Marks left by the mysterious weapons used in a civil war between gracile and robust Homo sapiens descending from H. erectus and a splinter group of H. floresiensis, having arrived in Australia after separate, multiple waves of migration from South-east Asia? Divots left from axes that doubled as prehistoric bats in what were in fact the first Test matches in a game called cricket that was actually invented by Indigenous Australians? Although such conclusions may hold some popular appeal, my analysis of axe grinding grooves at north Queensland’s (Qld) Rocks Crossing site hints at very different, but in my view no less exciting, possibilities.
You may recall from my last blog the idea that axe trading occurred from north Qld to areas south including the Lake Eyre Basin, New South Wales and Victoria. Analysis of the Rocks Crossing axe grinding grooves lends support to the notion that north Queensland was a major axe production region. Further, based on overall consistencies of dimensions among Rocks Crossing’s 423 axe grinding grooves, there is support for Hiscock’s (2005) proposition that standardised axe manufacture was occurring. In turn, Hiscock has argued that this standardisation is a strong indicator of trade.
To add weight to these suggestions, further research could occur concerning the degree to which, if any, smaller axe grinding grooves reflect the resharpening of axes as distinct from their original manufacture. Should this be the case, smaller grooves found further south may support particular directions of these trade routes.
This study has also been able to update the 1993 tally of 129 axe grinding groove sites in Qld to 220. Although current information is not precise enough about exact locations to enable plotting all 220 on a map, some of the major areas containing axe grinding grooves include Mt Isa, parts around the Norman River, Black Spring, Woolgar River, Esmeralda, Western Downs and the Bowen Basin. It is likely that there exists many more, as many have been found in areas which have been the focus of intense development related surveys in recent years- so as this expands so too might axe grinding groove findings. For those interested in finding out more about Aboriginal cultural heritage in Qld, go to http://www.datsima.qld.gov.au/atsis/aboriginal-torres-strait-islander-peoples/indigenous-cultural-heritage.
Regrettably, I have come to the end of a fascinating investigation, but hopefully only the start of further research. This has been a watershed project for my own development in the field and an immeasurably valuable introduction to the world of archaeological research. Working through a genuine archaeological brief for the first time has provided me with a deep sense of pride and fulfilment and given me an intense desire to enmesh myself further in archaeological work. I hope you’ve enjoyed following this project and thanks go to my Industry Partner, Wallis Heritage Consulting, on whose website my full report will appear in due course: http://wallisheritageconsulting.com.au/.
Hiscock, P. 2005 Standardised axe manufacture at Mount Isa. In I. Macfarlane, M.J. Mountain and R. Paton (eds), Many Exchanges: Archaeology, history, community and the work of Isabel McBryde, pp.287-300. Aboriginal History Monograph 11. Canberra: Aboriginal History.