Kurtonitj stone house: Excavation of a mid-nineteenth century Aboriginal frontier site from Gunditjmara country, south-west Victoria

Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation

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4 Citations (Scopus)


This paper provides the first detailed excavation report published for an Aboriginal stone house from south-west Victoria. Stone house sites have generated considerable debate in Australian archaeology in terms of late Holocene intensification and claims for village-scale settlements and sedentism. Fine-grained excavation of KSH-1 within the Budj Bim (stony rises) cultural landscape revealed house construction directly on to lava bedrock. Shallow sediments contained numerous flaked flint and bottle glass artefacts, and a remarkable cache of 34 iron nails. Taphonomic analysis suggests that most, if not all, stone artefacts (including a backed artefact) predate the contact objects and possibly construction of the stone house. Low quantities of cultural materials and large glass artefacts lying horizontally at various levels suggest multiple, short-term occupation events. Dating of metal objects to c.1840-1870 points to occupation during the period of violent resistance to European pastoral invasion in the 1840s and/or during the subsequent period of negotiated resistance while living and working on pastoral properties during the 1850s and 1860s. Key challenges for future excavations are documenting stone houses dating unambiguously to before European contact and determining how their history of use integrates with the development of eel trapping facilities over the past 6600 years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171–197
Number of pages27
JournalArchaeology in Oceania
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Colonial frontier
  • Eumeralla War
  • Gunditjmara
  • Resistance
  • Stone houses
  • Western Victoria

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