Type:  Hafted Retouched Flake

Location: Cape York, Queensland



MoST ID: 5322

Pedestal Link: https://une.pedestal3d.com/r/emONwOiOGu

Model Author:  Emma Watt

This chert retouched flake with adhering hafting resin is from Windmill Way shelter on Cape York, Queensland.  The artefact is probably less than 2000 year old.  The artefact is presently curated at the Griffith Centre of Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University, catalogue no. LITH20004.

The Traditional Owners of Windmill Way request that this 3D model only used for educational, research, and non-profit purposes, with attribution to the Laura Rangers.

This tool consists of a chert flake with retouch along one lateral edge.  An unidentified plant resin was applied as a thick blob over the non-retouched edge and across both faces of the tool.  On the opposite edge, retouching extended right to the edge of the resin on the dorsal surface, but the resin is set well-back from the edge on the ventral surface.  This arrangement may have been done intentionally to allow plenty of room for retouching as the tool grew dull—there was no danger of landing a percussion blow onto the resin, which might dislodge it.  Much of the resin on the dorsal surface is missing, exposing the thin, non-retouched opposite edge of the flake.

See the annotations for technological details about this stone tool.

This artefact was excavated from Windmill Way, a sandstone rockshelter in Quinkan Country, near Laura in southeast Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. The site is approximately 2000 years old and contains an exceptional assemblage of organic remains alongside stone artefacts such as these which have retained evidence of hafting. Windmill Way was excavated in 2022 as part of the Agayrr Bamangay Milbi Project.

If the artefact were discovered without the adhering resin—which is almost always the case—it would likely be classified as a Burren Adze by archaeologists because of the straight retouching on the lateral edge.  Burren adzes are conventionally thought to have been attached to handles and used in woodworking.  As one edge grew dull, it was reversed in the haft and the opposite edge retouched.  The worn-out tool was discarded as an adze slug and a new one was attached to the handle.  Sometimes the retouching was on only one edge.

However, this artefact—and the others from Windmill Way—are among the only Burren Adzes known to archaeologists with remnants of the hafting resin still in place.  None of the Windmill Way tools have clear impressions of a wood handle, as might be expected from the conventional interpretation of Burren Adzes.  Instead, they appear more similar to hand-held tools called tjimari by people in Central Australia.  These tools are retouched flakes with resin hafting applied to one margin, just like the Windmill Way tools.

The famous anthropologist Norman Tindale observed tjimari-like flakes being hafted in this way by a Tjapukai man in 1938 at Mona Mona, about 325 km southeast of Windmill Way.  The Tjapukai craftsman called the tool babulai, and he used native bees wax for the hafting rather than plant resin.  They were still being used at that time to cut body scars called cicatrices.  The Windmill Way tools may be part of a long-standing tradition of tjimari-like toolmaking in the southern Cape York region, perhaps extending to elsewhere in eastern and central Queensland where Burren Adze slugs are frequently found.