Archaeologists discover ancient bone artefact

The discovery of a rare bone artefact near the Lower Murray River casts more light on the rich archaeological record on Ngarrindjeri country in southern Australia.

Details of the Murrawong bone point, dated between c. 5,300-3,800 years old, has have been described by Flinders University, Griffith University and other experts in a new paper in Australian Archaeology.

Probably made from a macropod (kangaroo or wallaby) bone, the point was likely used for piercing soft materials – for example, used as a pin on a cloak made of possum furs – or possibly as a projectile point, say the research leaders Dr Christopher Wilson and Professor Amy Roberts from Flinders University Archaeology.

While stone artefacts and shell middens are commonly found on the surface, bone objects are mostly uncovered during excavations. The last similar one was uncovered in the Lower Murray River Gorge was in the 1970s.









Dr Wilson, a Ngarrindjeri man, says that “even one find of this kind provides us with opportunities to understand the use of bone technologies in the region and how such artefacts were adapted to a riverine environment.”

“Bone artefacts have lacked the same amount of study in comparison to artefacts made of stone, so every discovery reminds us of the diverse material culture used by Aboriginal peoples in this country,” adds Professor Roberts.

The artefact was found during recent excavation work. The project was undertaken in collaboration with the Ngarrindjeri community.

This research forms part of a larger project that Dr Wilson is leading to investigate the rich archaeological record on Ngarrindjeri country.

The paper, ‘Analysis and contextualisation of a Holocene bone point from Murrawong (Glen Lossie), Lower Murray River Gorge, South Australia’ (2021) by C Wilson, AL Roberts, M Langley, L Wallis, R Luebbers, C Westell, C Morton and the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal Corporation has been published in Australian Archaeology DOI: 10.1080/03122417.2021.1886893

This project was supported by the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal Corporation. This research was conducted with the support of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH, project number CE170100015).

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