Ritual and/or Transformation: The Anadara granosa-Dominated Shell Mounds of the Australian Tropics

Author(s): Patrick Faulkner; Peter Hiscock

Year: 2017


Mounded shell deposits dominated by the mudflat bivalve Anadara granosa are highly visible features on the north Australian coast. Because of their distinctive, often monumental, features they have been a focal point for research into hunter-gatherer groups in these coastal environments. Interpretations of these mounded deposits have oscillated between those concerned with the functioning of prehistoric economic systems and those invoking ceremonial and ritual behaviours. In this paper we review these debates to make several points. First, the behavioural mechanisms involved in building Anadara mounds are still relatively poorly understood, and the details of construction dynamics need to be incorporated into models of both economy and social life. Second, models of all flavours must articulate with understandings of the degree of social and cultural change that has occurred in northern Australia over the last few centuries. We employ information on these points to evaluate the nature of ritualized behaviours involved in mound building and use. We advance the idea that these archaeological structures were a product of cultural systems with distinct economic and ideological components, and which subsequently underwent substantial transformations. We argue that the character of those transformations is the key to historicising ritual behaviours.

Cite this Record

Ritual and/or Transformation: The Anadara granosa-Dominated Shell Mounds of the Australian Tropics. Patrick Faulkner, Peter Hiscock. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429675)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14404