Social information inherent in backed artefacts from the Illawarra, western, and southwestern Sydney, NSW

Simon Munt, Beth White, Tim Owen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Backed artefacts are multifunctional tools used by many Australian Aboriginal groups. Most were retouched in order to shape them rather than to create or modify a working edge, which suggests that they may have been made to certain shapes or sizes according to local traditions. This possibility is feasible as backed artefacts were not used for any unique functions. Hiscock (2014) found that variation in backed artefact shape (symmetry) across Australia was underlain by social arrangements and was potentially historically situated. But McDonald et al. (2018) found that backed artefacts from the Western Desert did not conform to the continental trend. We suggest that an important factor missing from these studies is a consideration of the potential for variation at different spatial scales. To investigate this possibility, we conducted morphometric and use-wear analyses on backed artefacts from four environmentally and socially different Aboriginal groups in New South Wales. The backed artefacts were not used for any distinct tasks and none in our study was hafted, but some variations exist in the morphometrics at the intra-regional scale. We infer that backed artefact production included group-specific traditions that potentially embody social information relating to local land-using or descent groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-148
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Archaeology
Volume89
Issue number2
Early online date12 Jun 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Backed artefacts
  • social information
  • use-wear analysis
  • morphometric analysis
  • spatial scale

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