Earth Mounds, Mussels and Typha: Innovation in Aboriginal procurement strategies on the Murray River floodplain, Calperum, South Australia

Author: Robert deWet-Jones

deWet-Jones, Robert, 2023 Earth Mounds, Mussels and Typha: Innovation in Aboriginal procurement strategies on the Murray River floodplain, Calperum, South Australia, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Abstract

This thesis investigated the lifeways of Aboriginal people living on the Calperum floodplain in the South Australian Riverland. The excavation and examination of six Aboriginal earth-oven mounds located in three different contexts within the floodplain were explored. The evidence obtained from these earth mounds indicates that in response to adverse El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) related weather patterns and consequently reduced food resources, Aboriginal people adopted an innovative food production system at about 3800 years ago involving large scale earth oven cooking of bul-rush roots.

The data derived from radiocarbon dating and sediment analyses has allowed insights into behavioural change within Aboriginal societies at Calperum. Such change includes the implementation of technical, socio-economic and cultural innovation, and a consideration of the role of women in addressing a disruption in local subsistence procurement systems. Furthermore, the data has enabled a re-consideration of the broadening of diets in relation to Aboriginal populations at Calperum, and more broadly within the Murray Darling Basin from 3800 years ago.

Keywords: Radiocarbon dating, Australian Aboriginal earth mounds, Murray Darling Basin, content and sediment analysis, climate variation, intensification, broad spectrum diets, South Australia

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2023
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Amy Roberts