Type:  Macroblade Point

Location: Northwest Kimberley, Western Australia



MoST ID: 5741

Pedestal Link: https://une.pedestal3d.com/r/bralp0iC23

Model Author:  Mary-Anne Stone

This metasedimentary macroblade point is from the Northwest Kimberley region of Western Australia.  Macroblade points proliferated proliferated in the Late Holocene in Australia, after ca. 5000 BP, and were made into the the recent past.  The surfaces of the stone are heavily weathered.  The point was made by the Wunambal Gaambera people.

The macroblade point is on loan by the Wunambal Gaambera to Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, catalogue no. 17-7 LS 02.  It was collected as part of the Change and Continuity project.

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 point is about 120 mm long, and is of very large size for points of this material in the region.  Stone of this size is not available locally, and the tool was likely traded or carried in from a considerable distance.  The surfaces of the point have devitrified through the wet-and-dry seasonal cycle of the Northwest Kimberley.  This has leached silica from the stone and rendered the surfaces soft and chalky.  Mechanical weathering has rounded the arrises and edges.  The advanced degree of weathering suggests that the tool is of considerable age.  Weathering has eliminated lateral retouching scars, if originally present, although larger retouching scars are visible along the dorsal platform edge of the blade.  In more recent times, macroblades in the Kimberley region were hafted as dart points rather than knives.

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.