Evidence of life pre-dating the pyramids of Egypt will be used to shape an insight into the cultural life and society of the Ngarrindjeri people of South Australia.
Flinders University archaeology PhD student Chris Wilson has surveyed several sites along the River Murray once occupied by the Ngarrindjeri people in an attempt to unlock the secrets of their diet, occupation and living conditions, in the Holocene period – the past 10,000 years.
“Many people do not realise just how much heritage there is along the River Murray and down to the South East,” Mr Wilson said.
“This research will help to highlight the depth of history that exists in the area because a lot of these sites are older than the pyramids in Egypt. For example, some of the sites in the northern regions are around 6,000 years old and we are aware that there are sites around here that are a lot older still.”
“Hopefully the research will also uncover some information relating to the community that once lived here, from their diet to how and where they lived across a range of time periods.”
Mr Wilson began his research last year, which has included an archaeological survey along 30 kilometres of the banks of the River Murray between Mypolonga and Monteith, relocating nearly 100 shell midden sites in the area and eight excavations.
Using this information, he identified several sites from which he would collect his data, including Hume Reserve Midden and Historic Campsite, which was significant due to its use as a campsite by generations of Ngarrindjeri families prior to and following European colonisation in Murray Bridge.
Once all the data has been collected, Mr Wilson will use radiocarbon dating to determine the age of the sites from which they came in an attempt to pinpoint key dates for the Ngarrindjeri people.
He will then correlate his findings to a Ngarrindjeri Creation story – Ngurunderi – which is a Ngarrindjeri interpretation of how the local landscape was formed, in the aim of providing future generations of Ngarrindjeri people and the wider community with a more personal understanding of the cultural significance of the area.
“This project is really about education and ensuring the entire community is aware of the treasure that lies on their doorstep,” Mr Wilson said.
“Once the project is complete, the task will then be trying to get the wider community to treasure the historical significance of what is here – particularly the children,” he said.