Prehistoric Aboriginal settlement and subsistence in the Cooloola region, coastal southeast Queensland

McNiven, Ian J. (1991). Prehistoric Aboriginal settlement and subsistence in the Cooloola region, coastal southeast Queensland PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland.

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Author McNiven, Ian J.
Thesis Title Prehistoric Aboriginal settlement and subsistence in the Cooloola region, coastal southeast Queensland
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1991
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 468
Language eng
Subjects 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
430200 Archaeology and Prehistory
200201 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies
Formatted abstract
This thesis examines mid- to late Holocene Aboriginal settlement and subsistence behaviour for the Cooloola region, coastal southeast Queensland, Australia. In particular, my research focuses upon the methodological problem of systemic site interaction and the more general theoretical issue of human response to spatial variation in resource structure. The study is based upon the results of surveys (site and non-site) and excavations. It also represents Stage 2 of the Cooloola Region Archaeological Project (CRAP).

Two major chronological phases are identified at Cooloola, a Recent and an Early Phase. Recent Phase sites (ca. 1000-100 BP) are represented by a complex of shell middens located up to 10km inland from the present shoreline. These sites demonstrate highly specialized exploitation of marine shellfish and fish species. Recent Phase stone artefact assemblages are dominated by local raw materials and bevel-edged tools. Early Phase sites (ca. 5500-3000 BP) are generally represented by large stone artefact scatters devoid of faunal remains. These stone artefact assemblages are dominated by exotic raw materials and a greater variety of formal implement types (e.g. bevel-edged tools, backed blades, bifacial points).

Recent Phase middens are generally restricted to the estuarine resource-rich southern and northern parts of Cooloola. These areas not only exhibit all of the recorded ceremonial/ritual (e.g. 'bora ring', burial) sites at Cooloola, but also correspond to the locations of historically-recorded Aboriginal groups and activities during the 19th century. I argue that such site patterning demonstrates the potential effects of resource productivity upon the spatial organization of Aboriginal social, ceremonial and subsistence activities.

A detailed land-use model, consisting of eastern (oceanic) and western (estuarine) settlement-subsistence sub-systems, is generated for northern midden sites. The eastern settlement-subsistence sub-system largely consists of 'home bases' located along Teewah Beach with associated ephemeral rainforest and swamp plant food foraging camps located on the adjacent sandmass. The western settlement-subsistence sub-system largely consists of 'home bases' located along Tin Can Bay with associated ephemeral swamp plant food foraging camps located across the adjacent 'swamp zone'.

A significant finding concerns the effects of source proximity upon the spatial distribution of shell and stone artefact assemblages across the study area. The relative proportion of shellfish types and stone artefact raw material types on sites decreased in accordance with distance from source.

Early Phase sites were only found along the eastern periphery of Cooloola. It is inferred that they represent differing settlement-subsistence activities, possibly with a focus upon the hunting of terrestrial animals (e.g. macropods), made possible by environmental manipulation through fire.

The initial occupation of Cooloola at ca. 5500 years ago is inferred to be associated with a localized adaptation of an extant 'coastal settlement-subsistence system' which had been advancing westwards across the continental shelf with the Postglacial Marine Transgression. I speculate, on the presence of bifacial points and tula adzes, that historically-recorded inter-regional social alliances between southeast and southern central Queensland may have had their beginnings soon after this time. Further, the Recent Phase (<1000 BP) occupation of Cooloola may have witnessed increasing amounts of Aboriginal activity in the region with concomitant increases in the relative exploitation of local resources (e.g. shellfish, stone). Such changes may have followed changes in socio-political organization which saw the development of more localized residential groups culminating in the organizational patterns observed last century.
Keyword Aboriginal Australians -- Queensland -- Cooloola Region -- Antiquities.
Human settlements -- Queensland -- Cooloola Region.
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Thu, 10 Dec 2009, 09:44:20 EST by Ms Natalie Hull on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service