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The images and written descriptions of the late 18th century European colonists and visitors to Port Jackson portray fishing as a common and important subsistence activity of the Aboriginal people who inhabited coastal Sydney. Both men and women fished, but there was a gendered dichotomy in the use of different fishing methods - with men using multi-pronged fishing spears and women using hook-and-line. Fishing continued to be an important activity for Aboriginal people around Port Jackson in the early colonial period, though the technology and division of labour changed with the introduction of British equipment. This paper focuses on the period at and prior to British colonisation and on hook-and-line fishing, in particular the use of shell fish-hooks, their manufacture and their restricted geographic distribution along the south-eastern Australian coastline; the timing of their introduction is also discussed. Archaeological evidence is used to complement the early historical records in order to establish their distribution and to trace back in time the manufacture and use of shell fish-hooks in New South Wales to almost 1000 years ago. Theories about their place/s of origin and the impacts that their introduction may have had on Aboriginal society are discussed. These small implements provide us with significant evidence about the nature and diversity of Aboriginal life and subsistence patterns that existed over space and time in eastern Australia.

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References

Anderson, A, Higham, T. and Wallace, R. 2001. The radiocarbon chronology of the Norfolk Island archaeological sites. Pp. 33-42 in The Prehistoric Archaeology of Norfolk Island, Southwest Pacific, edited by A. Anderson and P. White. Records of the Australian Museum Supplement 27.
Attenbrow, V. 1976. Aboriginal Subsistence Economy on the Far South Coast of New South Wales, Australia. B.A.(hons) Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney.
Attenbrow, V. 1992a. Port Jackson Archaeological Project - Stage II: Work carried out between January 1990 and 30 June 1992. Report to Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra.
Attenbrow, V. 1992b. Shell bed or shell midden. Australian Archaeology 34: 3-21.
Attenbrow, V. 1993. Preliminary report on 1993 excavations at Balmoral Beach 2, Port Jackson Archaeological Project Stage II. Report for NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service and Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra.
Attenbrow, V. 1994. Port Jackson Archaeological Project - Stage II (1993). Work undertaken between January 1993 and March 1994. Final report to Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra.
Attenbrow, V. 1995. Port Jackson Archaeological Project - Stage II (1994). Work undertaken between April 1994 and August 1995. Report to Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra.
Attenbrow, V. 2010 Sydney's Aboriginal Past. 2nd ed. UNSW Press, Sydney.
Attenbrow, V. and Bow, K. 2002. Reef Beach Aboriginal Shell Midden [NPWS Site No 45-6-261]. Analysis of Excavated Cultural Materials (Preliminary). Unpublished report in Australian Museum (Archaeology Collections).
Attenbrow, V., Fullagar, R. and Szpak, C. 1998. Stone files and shell fish-hooks in southeastern Australia. Pp. 127-148 in A Closer Look: Recent Australian Studies of Stone Tools. Sydney University Archaeological Methods Series 6, edited by R. Fullagar. Archaeological Computing Laboratory, School of Archaeology, University of Sydney, Sydney.
Attenbrow, V. and Steele, D. 1995. Fishing in Port Jackson, New South Wales - more than met the eye. Antiquity 69(262): 47-60.
Banfield, E.J. 1908 Confessions of a Beachcomber. London.
Barz, K. 1977. Some theoretical and practical aspects of midden sampling as applied to a site at St. Georges Basin, Jervis Bay, ACT. B.A. (Hons) thesis, Department of Prehistory and Anthropology, The Australian National University.
Beaglehole, J.C. (ed.) 1955 The Voyage of the Endeavour 1768-1771. The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery. Hakluyt Society at the University Press, Cambridge.
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Berndt, R.M. and Berndt, C.H. 1999 The World of the First Australians. Aboriginal Traditional Life: Past and Present. Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra.
Berndt, R.M., Berndt, C.H. and Stanton, J.E. 1993 A World That Was: The Yaraldi of the Murray River and the Lakes, South Australia. Melbourne University Press, Carlton.
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Bowdler, S. 1971. Balls Head: The excavation of a Port Jackson rock shelter. Records of the Australian Museum 28(7): 117-128.
Bowdler, S. 1976. Hook, line and dilly bag: An interpretation of an Australian coastal shell midden. Mankind 10(4): 248-258.
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