We describe here a pattern of archaeological sites that suggest that ‘mainland’ Aboriginal people were viewed by their Torres Strait neighbours as being specialists in particular ritual knowledge. The region under consideration includes the northern-most tip of the Australian continent and extends northward through Torres Strait to Papua. Our study area focuses on the southern end of the region: the Australian mainland as well as Pabaju (Albany Island), Muri (Mt Adolphus Island) and associated islands and islets. Archaeological investigation over many years reveals a high density of ritual sites over this relatively small area. These include sites on prominent headlands. The density and visibility of sites could be interpreted as both marking and ‘marketing’ ritual expertise. The location of some of the sites also suggests they served as ‘sentinels’ within a cosmo-political seascape. Far from having an impoverished role in regional exchange networks, Australian mainlanders clearly held something of extraordinary value that drew people from the Torres Strait to their shores. We contend that southern reciprocity in regional trade and exchange may have been based on intangible knowledge transactions, in particular, knowledge related to increase ritual.
Emerging archaeological evidence from archaeological sites in northern Cape York has the potential to shed light on indigenous cultural practices relating to turtle hunting. This paper explores the nexus between cultural practice and indigenous ecological knowledge and ‘lost’ knowledge which has implications for how Traditional Owners may chose to manage resources today. Often when we hear of Indigenous environmental management techniques the focus is on management ‘practices’ e.g mosaic burning, rather than ‘systems’. While not denying that some practices may be useful or cost effective alternatives to other ‘western science’ based land management practices the question needs to be asked: how effective can these be in ecosystem management if adopted in isolation of the other components of Indigenous management systems?
Lines (2006) has challenged the efficacy of Indigenous management systems and questioned their sustainability but provides little evidence that he understands the complexity of such systems and the interrelationship of nature and culture, or indeed that he believes such systems exist. A more valid question is, what happens to these complex systems when key elements are discontinued, lost or destroyed? Perhaps if we, in partnership with Aboriginal communities, explore the changes to such systems over time we can begin to understand the consequences of these changes and the implications for long term species and ecosystem management. This paper provides preliminary outcomes of a current archaeological project which may further this discussion.
At the time when European’s were first re cor ding observations along the Cape York Peninsula coastline, Aboriginal people and their Torres Strait Islander neighbours were hunting and consuming turtle and dugong in numbers great enough to be remarked on. Sites comprising heaped turtle and dugong bones were noted and in some cases sketched. Populations of both animals were however extremely healthy, the size of herds of dugong (Thorne 1876; Jack son et al 2001) and the proliferation of turtle were also remarked on. Was this just some kind of coincidence or was there an Indigenous system in place that actively contributed to the sustainability of this resource?
Since the signing of the 1992 European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Council of Europe) (henceforth the Valetta Convention), the Netherlands have been experimenting with the manner in which to implement its contents. The eventual choices that have been made came straight from an essential body of thought from the Valletta Convention: the archaeological record must be protected in situ as much as possible and should be an integrated and weighted part of spatial development (Willems, Kars, and Hallewas 1997). When the legislation (the revised Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act [Wet op de Archeologische Monumentenzorg]) was finally enacted in 2007, archaeological sites became legislatively protected in zoning plans. Before a building permit is issued, archaeological research needs to be conducted. This integration of archaeology in spatial planning creates tension between the quality and quantity of archaeological academic research and spatial quality, which is strived for in the spatial planning and design process. This desire to improve spatial quality in the spatial planning process implies that archaeology, which is considered by law to be a condition in this spatial planning process, is to be one of the providers of that quality.