An Analysis of Surface Lithics at Calperum Station, Riverland, South Australia

Author: Gemma Incerti

Incerti, Gemma, 2018 An Analysis of Surface Lithics at Calperum Station, Riverland, South Australia, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This study aims to redress a gap in knowledge relating to surface assemblages of stone artefacts in South Australia’s riverine environment, and is the first in this region to involve a comparative analysis of surface lithics across earth mound, billabong and lagoon landforms as well as arid dune and lake environments. Field survey at the Calperum Station Environmental Reserve (via Renmark) examined and recorded the surface lithic record for three different landforms and landscapes, the Lake Merreti lunette, Lake Clover dune and Lake Woolpolool dune. This data was examined alongside the surface lithic record recorded by Thredgold (2017), across the Reny Island billabong precinct, Hunchee Island billabong precinct, Hunchee Creek precinct and the Ral Ral Creek East mounds. The geomorphology and taphonomy of this dynamic environment reveals continually transforming landforms, where past and ongoing fluvial, alluvial and aeolian regimes are superimposed on former landscapes. Taphonomic processes associated with historic pastoralism have greatly impacted the Calperum Station study assemblage, and are likely the cause of the high degree of flake fragmentation observed within the lithic dataset. Land management access roads and animal activities (rabbit burrowing as well as past and current animal trampling) are a particular concern for surface disturbance and stratigraphic damage, as well as post-depositional artefact fragmentation and displacement at Calperum Station. Given the nature of the geomorphology and taphonomy within the study area, it is difficult to attribute temporal interpretations on the study assemblage without further research into local Murray River valley land system mapping and greater chronological control. Overall, the Calperum Station surface assemblage comprised good quality raw materials, where unretouched flakes were the most common artefacts recorded across all of the varying landforms. Simple flaking strategies were employed to use raw materials and manufacture expedient flakes, while more complex manufacturing and conservation strategies were employed for higher quality materials. The general expedient use of stone materials suggests access to raw materials was such that materials need not be intensively worked or reduced. It is highly likely that the silcrete and chert seams of the Karoonda Surface, which outcrops along the nearby Murray Valley cliff lines, were extremely significant areas for raw material procurement. Cores were generally exploited until exhaustion before having been discarded; suggesting that conservation strategies were employed for the reduction of raw materials. Considering the density of surface artefacts across the varying landforms and environments, lithic scatters occurred in particularly low frequencies on the earth mound landforms, and in higher concentrations across the lunette and dune landforms of Calperum Station, possibly suggesting more intensive knapping activities occurred in these lacustrine environments. This study of varying riverine environments and landforms in conjunction with a comparative analysis of their surface lithic record has provided archaeological insights into Indigenous landscape use and the influence of local geomorphology and taphonomy for interpretations of the archaeological surface record within Australia. This research at Calperum Station has also contributed to the broader data about stone artefacts within the Riverland district of South Australia, and the Australian Murray-Darling Basin.

Keywords: Archaeology, Lithics, Calperum Station, Surface Lithics, Murray River, Riverland, Stone Tool, Geoarchaeology

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2018
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Associate Professor Amy Roberts