Understanding isolation and change in island human populations through a study of indigenous cultural patterns in the Gulf of Carpentaria

Paul Christopher Memmott, Nicholas Evans, Richard Robins

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    This paper presents a set of hypotheses to explain the cultural differences between Aboriginal people of the North and South Wellesley Islands, Gulf of Carpentaria and to characterise the relative degree and nature of their isolation and cultural change over a 10,000-year time-scale. This opportunity to study parallelisms and divergences in the cultural and demographic histories of fisher-hunter-gatherers arises from the comparison of three distinct cultural groupings: (a) the Ganggalida of the mainland, (b) the Lardil and Yangkaal of the North Wellesley Islands, and (c) the Kaiadilt of the South Wellesley Islands. Despite occupying similar island environments and despite their languages being as closely related as for example, the West Germanic languages, there are some major differences in cultural, economic and social organization as well as striking genetic differences between the North and South Wellesley populations. This paper synthesizes data from linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, genetics and environmental science to present hypotheses of how these intriguing differences were generated, and what we might learn about early processes of marine colonization and cultural change from the Wellesley situation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)29-47
    JournalTransactions of the Royal Society of South Australia
    Volume130
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2006

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