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Aboriginal artefacts uncovered during road works

Tens of thousands of Aboriginal artefacts, some potentially dating back 5,000 years, have been uncovered in an archaeological investigation in Newcastle.

Aboriginal artefacts uncovered during road works
The research team says the area covered by the highway was inhabited
by two distinct communities [Credit: ABC]
They were found during a dig alongside construction of one of New South Wales's largest infrastructure projects - the Hunter Expressway.

Experts searched the 40-kilometre stretch of road over an eight-year period.

Archaeologist Jan Wilson says 122 Aboriginal sites were identified, mainly on elevated areas and close to fresh water.

"We have a lot of evidence of Aboriginal people producing stone artefacts in sites," she said. "Of them using the flakes of stone they were manufacturing for cutting and slicing and sawing and of modifications to the artefacts so that they could make specific little tool types that people were using as a multitude of things; a spear barb, as knives as scrapers."

She says residue testing has also been conducted.

"So we actually know that people were butchering kangaroos, we know that they were processing various types of plant foods, so we can start to look now at what times of the year people were in those sites," she said. "One of the artefacts we have here has someone's fingerprints on it and that's just amazing to see a single person."

She says it is difficult to give an estimate on the age of the items.

"The dating evidence that we do have from around the parts of the Hunter Valley we're talking about is all around 4,500 to 5,000 years old," she said. "Most of those assemblages are reasonably similar to these so we would expect they may date to that sort of time period."

The area excavated used to be inhabited by the Awabakal and Wonnarua peoples.

Members of the Indigenous community were consulted in the expressway project and involved with the dig.

Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Laurie Perry says the discoveries are important for their history.

"It shows occupation, people were here," he said. "They were using the areas as a food resource and environmentally protecting and controlling the area. It tells a story about the area and I think everybody understands that preservation of Aboriginal culture is one of the great achievements you can do."

Artefacts will be handed to Indigenous community

The New South Wales Government says it is great news.

"The finds have helped the history, helped archaeologists be able to track what happened in there, and to that end they've been pretty important," said Roads Minister Duncan Gay.

Mr Gay says it has been a successful partnership with the Indigenous community.

"Our relationship with the local Aboriginal communities in the past, as we've pushed dozers through their country, hasn't been great," he said. "We've needed to improve, and I think the relationship that started pre-construction, which is even friendlier at the end of construction, is testimony that we've come a long way."

The artefacts will eventually be handed to the Indigenous community, and Mr Perry says a plan for preserving them is being worked out.

"Hopefully the artefacts will be returned to the keeping place near camp road which is a belt of land there that the RMS (Roads and Maritime Service) own," he said. "And the idea now is to be able to set up a corporation and be able to deliver the outcomes and put the artefacts in there so tourists who are travelling through the area can come and visit and see them."

There is much more analysis of the items to go, which Ms Wilson hopes can provide some answers for the Indigenous community.

"As archaeologists, we're here to do our bit to return some of the information that may have been lost in the past," she said.

Author: Jackson Vernon | Source: ABC News Website [February 14, 2014]

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1 comment :

  1. Australians of European heritage have a lot of work to do to recompense the aboriginal people and their culture for the damage we have done. I don't think we can ever do enough; but this is a small step in the right direction. They lost their country because they didn't have our technology; we lost even more because we didn't (and don't) have their spiritual connection to the land.


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