Thesis abstract ‘Connections across the Sea: Characterising Macassan Activities in the South Wellesley Islands, Gulf of Carpentaria’

03rd May 2014

Annette Oertle

BA(Hons), School of Arts and Social Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, November 2013

Studies on Macassan activities in northern Australia have focused on the intensive industrial trepang processing site complexes on the Cobourg Peninsula and in northeast Arnhem Land. Less attention has focused on sites at the eastern and western geographical peripheries of Macassan contact and how the less intensive and more irregular presence of Macassans in these areas impacted local Aboriginal people. This study investigates the nature of Macassan activities, impacts and cross-cultural exchanges in the South Wellesley Islands, Gulf of Carpentaria, at the eastern extremity of Macassan visitation in northern Australia. A comparative study was undertaken between Macassan sites in the South Wellesley Islands and selected Macassan sites across northern Australia, focusing on elements such as artefacts, features, language, genetics and material culture. These datasets were analysed in terms of the degree and intensity of cross-cultural contact between Macassans and Aboriginal people in each region. Results provided a basis from which to characterise the degree of cross-cultural interaction between Macassans and Kaiadilt people in the South Wellesley Islands. Historical, archaeological and ethnographic evidence of Macassan activities in the South Wellesley Islands were examined, along with studies on Kaiadilt culture, language, genetics and behaviour. The patterns of Kaiadilt interaction with outsiders, coupled with the infrequency of Macassan presence in the South Wellesley Islands, resulted in a low degree of cross-cultural interaction between these two cultures.

Oertle, A.
June 2014
Type: Thesis abstract

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