The distribution, chronology and significance of late Holocene aged stone-based structures on Pitta Pitta Country, western Queensland




There is considerable discourse around the timing of Australia’s interior colonisation and whether environmental or technological impacts pushed people into occupying more arid environments. However, the general scarcity of rockshelter sites and the limited amount of research undertaken to date in central western Queensland has meant this region has only been peripherally considered in such debates. It is well recognised that, by the time Europeans began documenting lifeways in the region in the late 1870s, central western Queensland had given rise to complex and thriving Aboriginal societies, despite the boom-or-bust nature of its seasonal cycles. One of these is the Pitta Pitta people, who had a pivotal role in a vast trade network that traversed the Lake Eyre Basin, extending north to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Pitta Pitta are also seemingly unique in that, as far as available data suggest, they are the only group in western Queensland to have used stone in their construction of gunyahs (huts), despite similar environmental and geographic conditions in adjacent areas to the east (Diamantina National Park) and south (Mithaka Country). Here we describe 70 stone-based huts spread across four site complexes on Marion Downs Station and use these to underpin discussions about Pitta Pitta lifeways in the late Holocene.