We dated a sacred Aboriginal women's site used for birthing ceremonies and discovered 7,000 years' worth of tool making

we dated a sacred aboriginal women's site used for birthing ceremonies and discovered 7,000 years' worth of tool making

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

Investigation of a sacred area at Avon Downs in Jangga Country, Central Queensland, has uncovered evidence of stone tool production in a place that was traditionally restricted to women.

We detail our findings in newly published research in collaboration with archaeological expert Liz Hatte and Jangga Elders Colin McLennan and Marie Wallace.

Our excavation of the layered sediments at Avon Downs reveals a long history of raw stone extraction and tool making. In the short period of our study, we recorded about 1,500 stone artifacts on the surface and under the ground.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, as we expect more detailed evidence of tool production to be found beneath the site's surface and in neighboring areas.

By dating these artifacts, we have traced a 7,000-year history of continuous stone tool production by Aboriginal women—including objects traditionally associated with men. We are also the first team to ever date a sacred Aboriginal women's area.

we dated a sacred aboriginal women's site used for birthing ceremonies and discovered 7,000 years' worth of tool making

A map with the location of the site. Credit: Irina Ponomareva

Hundreds of generations of tool making

Using a technique called optically stimulated luminescence, we measured the age of individual sand grains within the artifact-rich layers of the hill slope. We were then able to date the artifacts by association.

The uncovered artifacts varied in age from about 430 years ago (before the first Europeans arrived) to some 7,000 years ago. This implies the site was used for stone tool production and possibly as a sacred women's area for hundreds of generations.

Jangga Elders Colin McLennan and Marie Wallace have a shared memory extending as far back as at least six generations. They understand the site has always been forbidden to men, as it continues to be today.

While some of the relevant sacred knowledge remains restricted, we can report that Jangga women came to Gaio Nanhi Bura (women's sacred place) to give birth and perform associated ceremonies until the turn of the 20th century.

Some of the stone tools were used in sacred ways, such as for cutting the umbilical cord of newborn babies, says Wallace. Drill points, ochre and a grinding stone and muller are further evidence of everyday tool making and decoration.

The rare discovery of an unfinished axe, ready to be ground and polished, is also somewhat surprising, as axe-making is typically associated with male crafters.

The site remains a direct link between modern Jangga women and their ancestors. Today's Jangga women who have visited and worked on the site describe feeling a strong sense of peace and belonging, as well as the presence of their ancestors.

Railway project disruptions

Like many other Aboriginal sites in Australia, the Avon Downs Women's Area has faced threats. It sits in the way of the North Galilee Basin Rail Project, which stretches from the Carmichael coal mine to the port at Abbot Point.

Planning for this project started in 2012, prompting cultural heritage surveys, assessments and negotiations with Traditional Owners.

In 2014, the sacred area at Avon Downs was revealed following a survey and consultations with Jangga Elders. The artifacts themselves, which had been partially hidden by thick spinifex grass, were discovered in 2020 during cultural heritage monitoring before the clearance of native forest.

After extended negotiations with the Carmichael project representatives, and some news coverage of the archaeological discoveries, a solution was found.

For the benefit of future study, the site was conserved as a protected portion inside the rail corridor—but not without any loss. This portion is a fragmented piece of a much larger complex of camp sites and knapping floors (areas where stone tools were shaped)—but there is no longer free access between these individual sites.

So while the railway project will not run directly through, it has still compromised the integrity of the area.

Protecting sacred area

Sacred Aboriginal women's sites are often difficult to protect in their entirety. It can be challenging to demonstrate their cultural value when the associated knowledge is restricted to a few members of the Aboriginal community.

The protection of these sites has been hampered by past misunderstandings of Aboriginal cultures, as well as racism, sexism and misogyny.

Throughout Australia, there are only a handful of examples where Aboriginal women have chosen to disclose secret information to protect sacred women's sites for future generations.

When explaining the importance of protecting and recording Jangga traditional knowledge and culture, Wallace emphasized the Jangga people's belief that such sacred places can even be dangerous: "You are not supposed to touch anything, or take away something. They can make you sick."

Jangga people maintain the sanctity of these areas in their collective memory, providing a seamless connection between living memory and the dated sequence of sediments and artifacts.

And while their current cultural traditions in the Avon Downs Women's Area can be traced back to several hundred years, we may be able to extend this to several thousand as more archaeological evidence becomes available.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Provided by The Conversation

This story was originally published on Phys.org. Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest sci-tech news updates.

OTHER NEWS

14 minutes ago

Full transcript of Biden's speech explaining why he withdrew from the 2024 presidential race

14 minutes ago

2024 Paris Olympic Schedule Day 2: Handball, Women's Soccer, Archery, Rugby

14 minutes ago

FBI director reveals new details about how Trump shooter carried out attack

14 minutes ago

Southwest breaks 50-year tradition, plans to start assigning seats

21 minutes ago

LinkedIn became my new place for self-loathing – I felt left behind

21 minutes ago

Andrew Charlton on the ‘unity and stability’ of the Labor caucus

21 minutes ago

Fever Coach Christie Sides Reveals Caitlin Clark's Plans During Olympic Break

21 minutes ago

Russia Is Sending More Ships to Cuba

21 minutes ago

The Largest Alligator Population by State in 2024

21 minutes ago

All About Suni Lee’s Boyfriend, Jaylin Smith

21 minutes ago

Charli XCX’s ‘brat’ album named as one of 12 Mercury Prize Albums of Year nominees

21 minutes ago

Mattel debuts its first-ever blind Barbie

21 minutes ago

The four Storm bargains that strike a perfect balance with Munster’s $1.25m deal

21 minutes ago

Florida Homeowners See Resale Value Plunge in Multiple Cities

21 minutes ago

Donald Trump's Gains With Black Voters Have Been Wiped Out

21 minutes ago

Nigel Owens weighs in on Andre Esterhuizen’s ‘very, very difficult’ red card

21 minutes ago

Christian Horner issues response to Max Verstappen’s 3am sim racing stint in Hungary

21 minutes ago

Record 200,000 customers ditch BT broadband

21 minutes ago

Southwest Airlines breaks with 50-year tradition, to offer assigned seating and new boarding procedures

21 minutes ago

Andy Murray and Dan Evans draw Japanese pair in Olympics first round

21 minutes ago

10 players to define Olympic football at Paris 2024: Marta, Michael Olise and more

21 minutes ago

Moussa Diaby leaves Aston Villa in transfer to Saudi Pro League

21 minutes ago

F1 2024 race schedule: Start time and how to watch Belgian Grand Prix

21 minutes ago

Amir Khan and Faryaal Makhdoom express disgust at ‘disgraceful’ Manchester Airport video

21 minutes ago

Watch live: Keir Starmer delivers speech as new Great British Energy partnership launched

21 minutes ago

LEGOLAND New York looking 'Master Model Builder' to build LEGOs for a living

21 minutes ago

Which NFL teams will crash playoff party? Ranking 18 candidates by likelihood

21 minutes ago

Macron's political crisis hurts business morale ahead of Paris Olympics

21 minutes ago

Tennis-Nadal and Djokovic on early collision course

21 minutes ago

A City of Light and Shadows is redrawn for the Olympics

21 minutes ago

Naomi Osaka, Rebecca Marino, Marina Stakusic receive NBO Toronto wild cards

21 minutes ago

New captain heralds ‘big shift’ at Hawks

21 minutes ago

Mets Morning News for July 24, 2024

21 minutes ago

Paris Olympics Supercomputer predicts Team SA to finish with nine medals

21 minutes ago

Sead Ramovic's future is uncertain after his move to Morocco side Raja Athletic broke down

21 minutes ago

Fallout: London fan-made mod out today

21 minutes ago

'Kamala you're fired': Trump blasts Harris on immigration and border

21 minutes ago

Ford loses $50,000 on every electric car

21 minutes ago

After crashing more than 50% in a year, are these 2 of the FTSE’s best value stocks?

21 minutes ago

Paris 2024: Angry Argentina boss reacts as late goal was cancelled 2 hours after game ended

ALONGWALKER VIETNAM: Kênh khám phá trải nghiệm của giới trẻ, thế giới du lịch ALONGWALKER INDONESIA: Saluran untuk mengeksplorasi pengalaman para pemuda global