The archaeology of the Port Hedland coastal plain and implications for understanding the prehistory of shell mounds and middens in Northwestern Australia

Harrison, Rodney (2009). The archaeology of the Port Hedland coastal plain and implications for understanding the prehistory of shell mounds and middens in Northwestern Australia. Archaeology in Oceania, 44(S1) pp. 81–98.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1834-4453.2009.tb00070.x

URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.1834-...

Abstract

This paper reports the archaeological salvage, radiocarbon dating and analysis of seven shell midden sites located south of Port Hedland, and makes observations regarding the archaeology of the Port Hedland region and the Abydos coastal plain. The excavations revealed an almost continuous sequence of archaeological sites dating between 5250calBP and 50calBP years. These include some of the earliest and latest radiocarbon ages associated with Anadara granosa dominated middens, shell mounds and earth mounds from Northwestern Australia. Where earlier researchers had suggested that Anadara exploitation in northwestern Australia, and particularly on the Abydos plain and Burrup Peninsula, was limited to between 4200 and 1600 BP, these excavations demonstrate that the exploitation of Anadara shell in the Port Hedland region was continuous from at least 4400calBP (and possibly as early as 5350calBP) until the early twentieth century. Based on a consideration of their contents and ages, it is suggested that the various forms of shell accumulations in the study area, including shell mounds, earth mounds, surface scatters and stratified lenses of shell midden, are likely to vary more as a result of site formation processes than Aboriginal people's past gathering practices. This finding has broader implications for understanding the place of Anadara shell mounds and middens in the prehistoric regional economy of northwestern Australia.

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