Intensification In Archaeology

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‘Intensification’ has been a large topic of debate in Australian archaeology. Archaeologists created a model of ‘intensification’ which hypothesises that foraging economies became more specialised, productive and efficient throughout Holocene; essentially a progression of the Pleistocene life (Hiscock, 2008). Others suggested that economic activities have a lengthy time-depth or that more recent economic transformations were not necessarily more efficient nor more sophisticated than those earlier (Hiscock, 2008). The ‘great intensification debate’ is largely concentrated on which social and environmental circumstances might have given rise to economic changes based on the archaeological evidence (Hiscock, 2008).
Discussions in the 1970’s and 1980’s within both sides of the debate indicate population change, behavior change and natural processes to be the large determining factors (Attenbrow, 2004). Many archaeologists accepted there was a continuing increase over time in the number of archaeological sites established and used, as well as in the number of artefacts accumulated in individual sites, particularly in the past 5000 years (eg. Johnson 1979:39; Bowdler1981; Morwood 1984:371, 1986, 1987; Ross 1984, 1985:87; Beaton 1985: 16-18; Fletcher-Jones 1985: 282, 286; Lourandos 1985a: 393-411, 1985b: 38; White and Habgood 1985; Hiscock 1986) (Attenbrow, 2004). Population change refers to the changes in number of people or size of the population, behavioural changes referring to changes to activities such as tool manufacturing, subsistence practices as well as the use of space within a site (Attenbrow, 2004). Whilst natural processes include geomorphological and biological process that may have affected the archaeological record (At...

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...servation is a significant factor in producing chronological differences in the abundance of archaeological objects (Hiscock, 2008) making it questionable as to whether there was any indication of ‘intensification’ occurring, as the foundations of evidence are not present. Abandoning the idea of ‘intensification’ may alter the interpretation of the Indigenous Australian past (Holdaway et al., 2008).

So far today, the term ‘intensification’ generally refers to the changes based on the archaeological evidence during the Holocene. However if the archaeological record during the Pleistocene were more extensive, maybe this term would be granted as more legitimate term to be used for this time. It seems that the archaeological restrictions of Australian Pleistocene has prevented the term from being applied when referring to any economical changes seen before Holocene.

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