Year 7/8

Suggested duration: one lesson


Students will learn what is meant by the term ‘artefact’ in historical research, they will read about and describe artefacts from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Students will use the information on the scaffolded Activity worksheets and material from The Little Red Yellow Black Book to complete the tasks outlined in the worksheets.

A recent archaeological discovery has revealed that Aboriginal peoples have inhabited Australia for at least 65,000 years. Evidence, including stone axes and grindstones, found in the Northern Territory’s Madjedbebe rock shelter, were located on the traditional lands of the Mirarr people (The Little Red Yellow Black Book, p. 8).

Learning outcome

  • Students will be able to compare and discuss the usefulness of artefacts in drawing conclusions about Australia’s past. 
General capabilities Cross-curriculum priorities
Literacy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures
Critical and creative thinking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures organising ideas: 6, 7, 9
Ethical Understanding  

Australian Curriculum content descriptions

Year 7 History

  • Locate, compare, select and use information from a range of sources as evidence (ACHHS210).
  • Draw conclusions about the usefulness of sources (ACHHS211).
  • The nature of sources for ancient Australia and what they reveal about Australia’s past in the ancient period, such as the use of resources (ACDSEH031).

Year 8 History

  • Locate, compare, select and use information from a range of sources as evidence (ACHHS153).
  • Draw conclusions about the usefulness of sources (ACHHS154).

Provisions for differentiation

Learning support

Students with special learning needs may elect to work in partnerships with peers or a learning support teacher.


Ask the students to conduct further research on artefacts found that tell us about a particular group of Indigenous Australians from their own local area.


For teachers

Ensure that the guidance notes included in The Little Red Yellow Black Book teacher resources have been considered.


  • Artefact
  • Primary source
  • Secondary source

Preparation: Make double-sided copies of the Worksheets - enough for one per student.

Step 1.

Distribute the Worksheets. These should be copied to make a double-sided page.

Step 2.

Ensure students have copies of The Little Red Yellow Black Book and direct them to read the resource material from pages 30-33.  

Step 3.

Discuss the readings and the definition of Primary Source and Artefact. Assign 30 minutes for the students to complete the Worksheets.

Step 4.

For the remaining lesson time, work through the answers.

Assessment ideas

  • Completed worksheets
  • Discussion contribution


  1. Rock art (paintings) depicting Macassan trading vessels.
  2. Sea cucumber, metal knives, cloth, tobacco, bamboo, clay pipes, glass, fish, crustaceans, turtles, dugongs, cassowary feathers, drums, ochres, ocean-going canoes, pearl shell, cone shell, turtle shell, stone, canoe hulls, rigging, Papuan drums, shark-mouth drums, spears, spear throwers, food, decorative ornaments, songs, dances and esoteric objects.
  3. Many of these things made from natural materials like timber and grass could not survive for thousands of years because they would decay over time.
  4. Metal knives, clay and glass items.
  5. Stone fish traps. These traps were built along shorelines, in shallow water. The high tide would come and submerge the trap’s walls. As the tide went out, the water level fell, trapping the fish inside.
    1. Completed on the worksheet as an example.
    2. Axe-grinding grooves reveal that the people who made them must have used stone axes as tools and weapons. We can surmise that they would’ve used them to hunt and kill living creatures and perhaps cut and chop timber and vegetation for building and making tools.
    3. The middens reveal that people ate shellfish; that there may have been many people at this site over the years; and they reveal the species of shellfish preferred for eating.
    4. The black marks reveal the presence of cooking fires in the cave, possibly representing a continuous period of habitation. This shows us that people lived and ate in the cave, and that they cooked their food. This makes it likely that they were eating meat, which is more palatable when cooked. Historians may also be able to analyse the remains of the cooking fires and examine the components of the charcoal to determine precisely what materials were burned there. If the cave was used to shelter cooking fires, it may have been a living area for a family or a group of people who regularly ate together. Historians could also determine the approximate age of the site judging by the depth and extent of the midden.
    5. The presence of red ochre tells historians that the people knew how to find resources and put them together to make a paint-like substance. The use of ochre to decorate things associated with burial of the dead gives evidence of a sophisticated system of beliefs that governed the treatment of the dead and had spiritual significance.
  6. Answers will vary. Students could suggest passing laws to protect sites, erecting signs and warnings to the general public about conserving the site and educating people about appropriate treatment of such sites and artefacts.
Last reviewed: 8 Nov 2019