Research project: Aboriginal trade and exchange in eastern New South Wales – non-destructive provenancing by PXRF (Portable X-Ray Fluorescence) of basalt ground-edged hatchets


Start date:

Museum investigators

  • Val Attenbrow

External investigators

  • Dr Peter Grave, Associate Professor / Archaeology Program Convenor Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, School of Human and Environmental Studies, UNE


Trade and exchange was an important part of Aboriginal life, enabling people to gain raw materials from areas outside their home country. Volcanic stone for making ground-edged hatchet heads was an important resource, and suitable sources of stone were abundant in eastern Australia where it was widely traded from place to place.

This project is focusing on the use of basalt raw materials in hatchet manufacture. PXRF (Portable X-Ray Fluorescence) equipment is being used to identify the chemical composition of hatchets held in the Australian Museum collections from eastern New South Wales and to match them to the most likely basalt origins. By linking basalt hatchets back to the source quarries, trade routes and economies of the past can be reconstructed.

Val Attenbrow
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