From scatter to mound: A new developmental model for shell mound sites at Weipa


  • Mick Morrison Department of Archaeology, Flinders University



Recent research on shell mounds near Weipa (northeast Australia) has focussed on economic questions, particularly understanding what these sites reveal about the production strategies of Aboriginal people and possible links to broader social and environmental transformations documented in late Holocene northeastern Australia. However, in order to explore such issues it is necessary to acquire a firm understanding of mound development through reference to detailed stratigraphic, chronological and compositional data. This paper presents results of investigations into the developmental history of a range of shell matrix sites including shell scatters, non-mounded middens and mounds that occur at Bweening, to the north of Weipa. It is argued that the early stages of mound formation involved multiple small-scale (1–2m diameter) discard events in ‘clusters’ within close proximity to one another, coalescing through time to form low dome-shaped mounds. However, site development is characterised by a high degree of spatial variability in terms of where discard activities were focussed, and appears to shift in response to quite localised factors.