AAA2020 Virtual Conference Banner 7 - 10 Dec

Disentangling Activity Traces on Australian Goldfields: An Experimental Study of Quartz Assemblages Derived from Knapping and Gold Prospectings

Dr Caroline Spry
La Trobe University

Rebekah Kurpiel, La Trobe University
Elizabeth Foley, La Trobe University
Jodi Turnbull, Ochre Imprints
Paul Penzo-Kajewski, La Trobe University

Archaeologists have long grappled with the identification of quartz artefacts in the archaeological record. The particular fracture mechanics of quartz can complicate the distinction between knapped quartz, other types of deliberately broken quartz, and natural occurrences of this mineral. In Australia, the quartz ‘problem’ is compounded on goldfields, where quartz debris from knapping, gold mining and other processes have the potential to co-occur. This paper investigates whether quartz artefacts from knapping and gold prospecting possess a unique ‘signature’. It compares two experimentally made assemblages for this purpose: the first is knapped, while the second is the product of a technique that replicates gold prospecting. The results indicate a general paucity of diagnostic features on knapped and picked quartz artefacts, and more similarities than differences between the two assemblages. Overall, the results highlight the complexities involved in investigating quartz artefacts on goldfields, and emphasise the importance of a holistic, assemblage-based approach to the study of quartz artefacts from different time periods and manufacturing origins.


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