Bone objects employed as digging sticks or clubs were likely the first artefacts created and used by early human ancestors. Later fashioned into complex projectile points, fishhooks, and beads – among many other utilitarian and social items – such material culture has played a pivotal role in our understanding of human cognitive and cultural development. Despite intensive study and advanced understandings of bone tool technology produced by early Modern Humans in Africa and Europe, and notwithstanding their ubiquity across the Australian continent and appearance in archaeological contexts dating back to at least 46,000 years BP, Australian collections of bone tools have not yet been the subject of sustained, systematic research in the same way that assemblages based on stone have been.

It is crucial that Australian tools made from durable bony materials (including tooth and claw) are properly studied and integrated into our understanding of early human prehistory not only on this continent, but also the wider Pacific region, and globally, if archaeologists are to successfully identify when, how, and why modern culture and its diversity developed. Furthermore, these much-needed data are essential to disentangling the impact of changing environments on past peoples, among numerous other archaeological questions.

This seminar will outline what is currently known of Australian bone technologies, as well as early results for projects currently being undertaken as part of Dr Langley’s ARC DECRA project “Australia’s Living Technologies: Bone Tools from First Peoples to Contact”.

About the presenter

Dr Michelle C. Langley is a DECRA Research Fellow in the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution at Griffith University, and has previously held a research position at the Australian National University in Canberra. Michelle received her PhD in Archaeology from the University of Oxford in 2014.

Dr Langley is on the Editorial Advisory board for Archaeology in Oceania (AO) and Queensland Archaeology Research (QAR) and has been involved in unveiling some of the earliest ornaments, bone tools, and shell artefacts throughout the Australian and Southeast Asian regions.

About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.