Persistence and Space: An investigation into the archaeology of the Wenlock region in Cape York Peninsula, Queensland.

Author: David Tutchener

Tutchener, David, 2018 Persistence and Space: An investigation into the archaeology of the Wenlock region in Cape York Peninsula, Queensland., Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This thesis explores the production of social space and cultural persistence in the Wenlock region of the Cape York Peninsula. The aim of this project was to undertake an archaeological investigation of Indigenous-settler relations in colonial north central Cape York Peninsula during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This study was based at the Chuulangun outstation, through a cooperative research approach with the Aboriginal Custodians, the Kuuku I’yu. The outstation is operated by the Kuuku I’yu and is located within the Kaanju Ngaachi Wenlock and Pascoe River Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) on the Wenlock River in the central northern region of Cape York Peninsula.

The project sits within the broader agenda of decolonising archaeology, in that it sets out to question how socially produced spaces have been constructed in the Wenlock region and how this reflects cross-cultural interaction over time. Consequently, artefacts located during pedestrian surveys have been recorded without a preference for pre-colonial or colonial era objects. This approach has assisted in assessing the cultural landscape as a whole and consequently interpreting the produced space of the Wenlock region. Due to the remote and tropical location of the study area, the fieldwork for this thesis was undertaken during the dry seasons of 2014-2016.

This thesis has shown that the invisibility of Indigenous people within the historical record is in stark contrast to colonial era Indigenous physical spaces. These physical spaces show an abundance of colonial era culturally modified trees (CMTs). The difference in how these forms of social space are produced, the tensions between them and how they affect the narrative of the past, emphasises Indigenous invisibility during the colonial period. The identification of the tensions between social spaces also highlight the power disconnect within cross-cultural interactions during the colonial process, and the utility of a multivalent approach utilising archaeology, ethnohistory and history. Crucially, within this thesis the synthesis of these spatial tensions demonstrates that Kuuku I’yu classical lifeways changed but continued into the colonial period. These changes illustrate how the production of space and place altered in the Wenlock region during the colonial era. Through the analysis of these socially produced spaces, asymmetrical cross-cultural power relations during the colonial era can be better understood. It is through this process we can improve how archaeology articulates within Indigenous decolonising agendas.

Keywords: Cape York Peninsula, Kuuku I’yu, historical archaeology, decolonising archaeology, Indigenous persistence, cross-cultural interaction, social space, Indigneous labour, Native Mounted Police, pastoralism, mining, Wenlock.

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Micheal Morrison