Archaeology and the colonial encounter: Kimberley spearpoints, cultural identity and masculinity in the north of Australia

Harrison, Rodney (2002). Archaeology and the colonial encounter: Kimberley spearpoints, cultural identity and masculinity in the north of Australia. Journal of Social Archaeology, 2(3) pp. 352–377.

URL: http://jsa.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/2/3/35...

Abstract

This article examines the ways in which material objects are invoked and constantly recontextualized as part of the process of cross-cultural colonial encounter with reference to a case study from the northwest of Australia. The study examines the various contexts within which bifacially flaked 'Kimberley points' were manufactured, traded and consumed in post-invasion Australia, and implications for understanding the role of material objects in colonial encounters. Many studies of cross-cultural material exchange note the ways in which objects are given different meanings in different cultural contexts. In contrast, this article considers parallels between the role that points played in developing notions of social identity among antiquarian collectors and Aboriginal people in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly their role in evoking and expressing hybrid masculinities. The manufacture of glass Kimberley points by men who had been dislocated from their traditional country implies connections between the practice of point manufacture and the creation of new, hybrid social identities. The article attempts an 'archaeology of encounter' using these particular objects as a text to be read for both the discourses and forced silences that this colonial encounter created.

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