Friday, July 2, 2010


A historical artifact is anything which has been made or modified by people in the past. The term "stone artifact" includes both a finished product, usually a stone tool, and the debris which was left behind when it was made. In Australia the most common form of archaeological evidence of habitation are stone artifacts.

Symonston Aboriginal quarry area

Anywhere the landscape has not been significantly disturbed by European settlement can provide Aboriginal stone artifacts. They can be found lying on the ground's surface, sometimes singularly and in small "scatters" and often in quite large numbers. Artifacts can also be discovered after ground disturbances such as road grading, ploughing and erosion from the weather.

Thickness of chert's (info here) outer "layer"

Stone tools occur in nature on their own rarely. The process of "creating" a sharp edged tool from stone requires both skill in execution and a rock source with the suitable qualities of when struck, fracturing to a fine "edge". The process is ancient and was practiced in varying degrees by cultures all over the world. The process is widely known as knaping (info here). Most important were the characteristics of the stone used and in present day Canberra the Symonston site is an excellent example of an Aboriginal quarry.

Examples (not from site)

As you cross a small creek/drain on the very edge of the Canberra industrial suburb of Fyshwick the ground changes distinctly. You suddenly notice the appearance of thousands of small flakes of cream stone covering the track. The whole area is literally "littered" with small flakes of creme coloured stone, the remnants of a significant Aboriginal "surface feldspar (info here) porphyry (info here) quarry".

The entry in the ACT Heritage Places Register statement of significance says:

The Symonston Aboriginal Quarry site (Section 1 Block 8 (part) 
"...exhibits typical quarry characteristics, including the quarrying of surface stone blocks, reduction of porphyry cores into flakes and a well-used hammerstone for striking flakes from cores".

This "manipulated" stone was a prized commodity and essential to the daily life of the Aboriginal people. Stone was a central resource in the economy, essential in the technological and day to day life of those people. Flaked stone tools were made by hitting a piece of stone, called a core, with a ‘hammer stone’. This would remove a sharp fragment of stone called a flake.

Both cores and flakes could be used as stone tools, cores for an axe perhaps and flakes as a cutting or scraping tool. New flakes were very sharp, but become dull quickly during use. A process known as "re-touch" could be used to re-sharpen the stones by further flaking, A tool that was re-touched has a row of small flake scars along one or more edges. Retouch was also used to shape a tool.

A fifteen square meter area in Symonston is the only known Aboriginal source of this material in the Australian Capital Territory.

Entry in the ACT Heritage Register is (here)

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  1. Excellent post, very interesting.

  2. Thanks Le Loup


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