Sites on Mithaka Country Reveal World-Scale Trading System

Stone formations on Mithaka Country. Courtesy of Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation, 2022.

Quarry sites on Mithaka Country dating back 2,100 years have revealed a world-scale trading system. The traditional lands of the Mithaka people are located in the Channel Country of Queensland. Here, more than 200 quarry sites, and mysterious stone formations spread across 60,000 square metres have been found. Archeologists in collaboration with Mithaka Traditional Owners are now putting together the pieces of their research to understand what these findings can tell us about the way Aboriginal people once lived (ABC News, 2022).

The industrial-sized sandstone quarry sites are, to researchers' knowledge, the largest in the southern hemisphere. As such, this incredible trading system and cultural landscape has been shortlisted to become a national heritage listing. This will hopefully lead to World Heritage status, which will protect this precious part of Indigenous heritage for generations to come (ABC News, 2022).

Indigenous tools A Mithaka grinding stone set from Morney Plains Quarry. Courtesy of Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation, 2022.

Researchers have been working at the site since 2017, and - with the help of the Mithaka people - are still trying to fully understand what the formations were used for. What has been discovered so far is that the quarry sites were a part of a well developed trading system, where grinding stones, silcrete tools, seeds and more were traded. This evidence shows that the Aboriginal people of this Country had an established economy. As commented by Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation director Tracey Hough in an interview with ABC News (2022), “We weren't just nomadic beings wandering around the landscape lost.”

Mithaka woman Shawnee Gorringe has been working as an archaeologist on the quarry site. In an interview with ABC News (2022), Gorringe talked about the importance of these discoveries for the Mithaka people: 

"As Mithaka people, and Indigenous people in general, we've lost so much. It's picking up the pieces of the past and putting them into context."

Some of the unique archaeological findings are now a part of an exhibition titled Kirrenderri, meaning the ‘heart of Channel Country.’ The unique exhibition, as the title suggests, explores the heart of the Channel Country from a botanical, geological, archeological and historical perspective, piecing together stories of the land and the Mithaka people. This collection of findings will be on display in Brisbane at the University of Queensland's Museum of Anthropology until June, before travelling to Winton, Biloela, Toowoomba, Townsville, Mount Isa and Birdsville (ABC News, 2022). 

It’s wonderful that, through these discoveries, the Mithaka and the wider First Nations community can learn more about how their ancestors lived. We very much hope that this precious Country is given World Heritage status, so that future generations of Mithaka people can learn about and stay connected to their land. 

If you you’d like to learn more about other archaeological finds in Australia, check out our previous posts:

Through Archaeology, our understanding of Indigenous History Continues to Grow

Australian Scientists discover the oldest known Aboriginal rock art painting, dating 17,3000 years old