Aboriginal stone artefacts and Country: dynamism, new meanings, theory, and heritage

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The nature of Aboriginal peoples’ relationships to stone artefacts has changed since the 1960s in southeast Australia—now recognisably more social, spiritual, and immediate than temporally distant, historical, or technological. Drawing from published accounts and on personal experience, I suggest that this change, while not universal, is directly linked to compliance or developer-funded archaeology as a dominant mode of archaeological investigation and Indigenous engagement. Archaeological surveys and excavations have enabled Aboriginal individuals and groups to return to parts of Country not visited for one or more generations and thereby they have been able to renegotiate the contemporary meanings of and emotional responses to stone artefacts found there. Such remaking of meanings is being done in ways that contrast with the dominant and disenfranchising Western scientific values typically ascribed to cultural objects by archaeologists and government cultural heritage laws and regulations. In this paper, I explore the opportunities and challenges faced by those concerned with more-than-scientific meanings of stone artefacts. More generally, and based on the evidence presented here, I argue that Indigenous ontologies of care now stand in opposition to state sanctioned ontologies of harm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-266
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Archaeology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


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