The archaeology of Maliwawa: 25,000 years of occupation in the Wellington Range, Arnhem Land

Daryl Wesley*, Mirani Litster, Sue O’Connor, Elle Grono, Jeff Theys, Andrew Higgins, Tristen Jones, Sally K. May, Paul Taçon

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    The archaeology of Bald Rock 1, Bald Rock 2 and Bald Rock 3 at the sandstone outcrop of Maliwawa has established ∼25,000 years of Indigenous occupation in the Wellington Range, northwestern Arnhem Land. Flaked stone artefacts were found from the beginning of the sequence, with ground-edge axes, pounding and grinding technology and ochre recovered from deposits dating from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the recent contact period. Maliwawa was occupied during the LGM and other major regional environmental changes arising from post-glacial sea level rise and stabilisation along with the climatic variability of the Indonesian Australian Summer Monsoon (IASM) and El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), supporting models that define Arnhem Land as a refugium. Lithic assemblages are represented by a quartz and quartzite flake abundance technological strategy, with an unusual lack of stone points observed, although other typical Arnhem Land Holocene retouched lithics are present. Raw material diversity in the late Holocene, alongside a variety of emergent pan-Arnhem Land rock art styles in the Wellington Range, supports the proposition of increasing exchange between Indigenous groups. These changes in the archaeological record signal the expansion of cultural systems throughout western Arnhem Land, documented historically and archaeologically, at the time of culture contact.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)108-128
    Number of pages21
    JournalAustralian Archaeology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018


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