Contact archaeology and native title

Harrison, Rodney (2005). Contact archaeology and native title. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2005(1) pp. 16–29.


Contact archaeology in Australia is emerging as an important tool in the independent verification of claimant’s testimony regarding the post-Sovereignty occupation and use of particular parts of the landscape in a continuous and ‘traditional’ manner. This paper reviews the literature on post-contact archaeology and material culture in Australia, and provides an assessment of the ways in which this evidence has been used in native title claims to date. The utility of post-contact artefact forms, both in terms of providing evidence of post-Sovereignty use and occupation, as well as in demonstrating long term continuities in claimant land-use patterns is discussed, with reference both to knapped bottle glass artefacts, the most well known post-contact Aboriginal artefact type in Australia, as well as other post-contact artefact forms such as stone artefacts and modified metal tools. It is argued that an examination of a broader range of post-contact material culture items and archaeological site patterning has potential not only to directly inform native title archaeology, but also in developing more complex archaeological narratives concerning both continuity and change in Aboriginal societies in the past, which serve political and social agendas in the present.

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