Type:  Macroblade Point

Location: Wave Hill, Northern Territory



MoST ID: 5542

Pedestal Link: https://une.pedestal3d.com/r/XiLRmG9xvH

Model Author:  Emma Watt

This chert unifacial macroblade point is from Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory.  Macroblade points proliferated proliferated in the Late Holocene in Australia, after ca. 5000 BP, and were made into the the recent past.

This macroblade was expertly struck from a blade core using a hammerstone.  The macroblade propagated under an elongated zone of high mass created by prior parallel blade removals.  The macroblade was then trimmed at the tip and across the proximal (platform) end for hafting, probably onto a dart shaft.

This point was collected from Wave Hill Station in the 1970s.  In 1966 Wave Hill was the scene of the ‘Wave Hill walk-off’, a strike by the Gurindji People.  Led by Vincent Lingiari, the strike was at first motivated by the poor working and living conditions of Gurinji stockmen and their families, but was ultimately driven by a demand for the return of traditional lands taken by the European invaders and exploited by pastoralists.  The walk-off lasted for seven years, when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam gave back part of this land in a significant handover ceremony.  The events are celebrated in the famous song From Little Things Big Things Grow in 1991.  Freedom Day is still held on country in August each year to commemorate the Wave Hill walk off, which was a landmark event in the ongoing struggle for Aboriginal land rights in Australia.

See the annotations for technological details about this stone tool.

Blades are elongated flakes that measure at least twice as long as they are wide.  In Australia, a blade measuring more than about 40 mm long is referred to as a ‘macroblade’.  Macroblades were made by hard-hammer percussion following various strategic methods.  The Camooweal Method of macroblade manufacture, practiced in northwestern Queensland, has been described in detail.

Macroblade manufacture emerged in Australia in the Middle Holocene, by about 7000 BP, and proliferated from about 5000 BP.  They were made into the recent past.  Macroblades are common in stone artefact assemblages across Northern and Central Australia, and large macroblade manufacturing quarries are found throughout the region.  They were extensively traded, a practice which continued into the 1990s in the Northern Territory.  In the historic period, macroblades were made for use as knives with wood or resin handles, or were hafted as armaments on darts cast with spearthrowers.  Some macroblades were exceptionally large, although most encountered by archaeologists measure less than 100 mm long.

Archaeologists often divide macroblade points into unifacial and bifacial variants.  Unifacial points are usually retouched towards the dorsal surface to create the distal point and shape the edges, with unifacial or bifacial flaking at the proximal (platform) end to thin and shape it for hafting.  Bifacial points are retouched to both faces along both margins.  Macroblades were sometimes shaped in certain ways to produce regionally-specific tool types, such as Juan knives in Queensland and Yilugwa knives in Central Australia.  Large-sized Pirri Points were sometimes made by pressure flaking on macroblades.

Some archaeologists think that unifacial points turned into bifacial points through resharpening.  This may have been true in some cases, but the narrow width of macroblades does not allow for the type of bifacial thinning seen on, for instance, Kimberley Points or Northern Territory Triangular Points.  Other bifacial points, such as Wanji Bifaces and some bifacial points in western Queensland, were made on tabular pieces of raw material and not macroblades.