TRADITION: The Aboriginal society that the Europeans found began to form more than 5,000 ago. Jim Belshaw reports
Sahul, the name given to the larger Australian continent that formed as the sea levels fell, was drier, colder and suffered from intense dust storms that, as Mulvaney and Kamminga put it, continued unabated across south eastern
The Aborigines had spread across Sahul during better climatic conditions, reaching
South Wales by perhaps 30,000 years ago. Archaeological dating
suggests that, with the possible exception of the coastal strip, Aboriginal
occupation across Northern NSW was widespread
by the early stages of the LGM.
The coastal strip is an apparent problem because of the paucity of evidence, leading Sandra Bowdler to suggest that the coastal zone simply wasn’t that attractive during the early onset stages of the LGM.
Today, we are used to thinking of the
as a rich area in Aboriginal terms with its mix of sea, estuary, river and land
resources. That may well not have been the case then. North Coast
The coastal shelf is often narrow and declines quite sharply. The falling sea levels may have created a rugged coast line with increasingly cold waters, narrower rivers and smaller estuaries, a far less attractive environment than would exist later. My feeling, and it is only a feeling, is that the coastal strip was and remained populated.
the LGM affected the plants, animals and the people who depended on them. The
Tablelands became sub-alpine, the arid zone widened, the inland lakes dried up,
while the now smaller inland rivers wended their way across sandy plains.
A long gap emerges in the archaeological record. People survived, but populations would have been reduced and possibly limited to refuge areas with higher resource availability.
The long ice age of the LGM began to ease around 15,000 years ago. Around this time, the North American ice sheets melted. Around 12,000 years ago, the Antarctic ice sheets began to shrink. The Holocene with its higher rainfall and warmer temperatures had begun.
Archaeological dates begin to reappear: around 9,000 years in the
, 6,500 years at
Seelands in the Clarence, 5,500 years at Graman on the Western Slopes. The
Aboriginal society that the Europeans would find was forming. Macleay
In my last column in this series, I will carry the story through to 1788.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 20 May 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.