Tag Archives: rockshelter

What you see is (not always) what you get? A final reflection on the analysis of the stone artefacts from Gledswood Shelter 1

Who would have thought a box of artefacts from a remote shelter in northwest Queensland could contain such a complex story of the past 10,000 years?  Well at least it has proved to be a much more complex story than I could have imagined and I have only managed to scratch the surface as part of my directed study. The project has proven to be more demanding in time and effort than any other subject I have undertaken and still there is so much that seems incomplete and in need of further research. There is more than a thesis waiting in just one square of excavation from Gledswood Shelter 1 (GS1).

Part of my study involved age-depth modelling. This is the process of using the radiocarbon dates obtained from the spits throughout the excavation to understand the history of sedimentation at the site. Age-depth modelling is a science in its own right and what I learned from my study was that GS1 warrants a thorough modelling of its history of sedimentation using some of the modern techniques available, such as linear regression, splines and interpolation. This work alone would be enough for a directed study project.

I also learned that what you think you see is probably not what you can see. My tendency was to see trends in the spits in terms of artefacts numbers and to believe that these trends were real. However, once these numbers were correlated with time in the age depth model a very different picture emerged. What appeared to be a peak in artefact numbers was not, and what did not appear to be a peak in artefact numbers was.

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Evidence of the use of stone axes such as the axe pictured is seen as small basalt fragments throughout the excavation at GS1

Once the trends were understood it was time to make sense of this through researching the available literature. A trend towards increased activity at the site seems to correlate with a wider trend that occurred across northern Australia during the mid to late Holocene, where populations moved into more marginal areas exploiting food sources not previously used, such as the toxic seeds of cycads. These changes were believed to be responses to rapid climatic changes that required innovations in the way people lived off and used the land, and the technologies available to them. There are many more questions to be answered in relation to these responses to change. For example, there are reports that some sites show evidence of responses to change in the mid Holocene, whilst others show evidence later in the Holocene, sometimes a couple of thousands of years apart. The site specific nature of these responses is a complex question and GS1 still has many questions to be explored.

Perhaps this project taught me more about research than it did about GS1. Sometimes, when I thought I saw clear evidence of a pattern, there was a tendency to search for evidence that would support it. However, this had the effect of excluding information that might challenge my hypotheses. When I became aware of this behaviour I could adjust my approach to research and sure enough the result would often be quite different to what I believed I was observing.

This directed study has been a great journey and I have learned more from this topic than any other. Thanks to Lynley Wallis my Industry Partner who has assisted me throughout my project.

An analysis of the stone artefacts from Gledswood Shelter 1

My directed study project is a part of a larger project that Lynley Wallis is conducting in conjunction with the Woolgar Valley Aboriginal Corporation at the Gledswood Shelter 1 in Northwest Queensland. A number of excavations were  carried out at this shelter in 2006 and 2008. The material from the excavation square, identified as square B0, is the basis for my research project. Excavation of square B0 went down to a depth of 100cm before being blocked by a slab of rock that had fallen from the roof of the shelter. Radiocarbon dating carried out at the site indicates that the material from this square starts at about 10,000 years ago at the deepest point and proceeds to the recent past. The excavation proceeded in twenty 5cm spits, with the material from each spit being sieved and bagged. The next stage of the project for this square is where I get involved.

The artefact material now needs to be cleaned, sorted into material types, weighed, measured and photographed and data needs to be recorded onto a spread sheet.

There needs to be a detailed analysis of the artefacts.  This includes a review of literature of lithic assemblages from the Holocene from other sites relevant to the study site. It also includes the production of a detailed report on the results of the study.

My directed study project is still in its early stages, with the current activity centred on the review of literature relevant to the area. I have just picked up my box of artefacts from the shelter, so now the exciting part starts. I have had a quick look through some of the artefacts from several of the spits and can already notice some significant changes with obvious differences in the presence of some artefacts.

My next update will be during the initial phase of sorting and categorising and I will provide some details on what I am finding.