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Regional Variation in the Material Culture of Hunter Gatherers

Social and Ecological Approaches to Ethnographic Objects from Queensland, Australia

£35.00
S1149
9781841715193
Anne Best
2003
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Description

The author’s concern in this volume is the spatial organisation of hunters and gatherers and how this is manifested through dissimilarities in the style of objects. Differences were tested in Queensland Aboriginal material culture, aiming to search for aregionalisation of style. The study is broad-scale and the results show a clear regionalisation in Queensland that broadly correlates with drainage divisions: the patterns are robust. The model presented is applicable to archaeological research which is concerned with distributions of style and how these are associated with the populations of past hunters and gatherers. The primary data are 813 artefacts (including bags, boomerangs, message sticks, shields, spears and spearthrowers) from selected UK and Australian museum collections. The objects date from the early contact period and were collected by explorers, colonial officials and anthropologists. Secondary sources include published and unpublished material, archaeology, rock art, early photographs and present-day Aboriginal spokesmen. Analysis of the data proceeds from the most broad-based presence/absence evidence and continues to examine and compare the morphological characteristics of the objects. At each stage, the findings are set against the regional model, whereby Queensland in divided into six geographical regions based on drainage divisions. The findings are considered against social and environmental models of style. The author evaluates the impact that ecology plays on stylistic traditionand discusses the social role of style as a means of transmitting social information. She also considers the ‘open’ and ‘closed’ model which, in a hunter-gatherer context, has been linked to environmental conditions. The conclusions of the analyses suggest that both environmental and social factors play an important part in stylistic tradition and stylistic choice.