Everyone knows about boomerangs and spears- and many members of the general public are pretty familiar with flakes and cores (even if they don’t know the technical terms for them and call them “funny looking rocks”). Archaeologists are happy about our adzes, tulas and backed blades, and extensive research has been done about these sorts of artefacts and what they can tell us about past human behaviour.
But what of axe-grinding grooves? What can these features tell us of the past? What is currently known about them and how much research has focused on them? The answer is, not a lot! Perhaps this is because they are ubiquitous in many parts of Australia- especially in sandstone areas- and their function (axe-grinding) is obvious (although other grooves exist that were used for different purposes like seed grinding or ochre grinding).
Yet perhaps there is more to learn from them. What can be discerned from their dimensions (length, width, depth and orientation)? Can these reveal some patterns in the axe-grinding grooves’ usage and suggest related reasons?
Now, thanks to my kind Industry Partner, Lynley Wallis from Wallis Heritage Consulting, these are some of the questions that I have the chance to explore.
Students measuring axe-grinding grooves at Middle Park Station using an offset surveying technique (image courtesy of Lynley Wallis).
To do so I will review what we know about axe-grinding grooves in the sandstone belt of north-western Queensland, followed by investigation of a case study involving the Rocks Cross Axe Grinding Site, approximately 120km north of the Richmond township.
Armed with measurements of hundreds of grooves, site plans and an imminent crash course in Adobe Illustrator for electronically compiling the latter, I will keep you abreast of my progress as I attempt to unlock some of the secrets of these hitherto under-studied archaeological features.