Digital terrain analysis reveals new insights into the topographic context of Australian Aboriginal stone arrangements

Law, W. Boone, Slack, Michael J., Ostendorf, Bertram, and Lewis, Megan M. (2017) Digital terrain analysis reveals new insights into the topographic context of Australian Aboriginal stone arrangements. Archaeological Prospection, 24 (2). pp. 169-179.

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Abstract

Satellite-derived surface elevation models are an important resource for landscape archaeological studies. Digital elevation data is useful for classifying land features, characterizing terrain morphology, and discriminating the geomorphic context of archaeological phenomena. This paper shows how remotely sensed elevation data obtained from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Advanced Land Observing Satellite was integrated with local land system spatial data to digitally classify the topographic slope position of seven broad land classes. The motivation of our research was to employ an objective method that would allow researchers to geomorphometrically discriminate the topographic context of Aboriginal stone arrangements, an important archaeological site type in the Pilbara region of northwest Australia. The resulting digital terrain model demonstrates that stone arrangement sites are strongly correlated with upper topographic land features, a finding that contradicts previous site recordings and fundamentally changes our understanding of where stone arrangement sites are likely to have been constructed. The outcome of this research provides investigators with a stronger foundation for testing hypotheses and developing archaeological models. To some degree, our results also hint at the possible functions of stone arrangements, which have largely remained enigmatic to researchers.

Item ID: 47343
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1099-0763
Keywords: Australian Aboriginal archaeology; stone arrangement; Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS); geomorphometry; topographic position index; digital elevation model (DEM)
Additional Information:

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funders: Unversity of Adelaide
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2017 02:21
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology @ 50%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210102 Archaeological Science @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 50%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950302 Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage @ 50%
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