Rare wooden artefacts found in the Nyimili Range!

Roy Tommy demonstrating the use of one of the fire sticks to Stuart Ingie Jnr at a rockshelter.

The Nyimili Range community project continues! Frida, Kirsty and Denis from Terra Rosa have spent the last week back in Tom Price with the Yinhawangka Traditional Owners, continuing the investigation and recording of the heritage values of Nyimili and the associated range.

During this week we worked collaboratively with a different Yinhawangka family group who have a strong connection to the place through the lives and stories of a number of their family members.  We spent most of the week investigating the eastern and south eastern flanks of the range looking primarily for water sources. These water sources are spoken about in ethnographic recordings where they are identified as the birth and burial places of the family’s relatives.

The team also identified an extremely exciting rockshelter complex in the south westen portion of the range which contained some amazing archaeological and ethnographic values. In the rockshelters we found an assortment of artefacts including heavily used grinding bases that indicate that family groups used the area. We also found a walled niche and a number of cached artefacts including wood, cores and stone tools. The most exciting finds were a number of worked wooden objects. Organic materials such as wood, generally do not preserve well in the archaeological record. Most of what we know about wooden objects comes from ethnography, scarred trees and anthropological collections in museums.

Within the shelters we identified fire sticks with charcoal stained ends indicating that they had been used. We also found a long branch that had been stripped of bark, heat-treated, straightened and then cached in preparation for making spears at a later time. The team even found a piece of worked wood with preserved tool marks! Due to adverse preservation conditions these objects are unlikely to be much older than 100 years old. They may even have been made, used and left at these places by the direct ancestors of the Yinhawangka people participating in the project. The Traditional Owners explained that caves such as these were still used throughout the pastoral period as a place to retreat to and to hide children that may have otherwise been taken from their families.

Many of these places and their associated stories will be added to the Nyimili interactive map to be used as a tool to pass on the stories and importance of the place and range to future generations of Yinhawangka. The map will also allow people who are no longer able to travel to the place to virtually visit places of cultural significance within the range.

The more time we spend at Nyimili exploring the range and having a yarn with the Yinhawangka people and other groups with strong connections to the range, the more exciting places and stories we collect about Nyimili! Next week we will be camping in the mouth of one of the gorges, ready to trek into the heart of the range to try and re-identify a number of rock-art sites, and if the rest of the project is any indication find even more new sites that will all contribute to telling the story of this rich, cultural landscape.

Nancy Tommy, Mary Mills and Beverley Hubert in front of Nyimili

Club and firesticks from NYI15-RS-18 (scale = 10 cm)

Banded iron formation, basal grindstone from one of the identified sites (scale = 10 cm)

Feeling small at the entrance to Bushwalker’s Gorge.

A heavily vegetated soak in one of the gorges

Frida and Denis (from Terra Rosa) and Yinhawangka Traditional Owners Stuart Ingie Jnr, Mary Mills, Roy Tommy, Eric Galby, Nancy Tommy and Beverley Hubert