environmental change.

Sea-level changes after the last glacial period, culminating in present levels being attained at about 6,500 BP, are seen as especially important in regard to human use of coasts. A number of models propose that sea-level change had a dramatic negative effect on the coastal resource base, thus limiting and restricting coastal occupation until at least stabilisation, and in some cases well after. The archaeological evidence for the Whitsunday region indicates that people lived continuously in the region throughout the Holocene from at least 9,000 BP, utilising a continuous and largely unchanging marine resource base. It is argued that on rocky-shore coastlines there is a range of marine organisms which adapt easily to such factors as sea-level change, and that the more important marine foods such as fish and turtle are largely unaffected. It is further argued that the broad climatic pattern of tropical summer monsoonal wet seasons and dry winters was in place by at least 8,000 BP and that climatic fluctuations recorded throughout the Holocene had little effect on human populations in the region.

Major change in the archaeological record occurs after 3,000 BP, which was a time of relative environmental stability. Changes include increases in densities of discard of cultural material, a widening of the marine resource base, greater marine specialisation, technological change and regional expansion. In line with other models of social change in Australian prehistory, this is seen as being a result of wider processes of socio/political changes occurring on the continent from the mid to late Holocene. In the Whitsundays the archaeological changes are seen to be a result of a socio-demographic restructuring of coastal/mainland populations (a product of increasing mainland social complexity). This saw the coastal/mainland peoples eventually establish themselves as a discreet 'tribal' entity, living permanently and almost exclusively on the Whitsunday Islands.
Keyword Hunting and gathering societies -- Queensland -- Whitsunday Islands
Aboriginal Australians -- Queensland -- Whitsunday Islands
Aboriginal Australians -- Queensland -- Whitsunday Islands -- Antiquities
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Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Mon, 16 Nov 2009, 11:41:42 EST by Lachlan Kuhn on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service