One of the challenges in teaching the history of Australia's New England over such a long period lies in the sheer range of topics and disciplines that need to be included. One example is the stone artifacts that formed key elements in Aboriginal toolkits.
Uniface pebble chopper tools from the Seeland's dig, Clarence Valley
From these surviving physical manifestations we can deduce something about the changing patterns of life over time, about the relationship between the Aborigines and their environments, about trade and the relationships between Aboriginal groups.
I started with some base knowledge in this area. Back in the 1960s I was a student member of Isabel McBryde’s pioneering UNE prehistory group. My second paying job during University vacations was as a research assistant for Isabel sorting, classifying and recording stone tools. However, in 2020 when I came integrate Aboriginal tools into my story of Aboriginal New England to 1788, part of my broader course on New England’s history to 1788, the gaps in my knowledge quickly became clear.
The 2020 course was badly affected by the covid epidemic. However, one plus of the epidemic and its shutdowns is that it led UNE’s Professor Mark Moore to begin the development of the on-line Museum of Stone Tools. Mark is one of Australia’s leading archaeologists and an expert in stone flaking techniques.
Professor Mark Moore
The resulting museum provides examples of various stone tools from across the world supported by explanatory material. Central to it are 3D models that allow you to play with various implements rotating them as required. The overall analysis is simple and accessible designed for people of all ages. You do not need specialist knowledge to understand.
I hope to run my course again in the second half of next year. I think that the museum will prove a real blessing. In the meantime, do have a browse.