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An archaeologist-guided tour of the south coast of NSW reveals an Aboriginal past that dwarfs European occupation. When you wander onto a deserted beach where footprints have been erased by incoming tides, there is a temptation to think you are the only one who has ever stood in that place. It is not hard to find a completely natural beach in Australia, largely because the Indigenous people who inhabited these landscapes left such a gentle footprint.
I know a stretch on the south coast of NSW reasonably well, having visited regularly over decades. And yet the opportunity to tag behind a geologist and an archaeologist in that area in the past week left me feeling I had been walking around with eyes wide shut. Geologist Dr Gavin Young and archaeologist Chris Carter were among a of Australian National University academics giving lectures at the campus in the tiny town of Kioloa surrounded by national park, north of Batemans Bay.
Their knowledge allowed a look beyond the surfboards, beach towels and thongs to what lies beneath our short white history in the little holiday village. Regular visitors to the area know about the Aboriginal midden at Racecourse Beach. Middens are essentially a rubbish tip, containing the discarded shells, tools, bones from fish, birds and other animals and anything else left behind at a campsite. At Racecourse, Carter says human and dingo remains have been found dating back 7, years. Locals have long wandered over the midden, including many surfers who use it as a thoroughfare to a so-called gnarly break on the point.
A parade of thongs was causing degradation at a horrifying speed so after decades of academic study, a decision was made to cover it over with plantings for protection and lay down a boardwalk to keep the traffic off. We have often speculated on what life was like for the local aborigines before they clapped eyes on a white face.
Here was an opportunity for discovering the area afresh. Carter Thick woman 4 big Bawley Point meat been studying it for years from an archaeological perspective because much of the local knowledge has been lost as indigenous families dispersed. He explains it afforded good shelter, fresh drinking water and rich pickings of protein in the form of shellfish and land animals such as kangaroos, wallabies and possums.
The extension of the point allowed a full view of the coast north and south, telling local populations of other campsites. When the national park administration excavated the site, Carter spent weeks sifting through thousands of quality artefacts along the bank, where holidaymakers pick their way down to the beach. Every summer I have walked that track yet I have ever noticed the axe grinding grooves on a flat rock leading down to the beach. Carter believes the spot was a major Indigenous meeting point, possibly for trading and ceremonies. He speculates that local indigenous groups did not move much because resources were so plentiful, though people would probably have traded materials up and down the coast.
As the black cockatoos swooped and cried above us, Carter explained what he knew of Indigenous life in the area while Young explained the ancient rock formations.
Walking south, a great rock platform affords some explanation of the age of the coastline. The horizontal rock shelf, which acts as a magnet for children picking shells every summer, dates to the Permian age, around m years old.
It contains fossilised shells and timber, petrified wood and wonderful drop stones, which have always intrigued. We walk further south to a midden on a large sand dune. Its height affords a view to make a real estate agent salivate. Here, says Carter, was another campsite with all the prerequisites — standing fresh water, warrigal greens or native spinach, shellfish and land animals including goanna. At the foot of Durras Mountain, the bush is so thick and the footprint so gentle that much modern knowledge about the area was only gained after bushfires took much of the heavy vegetation cover in the s.
A range of well-preserved shells was found in the midden, the type every modern beachgoer would recognise. Typically, the point of the bigger gastropods was broken off to break the vacuum and allow the snail to be dug out and consumed. Sometimes it was cooked on a hot rock, well before the five-star hot rock restaurant. Carter speculates it could have been boiled, using the natural potholes and a very large rock heated in a fire and dropped into the hole. Carter says research shows Aboriginal women were diving for abalone partly because examination of skeletons showed evidence of divers ear.
Captain Cook also sailed into the area and wrote in his log that sailors saw women diving for shellfish. Large amounts of the little black narita shells, sometimes called periwinkles, suggests children probably took part because they could gather large amounts safely. Behind the dune, native bullrush or cumbungi is still growing and was a rich resource for local aborigines. Its big rhizome provides starch used to make bread while its young shoots could be eaten fresh. Each flower supplied a tablespoon of pollen which made a rich and nutritious cake.
Bulrush fibre was used for clothing and as a packing in wounds. Convicts used bulrush fibre to stuff mattresses and as padding. Most of the artefacts in the dune area, Carter suggests, date from after the Pleistocene period because 10, years ago, the coastline was much further out, estimated at the m sea depth line. The rocky outcrops which provided much of the protein for the modern Aborigines were the tops of hills. Yet how many times had we photographed those outcrops and walked the length of these beaches, without a clue of its history?
We laid down our towels, dragged down our surfboards, snorkelled the rock shelves and wrote our names in the sand unaware of the rich life before us. Bush mail Australia holidays. Thick woman 4 big Bawley Point meat beaches hide evidence of thousands of years of Aboriginal history. Evidence of Aboriginal history on the NSW south coast is everywhere. South of Pretty Beach, sandy dunes sheltered local Aborigines and the rockshelf sustained them. Gabrielle Chan.
Fri 10 Jan Topics Australia holidays Bush mail National parks blogposts. Reuse this content.Thick woman 4 big Bawley Point meat
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