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Neolithic Revolution & First Australians

CONTEXT

For a discussion of the Neolithic Revolution in general see Neolithic Revolution
Though it might be thought that the Neolithic Revolution arrived in New Holland with the early settlers it had existed for several thousand years to the north of the continent. In all likelihood agriculture had spread out of China to the Philipppines, west to Indonesia and east into the Pacific. Hence in prehistory, as today, farming, horticulture, and village life would have been seen in Indonesia, Timor, New Guinea, Polynesia and the Torres Strait islands. Aboriginals of Australia’s north coast had certainly been exposed to settled communities based near areas of crop cultivation not only through trade with the Torres Strait Islander farmers who were keen to barter their surplus vegetables, but also through the Macassan trepang fishermen who would invite Aboriginals back to Sulawesi as guests and here they would have observed rice crops, enjoying it as a food but without caring enough to take up its cultivation.[21]

The problem of definition

Though the Neolithic Revolution is often said to have passed Australia by, many authors have pointed out that what constitutes gardening, horticulture, farming, and agriculture is largely a matter of subjective definition (see Neolithic Revolution). Author Bruce Pascoe in Dark Emu (2014) insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing food in a manner that belies the usual characterisation of Aboriginals as hunter-gatherers.[22] Many other historians and archaeologists do not see the activities he describes as equivalent to the kind of plant cultivation and irrigation that was practised by, say, New Guinea natives or with Plant domestication to the point of genetic alteration. So far as domestic animals was concerned it certainly appears that, apart from the dog, there were no animals amenable to domestication (to be used for pulling, carrying, riding, or producing milk) in Australia as there were in other world centres of domestication, with the possible exception of the cassowary whose young birds were tamed and fattened for the table by rainforest people.[12]

Perhaps it is best to simply discuss some of the cases that have been described.

At Kurumi in the desert of WA seed of the edible Bulli Bulli (Tecticornia arborea) bush were sown on clay pans.[6] Explorer Charles Sturt observed that flood plains and clay pans appeared cropped and seeded and in 1845 north of Lake Torrens he observed in his 1849 account of his travels in Central Australia that on grassy plains there were large heaps of thrashed grass looking like haycocks.

Explorer Thomas Mitchell in 1835 noted that grains as millet (Panicum decompositum) were harvested along the Darling at Coopers Creek in fields of 1000 acres or so, then dried, threshed and stored in pits. He found kangaroo-skin bags and wooden dishes. There were villages of probably over 1000 people with large circular huts with a hole in the centre as a chimney, one large enough for at least 40 people and of ‘superior construction’ . Seed was ground between stones, either kept as flour or watered to form a kind of paste or bread. At Lake Narran stacks were made and fired when the grass was green and the seed collected, or left out to dry. It was grown for miles away from the side of the river. Grain was cropped on floodplains off the rivers.[22]

George Grey exploring Western Australia in 1839 found along the Gascoyne River vast well-worked warran grounds (Dioscorea hastifolia) as far as the eye could see along with frequent wells ‘executed in a superior manner’ and two villages with huts plastered on the outside with clay and turf clods as ‘fixed places of residence’.[23] Many references are made in the literature to women harvesting yam daisy sites with their digging sticks.

William Suttor on the lower Lachlan towards the Darling made luxuriant beds from the straw that remained after thrashing. New South Wales Goverment Botanist Fred Turner identified at least four different grains ‘developed very much under cultivation’ e.g. Bull Mitchell Grass and on Flood Creek Sturt found ‘… a native wheat, a beautiful oat, and a rye, as well as a variety of grasses’.[13]

Professor Jared Diamond has made a distinction between food collectors and food producers, which he claims did not occur in Australia.[1] Certainly records of tilled plots of land like those of the ancient Mediterranean civilizations and there are, as yet, no proven cases of genetic alteration of plants by human activity. Even so wild grasses appear to have been cropped in a similar manner, explorer Gregory noting ’fields of 1000 acres were used to grow cereal crops’, this being Australian Millet, Panicum decompositum. Explorer Thomas Mitchell named other cereal crops grown in central Australia such as Barley Mitchell Grass (Astrebla pectinata) and Pepper Grass (Panicum laevinode) which he saw in stacks along the Darling probably by the women who would winnow and thresh the seed heads and process the seed and use grinding stones to make a form of bread (Mitchell 1848: 60-61), the same species being used in a similar way along the Banks of the Narran River in Qld where it was piled into heaps for many miles along the banks.

Tony Swain has suggested that rice (as present-day Oryza meridionalis) was introduced to northern Australia, probably by Chinese and Macassans, several centuries ago when it was then cultivated in areas of Arnhem Land, the song lines of the region identifying both its locations and its method of husbandry.[11]

Lerps were collected in vast quantites as manna. Eyre wrote that Broadleaf Cumbungi was a staple in all parts of Australia. Plants were transplanted: in northern SA spread vine cuttings and in Carpentaria people moved water lilies but only in their clan area (where they remained kin). Cabbage Palm in Victoria was possibly introduced by Aborigines. Coastal pigface was traded to the Grampians where it still grows in rock shelters. Transplanting may account for the disjunct distribution of the Bunya Pine, at Kungathan on Cape York being grown in a patch of 37 trees 300m x 100 m grown near camps, distinct from adjacent vegetation, and carefully fired.(cited p.294). Fruit trees grew regularly near old camp sites, possibly developing from camp litter. Seed was traded, exchanged and stored. Tubers would only last a little while but dried fruit and nuts were stored on a small scale, bunya nuts and cycads were dried, wrapped in paperbark and buried in grass-lined trenches; quandong, plum and fig strung on sticks or made into cakes, waterlily corms dried and stored (cited p.295). On the Finke nr Mt Charlotte (NT) C Giles found a native granary of seed stored on a platform in a tree 7-8 ft up. (p.295). Storing appeared to be associated with ceremony rather than a precaution against drought. All of these practices along with the use of game reserves are reminiscent of farming rather than hunter-gathering. Perhaps there was no need to develop into full-blown farming – the most efficient subsistence strategy. [discussion of farming, Abl experience of farming, definition p.300] Huts, both stone and wood-mud were built in many places but only as temporary lodgings – crops, stores and templates were abandoned to walk the country. At one time or another they built semi-permanent lodgings, erected trapping structures, tilled, irrigated, weeded, dried, winnowed and stored, transplanted, cropped and traded. Some clans, those in the north, remained sedentary for part of the year as part of an annual cycle of activity. But for all this they remained essentially mobile – walking their country. Gammage points out at sedentism contrasts with mobility rather than hunter-gathering. Managing the land within the clan territory entailed at least keeping it under observation. This is indicated by Aboriginal presence throughout the continent, living comfortably in areas which white Australians would find intolerable. Gammage maintains that they made farm and wilderness one with abundant food and leisure, living comfortably in every climate and terrain, free of the constraints of urban hierarchies.*

Ethnobotanist Beth Gott has tabulated Aboriginal agro-horticultural land management in what she terms ‘natural cultivation’ of the land (see Table below)[2]. It is was unlike the kind of cultivation that was carried out in early Mediterranean settlements and totally different from the tilled, enclosed fields, domesticated animals and pastures that the settlers remembered in England; and yet it was clearly more than a simple process of food “gathering”. Protected sites were set aside as sanctuaries for breeding. Yam (warran and murrnong) tops were deliberately planted and prized as they often produced multiple-ended succulent tubers.[2]

Table 1 Comparison of Aboriginal environmental management with European horticulture and agriculture

AGRICULTURE/HORTICULTURE

KOORI GATHERING
Preparation of soil, cultivation Digging, loosening soil, incorporating litter and ash
Fertilising Burning at specific times, producing ash
Thinning of perennials Clumps separated, tubers etc. removed
Sowing and planting Some tubers left or replanted; burning timed after seeding
Care of seedlings Open structure of vegetation, allowing penetration of light, maintained by regular burning
Spread of cultivars Tubers and seeds carried to camps, traded between tribes

Source: Adapted from Gott 2002

Among the reasons suggested for limited settled cultivation are: low soil nutrient levels and therefore limited plant yields; variable climates making productivity unpredictable; and the presence of sufficient food thus removing the urgency for settled agriculture. However, it is thought that Aboriginals around the southwest of Victoria did form settlements as evidenced by the round stone foundations of huts at Lake Condah and settlement in areas of abundance. The different climatic conditions probably produced different approaches to food collection. Not all food was obtained while “on-the-move”, stone fish traps were built, fruit and meat were dried and pelicans confined in pens.

Aboriginal use of plants demonstrates the manipulation of plants within the whole environment by making use of them where they grow naturally rather than growing them in special enclosures or plantations. Thousands of species were used as food plants, mostly tubers in southern Australia, seed in arid regions and fruits in the tropics1. There is no evidence that Aboriginals introduced new plant species. The first confirmed naturalised alien plant in Australia was Tamarindus indicus, Tamarind, introduced to the Northern Territory by Macassans from the South Celebes when hunting Beche-de-mer (a sea cucumber in the genus Holothuria and from the southern Pacific and Indian oceans; used dried or smoked mainly as an ingredient in soup, especially in China and Indonesia) on the north coast in about 1700.[4]

Over time, constant firing of the land was to alter the species composition of plant communities and also the characteristics of the plants themselves. It has also been suggested that that the fire-modified habitat and direct harvesting of animals resulted in the demise of Australia’s megafauna[10] so even this form of cultivation left its mark on the land.

Farming to Australia’s north

In Timor agriculture dates back at least 5,000 years when there were pigs and cats as well as pottery and settled communities growing crops.

New Guinea & Torres Strait swidden horticulture

By 8,000 BP the Arafura plain (300 km of grasslands that had connected northern Australia with the southern coast of present-day New Guinea) was finally flooded, the higher land persisting above water as hundreds of islands scattered through Torres Strait. Since 1974 research has shown that at the time of Banks’ observations and to at least about 1900 when extensive anthropological studies were made of the islands, the southernmost islands were occupied by hunter-gatherers while those to the north were peopled by farmers or, more precisely, swidden horticulturists. Each year these gardeners burned woodland and established plantations of yams, sweet potato and taro. But along with these SE Asian staple foods were orchards of mango, coconut and banana and wild plant food was collected in the mangrove swamps. Early explorers had found large villages of warring chiefdoms whose wealth was measured in ownership of pigs, women and shells. The best known archaeological site is Kuk Swamp in the Waghi valley where people dug with wooden spades in fields crossed by a network of channels as early as10,200 BP. Sweet potato arrives in about 1700 but taro is now considered native to New Guinea and was probably the major crop, other possibilities including sago, Pandanus (Screw Pine) and sugar cane all cultivated in what resemble wild gardens rather than fields or agriculture. The pig, which is not native to New Guinea, may have been on the island a long time as banana, taro, yams, sweet potato, sugarcane. See Pacific Rim book for more.

In the 1930s the first Europeans in the New Guinea highlands discovered fertile valleys at 1300 m altitude and a population of ?hundreds of thousands hunting and gathering but also cultivating sweet potatoes in a complex of fields. It had originated in South America but had been cultivated in these highlands for perhaps 1000 years at Kuk in the Wahgi valley. When cleard for a tea plantation drainage channels possibly 9000 years old were unearthed along with terraces at a time when Australia was connected to New Guinea.

New Guinea, closer to European and Indonesian influences, had pigs and incorporated the sweet potato brought by the Portuguese from America in about 1600 becoming, by 1900, the most widely grown plant, exceeding the banana, taro and sago, although it was not adopted by gardening communities in Torres Strait.[3] If some for of plant domestication were to arrive in Australia then it would most likely have come from the gardening and pig-raising of New Guinea which could be combined with a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Instead the highly disruptive practices neo-European plant and animal domesticates decimated in just a few years the lifestyle of the world’s largest remaining region of nomads.

Pigs & dogs

In New Guinea the pig, dog and other domesticated animals came in from Asia along with the gardening which was probably used to supplement food obtained by hunting and foraging. These early gardens were probably in tropical forest rather than grassland. Farming closed in on Australia from southeastern New Guinea occurring on the islands that lay in the Torres Strait, especially those at the eastern end, and it included pigs: here taro was cultivated on at least two islands and bananas and yams on others in the Murray Islands. A few gardens have been found on Prince of Wales Island which can be seen from Cape York and these were observed under cultivation by a Scottish woman, Barbara Thompson, who was shipwrecked on the island for five years in the mid 19th century. There was intermarriage and trade between Aboriginals and the people of Prince of Wales and Horn Islands. The pigs found on Cape York in recent times are assumed to have been the progeny of animals released by Cook in 1770.

PLANTORIGIN
Dioscorea bulbifera (Air Potato)SE Asia (many varieties)
Nelumbo nucifera (Sacred Lotus)Africa to Asia to Australia
Cucumis melo subsp. agrestis (Bush Cucumber, Ulcardo Melon)Africa to Asia to Australia
Areca catechu (Betel Nut Palm)Found in 1818 on Coker Island off the Coburg Peninsula by Phillip King
Cocos nucifera,Populations pre-dating Europeans are uncertain as is its indigenousness
Alocasia macrorrhiza (Taro),Probably recently naturalised except possibly on Maer Island in Torres Strait[1]
Bambusa,Old joints of drift bamboo found on beaches by King
Physalis minima (Wild Gooseberry)Tropics

The proximity of this agriculture to the north of the Australian continent begs the question as to why mainland Aboriginals had not become farmers.

Was there no agriculture on the mainland?

We must acknowledge that this question would first have been laden with surprise that such a beneficial activity had not been established together with the judgment that therefore something must have gone wrong. Cook himself (see quote above) assumed that the absence of farming was a sign of backwardness. After all, agriculture in the civilised world was ‘proper for the support of man’.[8] Since the time of Cook’s observation much opinion has undergone a complete about-face, questioning the desirability and inevitability of farming and acknowledging that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, at its best, was healthy and happy, involving little toil. Indeed, investigating the reasons for taking up farming might present a question of greater challenge and interest.

Even so, the fascination of a stone-age culture co-existing with the industry and agriculture of the European is a mesmerising one and this topic has received considerable attention. Professor Graeme Barker has compiled a list of 39 possible explanations for the absence of agriculture although the degree to which many of these can be taken seriously is a moot point. We may never have a satisfactory answer to our question and so it may be best to simply list major contending theories under two headings: those that look to cultural factors such as beliefs and attitudes, and those that look to physical factors like geography and climate. We can start with the assumption that Aboriginals, at least in the north, were aware of agriculture so the problem could not have been a lack of contact with practitioners.

Perhaps the idea of no agriculture on mainland Australia is a white myth. Bruce Pascoe, an indigenous writer in the Bunurong clan of the Kulin nation notes that ‘A grinding dish analysed at Cuddie Srings revealed that it hd been used to grind grain into flour 34,000 years ago, thousands of years before anyone else on earth had discovered the alchemy of flour water an heat‘, ‘… let Australia remember who domesticated this grain and invented bread 15,000 years before anyone else on Earth‘, ‘… you can’t eat our food if you can’t swallow our history‘.[24]

A recent 2014 examination of the question by Professor Hirst, formerly a member of the History Department at La Trobe University, comes down firmly on the side of cultural factors, so perhaps this is a good place to start.

Cultural factors

What kinds of cultural beliefs could have acted as a disincentive to agriculture? Archaelogist Josophine Flood points out, for example, that domestic duties relating to plants, especially plants used for food, was ‘womens work’. Taken to an extreme this alone could give us an answer.

Hirst’s response is more nuanced, incorporating a range of Aboriginal customs and beliefs in the mix of cultural conservatism, what he calls the ‘mindset of the hunter-gatherer‘ pointing out that Europeans are motivated by the desire to earn money while Aboriginals first priority is to clan and family which undermines the business ethic since profits are distributed and dissipated rather than accumulated.[20] Tradition dictated that goods and gains were shared among relations, not hoarded, so when missionaries tried to introduce farming using rations as an incentive the Aboriginals turned away from the toil, getting food in other ways and, since sharing was the custom, begging from whites was not perceived in a negative way since the whites apparently had plenty to share.[17] Possessions, anyway were an encumbrance to the nomadic lifestyle and the European notion of land ownership was alien; if anything the land owned them, they were part of nature not in charge of it even if they did carry out routine management. It was not just the hard work that was resisted it was the social arrangement of the whites since it was quickly realised that ‘ … the men who did the hard work were looked down upon and the gentlemen owners got the rewards‘. At Blacktown in the early days of settlement when encouraged to take up farming the Aboriginals, much to the exasperation and lack of understanding of the management committee, asked for convict labour.[18] Aboriginals here did not perceive themselves as being at the bottom of some social ladder. Herding appealed much more than farming as they worked for a strong man who would support and protect the community, the wage did not matter.[19]

It is tempting to view the mainland through the eyes of the agricultural revolution as ‘under-developed’ – but the Aboriginals may well have regarded their lives as rich and sufficient with no necessity to adopt the work treadmill of cultivation, clearing, burning, planting, weeding, irrigation and so on which would not only keep them in one locality but also introduce a life of incessant hard labour.[9] Their contact would have been with the cultures of the simpler gardens and the practice was never imposed from outside. Even the spears and spear-throwers were superior to the bows and arrows (never ised in Australia) for fishing and harpooning. Pacific voyagers were travelling vast distances. New Zealand was reached by long sea trips of the maoris about 1350 AD.

With active trade between the peoples and the Aboriginal deliberate use of replacing yam tubers after cropping in the wild there can be no doubt that northern Aboriginals were aware of horticulture.

Among possible reasons suggested are: lack of contact; cultural conservatism; hostility; lack of suitable domesticable plants and animals; and deliberate choice.

Perhaps if supplies were sufficient in the bush then they felt no need to engage in the toil of plant husbandry although the view that Aboriginals ever lived for prolonged periods in plenty is contested.[12]

Other suggestions include that it was ‘womens work’ (flood)

Vegetation – European influence was dramatic and self-evident, land cleared for pastoralism and some agriculture mostly by burning with the subsequent overgrazing by stock and the naturalisation of alien plants both deliberately for feed and accidentally in seed and fodder. Though settlers were greeted by wattles and eucalypts they had a serious effect on two other components of the vegetation, Casuarina and the fire-sensitive Callitris.

Aboriginal economy and technology was closely adapted to the seasonal fluctuations of the flora and fauna on which they depended.

Plant cultivation

Storage

The storage of food for later use, an integral part of the Neolithic Revolution, was rarely practiced by Aboriginals, largely confined to desert regions or during extreme weather such as drought that plant storage was needed. In the case of wattle gum this was quite straightforward, but living plant material needed processing. Nardoo (Marsilea spp.) fruiting bodies (sporocarps) along with the milled seed of grasses and other species was sometimes stored in wooden containers or bags made of skin or woven material: these would be kept in caves or dry sand ready for future use. Many fruits were sun-dried, like Quandong (Santalum spp.) and Bush Plum others were rubbed with ochre or, like the ‘apples’ of native tomato (Solanum spp.), were skewered and stored on sticks. Root crops were sometimes crushed before storage.[15]

Plant commentary & sustainability analysis

Considerable debate surrounds the semantics of the words ‘agriculture’, ‘gardener hunter-gatherer’, ‘complex hunter-gatherer’, even the distinction between ‘agriculture’ and ‘horticulture’ not to mention ‘managed’ and ‘natural’ landscapes and how agriculture is to be differentiated from other economies? Suffice it to say that this is a grey area. To this author’s limited knowledge it would appear that Aboriginal ‘agriculture’ was not of quite the same form as that observed to the north of the continent and elsewhere but drawing semantic lines is inevitably arbitrary.

Food was abundant in the tropical north so no need to adopt cultivation:[16] in the centre and south there was virtually only the wild millet that was amenable to cultivation. Not so plentiful elsewhere as at Sydney Cove.

Aboriginal culture was exposed to agrarian systems to its north. Agricultural systems in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia were based on the taro-yam complex grown as an annual field crop, this later being replaced by perennials, cocoanut, banana, breadfruit, sago and other fruits. Occasionally, as in New Guinea, it took the form of shifting agriculture – cultivation of a small area until nutrients were depleted and pests became prohibitive, then moving on to allow the soil time to replenish before returning. Archaeologists maintain that the Lapita culture which thrived from 3600-2500 years ago represents the culture that was ancestral to the Polynesian culture and that it was these people that first settled the SW Pacific, about 10 fruit and nut seeds have been associated with this culture which was very important in Malayo-Oceanic and especially Melanesian cultivation systems.

In one sense by 7,000 BP the foundations for modern society had been laid, cultural history was now left to play out. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Neolithic Revolution occurred over a period of climate change and resulted in population increase. Perhaps social change like biological evolution thrives on changing circumstances. In retrospect it would seem likely that the first settled societies in the world should occur in SW Asia where the abundant plants (wheat, barley, rye) and a suite of animals (dog, goat, cattle, sheep, pig, horse, chicken, duck, goose) that were amenable to domestication. In contrast countries like South America and Australia were not so well endowed. Though people may not have consciously anticipated the consequences of social change the probabilities of these consequences, and the sequence in which they occurred, may have been determined to large degree by their situation in relation to geography and resources. Or did the history of the Neolithic Revolution unfold largely by chance and follow diverse and unpredictable pathways?

Ultimately with the arrival of the European settler, the sequence of events was similar to that which occurred elsewhere in the world, maybe right back to the time of the first agricultural communities of the Fertile Crescent. Hunter-gatherers were displaced from prime foodlands and marginalised: subsequently life either became much harder or they would decide to join the settlers.

Plant commentary & sustainability analysis

Considerable debate surrounds the semantics of the words ‘agriculture’, ‘gardener hunter-gatherer’, ‘complex hunter-gatherer’, even the distinction between ‘agriculture’ and ‘horticulture’ not to mention ‘managed’ and ‘natural’ landscapes and how agriculture is to be differentiated from other economies? Suffice it to say that this is a grey area. To this author’s limited knowledge it would appear that Aboriginal ‘agriculture’ was not of quite the same form as that observed to the north of the continent and elsewhere but drawing semantic lines is inevitably arbitrary.

Food was abundant in the tropical north so no need to adopt cultivation:[16] in the centre and south there was virtually only the wild millet that was amenable to cultivation. Not so plentiful elsewhere as at Sydney Cove.

Aboriginal culture was exposed to agrarian systems to its north. Agricultural systems in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia were based on the taro-yam complex grown as an annual field crop, this later being replaced by perennials, cocoanut, banana, breadfruit, sago and other fruits. Occasionally, as in New Guinea, it took the form of shifting agriculture – cultivation of a small area until nutrients were depleted and pests became prohibitive, then moving on to allow the soil time to replenish before returning. Archaeologists maintain that the Lapita culture which thrived from 3600-2500 years ago represents the culture that was ancestral to the Polynesian culture and that it was these people that first settled the SW Pacific, about 10 fruit and nut seeds have been associated with this culture which was very important in Malayo-Oceanic and especially Melanesian cultivation systems.

In one sense by 7,000 BP the foundations for modern society had been laid, cultural history was now left to play out. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Neolithic Revolution occurred over a period of climate change and resulted in population increase. Perhaps social change like biological evolution thrives on changing circumstances. In retrospect it would seem likely that the first settled societies in the world should occur in SW Asia where the abundant plants (wheat, barley, rye) and a suite of animals (dog, goat, cattle, sheep, pig, horse, chicken, duck, goose) that were amenable to domestication. In contrast countries like South America and Australia were not so well endowed. Though people may not have consciously anticipated the consequences of social change the probabilities of these consequences, and the sequence in which they occurred, may have been determined to large degree by their situation in relation to geography and resources. Or did the history of the Neolithic Revolution unfold largely by chance and follow diverse and unpredictable pathways?

Ultimately with the arrival of the European settler, the sequence of events was similar to that which occurred elsewhere in the world, maybe right back to the time of the first agricultural communities of the Fertile Crescent. Hunter-gatherers were displaced from prime foodlands and marginalised: subsequently life either became much harder or they would decide to join the settlers.

Key points

  • The Neolithic Reolution in Europe, which began in the Fertile Crescent about 10,000 years ago arrived in Britain in about 4,000 BCE while the Neolithic Revolution originating in China had passed to South-east Asia and the north of Australia at least 5000 years ago
    • Australian Aborigines experienced the farming and village life that existed to their north (most notably in the Torres Strait Islands but also as probably experienced in New Guinea and Sulawesi) but largely retained their hunter-gatherer lifestyle
      • Aborigines occasionally used horticulture-like activities, settled for part of the year, gathered and harvested grasses, or constructed villages (notably those at Lake Condah in Victoria)
        • The need for ‘farming’ the land from settlements was precluded by the effective use of firestick farming which was used to obtain both meat and fresh greens
          • Other reasons why Aborigines did not adopt settled agriculture are still debated but cultural factors involved would have included: different attitudes to land ownership and property; the perception of agriculture’s social injustices; an apparent need for unnecessary toil
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