Multi-Use Tools located at Palm Beach site

As part of the cultural heritage assessments conducted for the proposed Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) Pacific Motorway Upgrade Varsity Lakes to Tugun (M1 Upgrade VL2T), Jabree conducted archaeological investigations at Site H, located at Palm Beach between February 2019 and December 2020. Site H is located near several other sites within the M1 VL2T project area which have been found to contain, or have the potential to contain, Aboriginal cultural heritage and indicate past cultural use (Sites A-F). The site is situated directly adjacent to the western side of Manila Avenue, between Fifth and Third Avenues at Palm Beach. 

A total of nine hundred and seventy-five [975] stone artefacts were located at this site throughout different stages of the project. Some ochre and shell material were also yielded during excavations. After further analysis the shell material was later ruled out as a cultural shell midden. The ochre was deemed to have been brought to the site, as no ochre sources are located within Site H. 

The majority of the artefacts located were flakes or flake fragments, mostly of chert and silcrete materials, with some stone tools and core artefacts also being located. Amongst the stone artefact findings were sixteen [16] artefacts classified as backed microliths. Backed microliths are a common occurrence at sites within Australia and South East Queensland, however these artefacts have only been located during Jabree cultural heritage projects a handful of times over the past ten years.

Image – A selection of backed microliths located during excavations at Site H.

Production of backed artefacts reached its peak between 3500 and 1500 years ago, before declining and seemingly ceasing prior to British colonisation. Backed microliths were multi-use tools employed in a variety of ways, including working of plant and animal materials (such as wood and bone), for thrusting or projectile tools, as well as for drilling, cutting and scraping tools and occasionally as parts of weapons. 

Image – Possible arrangements of backed microliths in hafted and cemented tools, from McCarthy 1976.

The relatively high artefact density, presence of tool artefacts and the microliths at Site H in Palm Beach indicate a certain degree of occupation at the site. Therefore, it has subsequently been classified by Jabree as a likely Aboriginal campsite, contributing to the local and regional significance of the Palm Beach and Gold Coast areas. Along with a Cultural Heritage Management Agreement (CHMA) and Chance Finds Protocol, Jabree recommendations to manage the site include a further interpretation strategy for the backed microliths.  

Featured image: A selection of stone artefacts, including the microliths, recovered from Site H.     


McCarthy, FD & Australian Museum Trust 1976, Australian Aboriginal Stone implements: including bone, shell and tooth implements / Frederick D. McCarthy, The Australian Museum Trust, Sydney.

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