‘Acknowledgement of Traditional Land Owners’

‘In keeping with the spirit of Reconciliation, we acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting today. We recognise indigenous people, their elders – past and present.’ I believe these are important words.

Greenstone hatchet
Greenstone hatchet, or scraper.

This fine stone tool is another reminder that European culture is a very recent arrival in this land. And it’s also an opportunity to reach into the past and connect with people that lived here hundreds, even thousands of years ago, in the time these tools were in common usage (up to 1,500 bp).

This tool that was found in the Boho South region of the Strathbogies. Whilst the last greenstone post was of a more general tool, or even a discarded stone, this one is clearly a cutting tool that would fit neatly into the hand and be sharp enough to cut fiber or flesh. Its 80 mm long and 50 mm at its widest point. The ground-down faces that form the cutting edge are beautifully smooth and symmetrical and the edge itself is perfectly straight and still quite sharp; its impossible not to run the fingers along the blade, fondle it, and then suddenly realize that my fondling is just the latest, that many hands have held and used this tool.

It could well have been a small hatchet or scraper. It looks as though its hardly been used, at least not in cutting anything hard, or perhaps its been reworked and the blade resharpened. I suppose such a tool could be reworked over and over, perhaps even passed between generations if it was a particularly good one. I’m guessing, of course; but this 500+ mya stone, fashioned into a knife is now, not only part of human history, but its part of my history too; its connecting me to a different time through a familiar landscape. And its connecting me in a way that knowledge of plants and animals can not. Its fascinating & humbling.

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Although Mt William near Lancefield is one of the best known greenstone quarries in SE Australia, greenstone quarries are also known from the Howqua River, 30 km east of Mansfield. A recently published article describes the rich variety and number of artifact sites along the Howqua River (Analysis of stone artefact assemblages from a recent survey of the Howqua River, Victoria (Australian Archaeology, Number 54, 2002), by Justin Shiner.). With such a rich source of stone tool materials nearby, its tempting to think at least some of the greenstone artifacts found in the Strathbogies may have come from the Howqua River sites.

Map of archaeological sites along the Howqua River, from Shiner 2002.

Even closer to the Strathbogies than the Howqua River, is Mt Samaria, just to the east across the valley of the Broken River. Mt Samaria State Park also has outcrops of the 500+ mya Cambrian greenstone rocks, which are part of the same geological formation outcropping at the Howqua River and Dookie Hills. However, it appears that no quarry sites have been discovered there.