Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 


Unlike the adzes of the Pacific Islands and Asia, which were large with ground and polished edges, the Australian adzes were small pieces of flaked stone that were used as woodworking tools, used in a similar way to chisels. Up to the present the Western Desert people were still using adze flakes that had been gummed to the end of a wooden handle or spear thrower to work hardwood, such as mulga, to make such items as shields and bowls, etc.

There are 2 types of adze flakes, tula (a name used by the Wongkonguru people of the Lake Eyre area) and burren. On the tula flakes retouch and use-wear occur on the distal edge (opposite the striking platform). On the burren use occurs on the lateral edges.

Adze flakes have been found in 2 late Pleistocene sites in Western Australia, 10,000 year old Puntutjarpa and a single adze flake from Devil's Lair in the layer dated to 12,000 years ago. These differ from the usual adze flakes and it is believed they were used as scrapers, not for woodworking as the later adze flakes were used by the desert people.

The tula adze was used almost exclusively in the arid central Australia, only a few bifacial specimens being found at Caloola, that are believed to have reached there along trade routes, but were not widely used there. The burren adze occurs more widely from Cape York and along the east coast. It is believed the adze flakes may have been invented by the Aboriginal People of the central arid regions to work the desert hardwood of their territory.

Sources & Further reading

  1. Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime, J. B. Publishing
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 28/09/2009
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