Applying high-resolution chronological modelling to historicise the recent archaeological past (past 500 years): Jiwarrjiwarra 1, Marra Country, Northern Territory

  • Ash, Jeremy (Primary Chief Investigator (PCI))
  • Urwin, Chris (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Hua, Quan (Chief Investigator (CI))
  • Brady, Liam (Chief Investigator (CI))

Project: Research

Project Details

Project Description

The study will develop a high-resolution chronological model/s of the upper sequence of the first archaeological excavation to be undertaken at an Indigenous place on the mainland southwest Gulf of Carpentaria region, Northern Territory. The site and the surrounding landscape are the lands (Country) of the Marra Aboriginal community, with whom this project has been devised. Preliminary radiocarbon dating and laboratory analysis of cultural materials of the upper deposits of the rockshelter reveals a rich cultural sequence including glass and metal artefacts dating to the past 500 years. This is a period of major cultural transformations in Indigenous societies in northern Australia. The study is expected to:
1. Provide the first established and refined archaeological chronology for the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria region of mainland Australia;
2. Provide a robust, high-resolution model to clarify the timing and duration of major cultural changes occurring at the site over the past 500 years including the timing of interactions between Indigenous people, Makassans and Europeans;
3. Provide Marra Traditional Owners with key chronological insights regarding the interactions of their ancestors with the archaeological story of the rockshelter. Jiwarrjiwarra is a key place for Marra that is linked to stories about the travels and creative events involving two major Dreamings, the White-bellied Sea Eagle and Taipan Ancestral Beings; and,
4. Contribute to a methodological shift in how historical archaeology and archaeologies of contact temporalise recent sites. The majority of such studies in Australia (and indeed internationally; see Thompson et al. 2019) establish chronologies via proxy typological studies of exotic objects like glass, ceramics or metal, sometimes in combination with radiometric dating. The proposed study will demonstrate the utility of Bayesian chronological modelling and a large number of AMS dates to characterizing and writing the complex multicultural story of northern Australia’s recent past.
Effective start/end date19/02/2131/07/21