In February 2019, the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) engaged Jabree Limited to undertake a Preliminary Cultural Heritage Assessment for the proposed M1 Upgrade between Varsity Lakes and Tugun (M1 Upgrade VL2T project). The purpose of this assessment was to identify any sites that had Aboriginal cultural heritage potential and make the appropriate recommendations for the assessment and management of these sites, should any be identified. Seven areas were identified as having cultural heritage potential within the assessment area, including a low-lying site assigned as Site G throughout the project. Site G is associated with Sites A-F and Site H of the VL2T project area, with Sites E-H forming the Palm Beach zone of the project. The VL2T Site G study area is located within 5km of other culturally significant sites including the Jebribillum Bora Ground and Jellurgal (Burleigh Mountain).
Subsurface cultural heritage assessments were recommended and undertaken by Jabree for Site G, yielding a total of two hundred and fifty-seven  Aboriginal stone artefacts and several pieces of yellow, white and red ochre. A core stone artefact and retouched flakes were included amongst the findings. There was a large variation of stone artefact material types located at Site G. Chert and silcrete formed the majority of the material, with quartz, quartzite, chalcedony and unknown materials also being located. Some varieties of these materials are not local to the area. There are also no known ochre sources within the local vicinity of Site G from which this ochre could have been deposited naturally. These findings suggest a cultural affiliation with Site G as the materials likely arrived through transport or trade as they were not present in the area naturally. Further, some of the ochre was found in association with several flaked artefacts, and three types of ochre and a stone artefact were found together within an excavation pit. The majority of the artefacts were retrieved from intact and undisturbed soil profiles during excavation.
The landscape features of Site G provide a unique and important point of discussion within archaeological predictive modelling practice. Site G is located within a low-lying area of landscape and is not located on an elevated landform or ridge, a characteristic that usually reduces the likelihood of a site producing artefacts and being assigned as a cultural place. In the absence of this predictive feature, the Jabree field team observed the presence of mature-growth trees and the site’s proximity to several important resource areas and water bodies (Tallebudgera Creek, Currumbin Creek and the beach). In turn, the employed predictive modelling successfully yielded abundant cultural artefacts and led to the site being identified as a likely Aboriginal campsite. These observations and subsequent findings present an excellent example and reminder that, in some cases, conventional predictive modelling can result in sites such as Site G being overlooked if they are not elevated or located directly adjacent to fresh water. In these situations, these site types may be precluded from having scientific or cultural significance rather than the moderate to high scientific and Aboriginal cultural heritage significance present at Site G. As with other sites of the VL2T project area, because of Site G’s close location to Jellurgal (Burleigh Mountain) and the Jebribillum Bora Ground, it is also considered to form part of the regional significance of the broader area.
Featured image: Excavation at AE2 of Site G, with large mature eucalypts in the background