Increase rituals and risk management on the precarious small sandy cays of central Torres Strait

Author(s): Ian McNiven

Year: 2015


The Kulkalgal of central Torres Strait are marine specialists who established a series of viable hunter-horticultural communities on small sandy cays highly vulnerable to seasonal drought and associated water and plant food shortages. Here risk management strategies focused on the well-known buffering mechanisms of high mobility, translocation, food and water storage, and plant food importation. However, for the Kulkalgal, risk management strategies for survival also involved a broad range of ritual practices aimed not only at increasing the material productivity of key terrestrial resources but also maintaining social organizational structures underpinning more secular buffering mechanisms. Many of these ritual practices centered on specialized shrines marked by clusters of human skulls, marine mammal bones, large marine shells, and imported cobbles. This paper documents these shrines and develops a theoretical and methodological framework to document the form, function and developmental history of these shrines.

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Cite this Record

Increase rituals and risk management on the precarious small sandy cays of central Torres Strait. Ian McNiven. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395063)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;