Greywacke artefacts generate intrigue at Oyster Creek Site

Between February & April 2019 Jabree conducted a preliminary survey of the proposed Transport & Main Roads Upgrade of the Pacific Motorway between Varsity Lakes & Tugun. One area that was identified as having sub-surface potential was Site D – Oyster Creek .  Site D is a ridge above Oyster Creek in the suburb of Burleigh Heads.  As this ridge has remained largely undisturbed it was considered to have a high site integrity.

This ridge landform located between the M1 and Oyster Creek was excavated from 2nd to 11th of September 2019 and the excavation revealed a stoneartefact scatter.

Subsurface excavations produced a total of sixty-three (63) stone artefacts and thirty (30) historic fragments from a total of fifty-two (52)  excavation pits.

Site D had an average artefact density of four (4) artefacts per square metre squared and the landform covered a total area of approximately 1200 metres.  The variety of material types found within this site is interesting.  Alongside the expected materials of chert, chalcedony, silcrete, quartzite and quartz, Site D produced  12 greywacke stone artefacts.  Greywacke is a variety of sandstone that can have a spectrum of compositions and textures.  The greywacke found at Site D is not ideal for knapping, resulting in course and rough artefact features.

Site D is located across the motorway from a Boral Resources greywacke quarry.  Greywacke is abundant in SE Queensland and there are several mines that quarry this rock for industrial purposes (including road construction).  .  However, there does not seem to be a precedent on the Gold Coast for proximity to a greywacke source influencing its usage at Aboriginal sites.  Why this local material was used here is unknown and there is little written about Aboriginal uses of it. The hypothesis for its abundance here include: being used to flake rough blanks before being ground on sandstone slabs to produce axes, possibly a decreased access to more desirable materials and perhaps it was as simple as a material used by less skilled knappers to practice on.

Greywacke Flakes recovered during the excavations at Site D

Greywacke is not uncommon, nor is its usage by Aboriginal people, rather its occurrence in artefact scatters on the Gold Coast does not appear to be common.  It should be mentioned that most cultural heritage assessments by archaeological consultancies are not made public within Queensland.  Therefore it is a possibility that information on such sites is abundant, but not publically accessible.  Given currently accessible archaeological data, Site D represents an unusual example of material usage in the GC region.

Site D Oyster Creek has been assessed as having a high level of cultural significance and high scientific significance due to its uniqueness in the high percentage of greywacke artefacts. It is classified as an artefact scatter as there is no evidence of prolonged or intense occupation. No further assessment is required and the recommendations  proposed by Jabree include:

  • the development of a Cultural Heritage Management Agreement for the continuation of the project and
  • the inclusion of a ‘Chance Finds Protocol’ in the event that artefacts are recovered during the construction phase of the project
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