The Galilee Basin in central Queensland has been the focus of numerous coal mine exploration and development activities in the recent past.Proponents have included Adani, MacMines, Hancock, Waratah Coal and AMCI and incorporate some of the large coal projects ever envisaged in Australia.
The ARCHAEO/Converge team of cultural heritage specialists, acting as technical advisors to the Wangan and Jagalingou People have been extensively involved with all of these projects and have developed and undertaken a large number of comprehensive Aboriginal cultural heritage survey and mitigation programs in conjunction with representatives of the Traditional Owners.
While the name Desert Uplands tends to indicate inhospitable and harsh country, it is far from that. Academic research indicates that the north-western section of the Desert Uplands was occupied at least 10,000 years ago. Cultural Heritage assessments conducted by the ARCHAEO/Converge team in the Galilee Basin over the last 7 years have revealed a rich and diversified archaeological record and have covered thousands of hectares of previously unsurveyed country.
These assessments have included programs for exploratory drilling, railway corridors, road construction, camp/village sites, hardstone quarries, open cut pits and other associated infrastructure.
Over the course of these assessments, teams of Traditional Owner representatives and ARCHAEO archaeologists have systematically walked thousands of kilometres of transects and tens of thousands of items of cultural heritage have been identified and recorded including flaked stone artefact scatters, hearths, wells, raw material sources, scarred trees, ceremonial grounds, stone arrangements, story places and other places with high degrees of cultural and scientific significance. In addition to pedestrian surveys, members of survey crews have also been involved in exploratory surveys over parts of the Galilee Basin using a helicopter.
The company’s connection to the Galilee Basin and the wider area biogeographic region known as the Desert Uplands goes back considerably further than this, with one member of the ARCHAEO/Converge team first beginning researching the archaeological potential of this area in the late 1980s, just a few years before ARCHAEO was founded. This research and subsequent field surveys culminated in an Honours degree in archaeology and a wide-ranging report on the archaeological potential of the Desert Uplands and Galilee Basin that hinted at its potential. At this point in time the Desert Uplands, which covers some 75,000 sq.km was known to contain only 51 Indigenous cultural heritage sites, a number that was considered to be far from accurate and which has now been expanded by the work of ARCHAEO/Converge and the Wangan and Jagalingou People to number in the tens of thousands.
The use of in-house GIS expertise and technology has been employed by ARCHAEO/Converge to assist in the development of explanatory models for site location and the identification of Significant Aboriginal Areas within the Galilee Basin. These visual models, which have included LiDAR data, are an invaluable tool when it comes to explaining how and why a given area has been highlighted for further investigations. Furthermore, by using GIS proponents can be supplied with the relevant spatial datasets to assist them in avoiding areas flagged as significant.
The subsequent data sets obtained by ARCHAEO/Converge in the area have led to the development of specific mitigation strategies aiming to gather as much information as possible from both a cultural and scientific perspective concerning the nature and spatial patterning of items of cultural heritage across the landscape.
Strategies employed by ARCHAEO/Converge in the Galilee Basin include the controlled collection of artefacts using grid squares and the excavation of areas identified as having the potential for subsurface archaeological deposits incorporating datable material using traditional trowel and brush methods and in some cases mechanical means.
Additionally, the data accumulated over the course of these surveys means it is now possible to start asking some specific questions about how different aspects of the landscape were utilised seasonally by Aboriginal people.
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