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date: 24 May 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Over the past two decades, archaeologists have explored aspects of Indigenous agency to better encompass experiences of cross-cultural contact in colonial Australia. Yet the area of frontier conflict has largely remained the purview of historians, in part because of challenges in identifying such events archaeologically. One alternative means through which to consider frontier conflict is to investigate the material remains of colonial policing forces. This article focuses on the camps of the Native Mounted Police, a paramilitary government force that operated in Queensland from 1849 (before the state was officially established) until the early decades of the twentieth century. During this period, this force variously occupied 174 camp sites across Queensland, spread unevenly across pastoral and biogeographic districts. By mapping known events of frontier conflict (whether they be attacks on Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal people, stock, and/or property) across the state, we demonstrate that the extent and nature of frontier conflict was highly variable spatially and temporally, and was tied into a largely negative feedback loop with the deployment of the Native Mounted Police. Although Native Mounted Police camps did not form a defensive cordon of structures akin to a ‘frontier line’ across Queensland, they demarcated a frontier ‘zone’ that was contested, precarious, and violent. The fact that so many camps were required for such a long period provides clear evidence of the persistent and determined resistance of Aboriginal peoples to the theft of their land and the bloodshed that resulted.

Keywords: frontier conflict, historical archaeology, cross-cultural, Queensland, Aboriginal peoples

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