Plains, Plants and Planning. An analysis of Indigenous Earth Mounds at Calperum Nature Reserve, Riverland, South Australia

Author: Robert Jones

Jones, Robert, 2017 Plains, Plants and Planning. An analysis of Indigenous Earth Mounds at Calperum Nature Reserve, Riverland, South Australia , Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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Previous archaeological surveys and research within the section of the of the Murray River valley between the townships of Renmark and Mildura have identified a late Quaternary sequence of burials, artefact scatters, quarries, earth mounds, middens and scarred trees. This study adds to previous work on Indigenous earth mounds in the Riverland region of South Australia. The research focusses on place, and the influence of local geomorphology on the expression of new ideas and innovation as key drivers of adaptations to environmental variability through a consideration of earth mound morphology, distribution and surface contents. Thus, providing an insight into Indigenous landscape use, gender roles and the responses of local Indigenous people to seasonal environmental variability.

Oven mounds constituted a reusable asset which were utilised on a cyclical basis, possibly by family groups, and potentially subject to socio-economic and cultural criteria. Within this interpretation, women likely occupied an important role in the operation and maintenance of oven mounds and the supply of critical nutritional resources to family and clan groups.

The archaeological record on the Calperum floodplain, including the location, distribution and surface content of earth mounds and occupation sites, suggests an intimate causal relationship with the local geomorphology. An argument has been advanced, to suggest that this has influenced the placement of oven mounds and the adoption of a system of active management of aquatic plant resources to maximise outcomes over the annual subsistence cycle and to mitigate risk.

The inability of this study, to provide radiocarbon ages for oven mounds contained within the Calperum floodplain, precludes assessment of the local human response to long term change during the mid to late Holocene. However, the Calperum oven mounds do provide a useful case study for the response of late Holocene Aboriginal people, in active riverine systems, to local environmental variability.

Keywords: Riverland, Earth mounds, Indigenous, River Murray Basin, River Murray flood plain.

Subject: Archaeology thesis, Humanities thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2017
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Dr M. Morrison