Aboriginal Serrated and Perforated Shell Artefacts from the Murray River, South Australia

Amy Roberts, Craig Westell, Chris Wilson, Michelle Langley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article describes three freshwater mussel shell artefacts recently documented for the Murray River in South Australia. These finds more than double the known examples of such artefacts from this region. Two of the modified shells are perforated, with the other serrated. The finely serrated item is a rare artefact and we have not located any similar published examples in Australia, although international correlates exist. The function/s and cultural significance of the objects are also considered in this paper. Hypotheses for the perforated finds include ornamentation, tool stringing and fibre scraping. Ornamentation, idle tinkering and food utensil use are considered as possible intended functions for the serrated artefact. Given the age range of the objects reported here (c. 6181–517 cal BP), together with other finds in the Murray Darling Basin, we tentatively suggest that shells have been a material resource used continually in this region for a range of purposes. However, as argued by other researchers, we concur that there has probably been infrequent identification and reporting of such shell artefacts. This is considered particularly likely given that our finds were recovered from relatively small scale excavation/coring and surface sampling efforts. As such, this paper attempts to raise awareness of this form of material culture in archaeological sequences.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArchaeology in Oceania
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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