Beliefs on Aborigines challenged

TASMANIANS should rethink what they believed about Tasmanian Aborigines, La Trobe University archaeology program co-ordinator Associate Professor Richard Cosgrove said yesterday.

He was addressing a packed QVMAG meeting room as part of the Royal Society of Tasmania 2014 Launceston Lecture Series.

Professor Cosgrove said that Tasmanian Aborigines had, for the past 40,000 years, used a flaked stone technology similar to European Neanderthals of 300,000 to 30,000 years ago, but were anatomically and behaviourally modern.

``My talk was about how the Tasmanian Aborigines managed to survive, thrive and use landscapes in a very systematic manner for 40,000 years,'' he said.

``These people are not under any environmental pressure, they know exactly what they are doing and that's why they survived for 40,000 years.

``For people to say that their populations were dwindling and that they were isolated, I think, is a nonsense - in fact, the archaeological material that we've found show completely the opposite.

``All these ideas of how the Tasmanian Aboriginals were primitive and simple - no, that's not the case, they were very sophisticated, used landscapes very well and knew exactly what they were doing.''

Professor Cosgrove said that his conclusions were drawn from the archaeological evidence and that did not lie.

``Archaeology tells us that during the last ice age, these people were . . . using the landscape in a seasonal manner, moving into the highlands in summer time and back to the lowlands in the winter time,'' he said.

``There's good evidence from the wallaby jaws, the prey animal, to show that.

``When you look at the wallabies' teeth, it tells you when that animal was killed and this can be used as a proxy to see how the people moved and when.''

Professor Cosgrove said that he was certain the Aboriginal population before European contact was considerably higher than the 3000-5000 previously suggested and urged people to embrace the evidence that had been unearthed during the past few decades.

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