Text Indigenous Science: shell middens and fish traps

TLF ID M013029

This is an article about Aboriginal shell middens along the Queensland coast and the information they provide about Aboriginal food collection practices. Written by Kudjala/Kalkadoon Elder from Queensland Letitia Murgha and intended mainly for teachers, it describes how shell middens were created over thousands of years and lists some of the species of mussels, oysters, clams, crabs and fish whose shells or bones have been found in the middens. The article mentions that fish traps are associated with middens at several sites. It is illustrated by images of a shell necklace and of shell middens on the beach of Palm Island.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The article provides information useful for teachers in planning their implementation of the curriculum. It is relevant to numerous content descriptions across a range of year levels, including the content description in the year 7 history depth study Investigating the ancient past that refers to the nature of the sources for ancient Australia and what they reveal about Australia's past in the ancient period (approximately 60,000 BCE to c650 CE), such as the use of resources. Shell middens are a particularly valuable source.
  • It is also relevant to content descriptions in years 1 and 4 geography about the ways that the activities located in a place create its distinctive features and about the resources provided by the environment. It may be of some use for year 7 science content description about how interactions between organisms can be described in terms of food chains and food webs; in this case Aboriginal people were the top predators in the food chain.
  • The resource is especially valuable for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures cross-curriculum priority. It is particularly supportive of the priority's organising idea that Aboriginal peoples' ways of life are uniquely expressed through ways of being, knowing, thinking and doing. The article refers to the people reading the seasonal signs to know when the various shellfish were at their best. Knowledge like this was built up over generations of careful observation.
Year level

1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7

Learning area
  • Humanities and social sciences
  • Geography
  • History
  • Science

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au/
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: The State of Queensland (Queensland Museum)
  • Organization: The State of Queensland (Queensland Museum)
  • Publisher
  • Name: The State of Queensland (Queensland Museum)
  • Organization: The State of Queensland (Queensland Museum)
  • Description: Publisher
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL: www.esa.edu.au
Access profile
  • Unknown
Learning Resource Type
  • Text
  • © The State of Queensland (Queensland Museum). This material may be used and reproduced free of charge for non-commercial educational purposes, provided all acknowledgements are retained.