Dark Emu II: Precolonial Australian societies tilled the land

May 2011
2,928
Rural Australia
#1
This discussion concerns precolonial Australian history. Evidence presented in Bruce Pascoe's book "Dark Emu", and other literature, is presented to substantiate the claim that, in many locations around the island continent, the Australian First People tilled the land, in addition to hunting and gathering. Evidence is also presented in Pascoe's book related to the claim that the Australian First People were the first to bake bread. Other claims relate to date of the earliest occupation of Australia by the ancestors of the Australian first people. These issues, and other related questions about the history of precolonial Australian society and its economy have been discussed previously. These previous discussions are:

Dark Emu: Precolonial Australian native society - agricultural or hunter-gatherer?

Dark Emu puts forward an argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating, and storing; behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag. Gerritsen and Gammage in their latest books support this premise but Pascoe takes this further and challenges the hunter-gatherer tag as a convenient lie. Almost all the evidence in Dark Emu comes from the records and diaries of the Australian explorers, impeccable sources.​

and ...

Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for a minimum of 65,000 years
Sydney Morning Herald - JULY 20 2017​
Aboriginal archaeological discovery in Kakadu rewrites the history of Australia​

NB: Contributors to this discussion should cite evidence and avoid inflammatory comments.
A third discussion thread involves an analysis of how the earlier threads (above) were closed.
https://historum.com/threads/discus...lonial-history-is-there-a-way-forward.178297/

Two of the claims previously discussed in part.

(1) Were Australians the first bakers?

Part of the evidence for these claim included the dating of ancient seed grinding stones. Some were dated to about 30,000 years ago, but perhaps there are older stones recently discovered. AlpinLuke provided an article claiming that grinding stones were discovered in Italy also dated to about 30,000 years ago.


(2) When did the First People arrive in Australia?

(a) 60,000 seems to be an old conservative figure.
(b) 80,000 Madjedbebe rock shelter
(c) 120,000 MOYJIL SITE (is it a hearth?)


In conclusion interested readers and contributors might like to consult the OP of the previous discussion, where a number of resources are linked and outlined.

Dark Emu: Precolonial Australian native society - agricultural or hunter-gatherer?
 
Jun 2018
471
New Hampshire
#2
Excellent idea for a thread. And by the way Kookabara, I will do my part to prevent any right wing trolling of these threads by offering my services in an unofficial moderator-like capacity. We must not allow Dark Emu II to be trolled by the rightwing like Dark Emu I.
 
Likes: Aupmanyav

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,290
Australia
#4
One thing that always stood out for me is - these are the oldest YET FOUND ( as in the grinding wheel ) . Aline Luke's information on the grinding stones in Italy is a good example .

In the other thread on this in this forum, where the earliest possible date ( 'so far' ;) ) for ingress into Australia is discussed , Mr A. comments that then 'they' would have been in India earlier than that .

So, two of the choices are ; these technologies developed in Australia after arrival.

or

They came with the people, and the environment in Australia allows better preservation of the material .... somehow.

But, historically, we can only go on the evidence.

50 years ago people hardly knew anything about Australian pre colonial cultures.

I am always interested to see what is turning up ... and changing things .



You know, it wasnt THAT long ago that this timeline was around the walls of the British Museum !


1559424584988.png

You can see how it all starts in the Garden of Eden , how the sons of ... (whatshisname ? ) spread out from Egypt and produced all the races of the world and other Bible fuelled Victorian 'history' , it is now in an accordion book , I have one ( given to me by a 7th day adventist ) and I find it a useful resource - I am using it right now .... it is the perfect size and thinness to place my lap top on so it sits comfortably on my lap and stops the intake fan sucking up fluff and fibre from my clothes.
 
May 2011
2,928
Rural Australia
#6
One thing that always stood out for me is - these are the oldest YET FOUND ( as in the grinding wheel ) . Aline Luke's information on the grinding stones in Italy is a good example
Here is an introduction to this issue from the Australian Museum ...
Grindstones

The volume of grindstones on record in Museums, community centres, still on Country and in private collections is a testament to the vast amount of food production occurring over 1000’s of years in Australia. The Australian Museum holds in its collections, pieces of grindstones that have traces of plant and animal material that have been dated at 32,000 years. Such evidence suggests that Aboriginal Australians were in line with or even the first in the world to make damper or bread.​

Here is a copy from post #122 in the original thread by Kaficek.


So I was thinking a bit today about the 'first farmers' claim, which seemed a bit outlandish. I don't know how secure the dating of the 30,000 year old grinding stones are, but it's an enormous leap to go from this to 'farmer'. As AlpinLuke mentioned earlier, you don't need to be a farmer to grind seeds. Evidence of the processing of wild seeds long predates agriculture almost everywhere in the world, and we know of historical hunter-gatherer societies that did the same thing. There is no reason to think that people grinding seeds in NSW 30,000 years ago means agriculture - had this been discovered this anywhere else in the world no one would suggest this (nor did the researchers who found this example).


But this got me thinking whether this date is really so much older than evidence elsewhere in the world. Kookaburra Jack claimed the oldest evidence in Europe is from about 19,000 years ago in Egypt, which I think must be referring to Wadi Kubbaniya. This is trivially false, of course, since Egypt is not in Europe, but aside from that it also seems to be well out of date. A bit of searching found a paper from 2010 reporting much older evidence of g...go"]in 2004, dating to about 25,000 years ago - a good 7,000 years older than Wadi Kubbaniya; while a separate Italian site has evidence of starch on grinding stones dated 32,600 years ago.


It seems to me that the processing of wild plant foods with grinding stones was widespread in the Palaeolithic, and that the Australians weren't doing anything different than people in the rest of the world. It's even claimed that there's tentative evidence of people processing seeds with stone tools 100,000 year ago in Mozambique.


This is a separate question as to whether agriculture later developed in Australia; but with regards to the OP's question #2 ("was it the earliest agricultural society") I'm coming down on a firm no. At least, no evidence of this has been presented.​

The Italian site is given here: Multistep food plant processing at Grotta Paglicci (Southern Italy) around 32,600 cal B.P.
 
May 2011
2,928
Rural Australia
#7
You know, it wasnt THAT long ago that this timeline was around the walls of the British Museum !

You can see how it all starts in the Garden of Eden ......
Our history cannot be escaped until we understand it. And we cannot understand our history until it is stripped (by scientific understanding) of mythology, and the propaganda of the victors.

The earliest British accounts make repeated references to a "gentleman's park"

To what extent therefore was Australia a "Garden"?

How would the research of Bill Gammage and others answer this question?
How does the archaeological evidence answer this question?
How do the Australian First People themselves answer this question?
 
Likes: Aupmanyav

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,290
Australia
#8
Our history cannot be escaped until we understand it. And we cannot understand our history until it is stripped (by scientific understanding) of mythology, and the propaganda of the victors.

The earliest British accounts make repeated references to a "gentleman's park"

To what extent therefore was Australia a "Garden"?
Who, me ? Alright then, I will try to answer;

I dont know That depends what you mean by 'like a garden'. But I think I know what you mean by 'park like' as th descriptions and references to that term are in the material we have both read .

I assume not all of it was 'park like'. The park like appearance resulting from land 'management' was in those areas most suitable for it. In some cases it seemed to have 'crept across the landscape' . But would all of Australia been like a park, I doubt it. I have read the accounts of the first people - aside from the originals - to come into the valley where I live, the upper valley, overland and not up the river, as usual. It was a near impenetrable mass of tangled vines, snags hooks and stingers ( lawyer vine, stinging trees , etc ) . Also I talked to the local people about it, even still today they scoff a bit about anyone living here due to climate and insectc ; " Oh, we visit maybe one or two times a year, go up river in spring and to get turtle . "

I reaiise their is another tye of management - large scale that can do large areas, but this isnt the type that results in 'park like appearance' .

How would the research of Bill Gammage and others answer this question?
They seem to be saying it was overall. But then again they concentrate on those areas that where managed . I tjink there was aslo vast areas of 'wilderness' .

How does the archaeological evidence answer this question?
How does archaeological evidence answer the question that Australia was a garden ? I dont know, I dont think there is archaeological evidence that all of Australia was a garden. There is such evidence to show parts where cultivated (tools, grinding stones, etc ), there is an historical record and there is a current record in old tree growth patterns and indicators ( but that isnt archeology)

How do the Australian First People themselves answer this question?
- these questions are getting more obscure as we go along .... I have no idea about that one .
 
Likes: Aupmanyav

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,588
Australia
#10
Yep. Grindstones have seen use all over the world by nomadic hunter-gatherers. They can be used as evidence for breadmaking but not agriculture.

One would need evidence of long-term seed storage, permanent settlements, and/or mass plantings to prove the existence of agriculture. Tools, alone, are not enough.
 
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