Investigating standardisation in the form of backed artefacts at two sites in the Hunter River valley, NSW, Australia
Backed artefacts formed a significant component of hunter-gatherer stone tool-kits dating to the mid- to late Holocene in Australia. A popular model explaining this pattern views backed artefacts as standardised components of reliable and maintainable composite tools designed to reduce risk associated with foraging in a drier, more variable climate. Implied is the idea that there is a minimal range of variation in form. The degree to which backed artefacts were standardised, however, remains unclear. Re-analysis of backed artefacts from Sandy Hollow and Bobadeen in the Hunter River valley, excavated in the 1960s, was undertaken to assess standardisation in the metrical attributes of backed forms. Results highlight the standardisation of backed artefacts, though the degree to which different dimensions appear uniform varies between the two assemblages. The width of backed artefacts, however, appears to be an important dimension, and minimal variation in width was produced by knappers at both sites, irrespective of whether the samples were arranged into technological subtypes. Overall, the results of this analysis provide support in favour of the model which views backed artefacts as standardised tool components. Future research must be directed towards gaining a better understanding of the reasons for this standardisation.