This thesis examines the lithic technology of Nawarla Gabarnmang, a rockshelter in Jawoyn Country, Arnhem Land, with evidence for human occupation spanning ~45,000 years ago to the present. The colonisation of Sahul was an important event in the story of anatomically and behaviourally modern humans. Despite the demonstrated behavioural and symbolic complexity of the earliest occupants, traditional approaches to Australian lithic technology have emphasised the static and simplistic nature of Pleistocene technology, contrasting it with an inventive Holocene period. This project provides new evidence on this issue by examining the lithic assemblage from Nawarla Gabarnmang to investigate technological complexity and change in Australian prehistory.
This project utilised debitage attribute analysis coupled with the theoretical framework of technological organisation to explain the nature of variation in the lithic assemblage. Initial results indicate that the sequence from Nawarla Gabarnmang demonstrates a flexible and adaptive approach to technology throughout time with changing technological strategies emerging in response to variation in environmental contexts.
Overall this thesis demonstrates that Pleistocene technology in Australia was a part of a flexible land-use strategy that solved the problem of making a living in a landscape of changing resource structure. The findings of this thesis emphasise the value of continuing to test previous assumptions about the nature of Pleistocene Aboriginal societies and has provided new evidence that further challenges the notion of a simple two-stage sequence and a unilinear trajectory towards complexity in Australian lithic technology.