Dig It, From the Dig It Archives

From the Dig It Archives: Issue Four 1998

By Antoinette Hennessy

Due to a few technical errors (mostly regarding our Domain upgrade from flindersarchsoc.com to flindersarchsoc.org), this week’s instalment of ‘From the Dig It Archives’ is a little late.

Take a step back in time to an early account of the Burra Field trip in 1998, when Mark Staniforth was still a lecturer at Flinders, and Claire Smith was still in the country. If you missed Peter Birt’s recent seminar on his own research on the very dugouts mentioned, here’s a brief introduction. This is followed by an article by Cherie De Leiuen, who presents some interesting findings on gender distributions among archaeology students at Flinders University, focussing on higher degrees in particular. She then opens discussion on why women do not appear to strive for higher degrees and consequently careers in archaeology. Further studies in gender distributions in archaeology have since been conducted up to recent years, including Ulm et al. (2005), Smith and Burke (2006), and Ulm et al. (2013) to name a few, although these tend to focus on practising archaeologists than students. Ulm et al. (2013), in fact, have found that women earn an average of AUD$14,321 less than men – could it be that there is a lack of financial incentive as De Leiuen proposes even up until now? Is there something else? It would be interesting to conduct this same study again on current Flinders archaeology students and compare the results with those from 15 years ago.


 Smith, C. and H. Burke 2006 Glass ceilings, glass parasols and Australian academic archaeology. Australian Archaeology 62:12-25.

 Ulm, S., S. Nichols and C. Dalley 2005 Mapping the shape of contemporary Australian archaeology: implications for archaeology teaching and learning. Australian Archaeology 61:11-23.

 Ulm, S., G. Mate, C. Dalley and S. Nichols 2013 A working profile: the changing face of professional archaeology in Australia. Australian Archaeology 76:34-43.


Message from the Chair

Yes! Its Here – The much anticipated first Dig-It for 1998, ready to be earnestly read and snapped up by eager little archaeologists, and treasure hunters alike.

1998 will surely be a great year for the society, with record number of members who will be able to take advantage of the ‘grand plans’ already dreamed up in the depraved minds of die-hard archsoc lunatics. Already we have had the annual Barbeque (with record numbers), the Post-Grad and Honours Dinner, the ‘Inferno’ Band Night (with Brewers, Live Bands and Psychology Clubs), and the numerous faculty-run field trips.

Members have already travelled from as close as ‘Jervois Basin’, Port Adelaide to as far away as the Burra Dug-Outs and Panaramittee station in the north. Many more activities like this are being planned for this year, all we need is your enthusiasm and interest. A variety of other events are also in the pipeline, from our August excavation in Strathalbyn to our conference participation at National Students Conference in Canberra, ASHA in Sydney in September/October and AAA in Valla Beach Resort in December. A feature of this year will hopefully be our FUN-draising activities which will go towards subsidising/paying for members in conference travel or for society events.

I’d like to thank last year’s executives who have set us up with a great base on which to build a strong, cohesive archaeology society, and in particular those involved with Dig It which has become a focal point for society activities. So, in conclusion, and in the words of our much-loved ex-President ‘See you in the Tavern’.

Nathan Richards

Principal Editors
Paul Rapita
Cherrie De Leiuen
Cassandra Philippou
Editing crew
Chris Langeluddecke
Julie Ford
Chris Duncan


Burra Field Trip

From April 13 to 17, students from the Arch 3302 Field Methods class, under the supervision of Mark Staniforth, Tim Anson and Claire Smith, conducted a pre-disturbance survey of dugout sites in Burra.

This field trip marks what will hopefully be the start of a 3 year project to study the archaeology of Burra, with the objective of also enhancing the tourism value of this historic town. Flinders University Archaeology, with the support of the Goyder Regional Council, the Burra Branch of the National Trust of South Australia and the Mid-North Development Board, are currently awaiting the approval of a supplementary grant, through the Australian Post Graduate Award (Industry) scheme, which will allow work to progress.

Essentially the dugouts are habitations dug into the creeks banks, consisting of a number of rooms, reinforced by whatever materials were to hand. Some rooms had walls of random rubble construction, while others are simply cave-like holes. The walls were originally mud-plastered (evidence of which is visible) and lime washed, which would have made the dugouts more livable than they now appear.

There are three existing dugouts at Blyth St on a secondary arm of the Burra Creek, which was surveyed by the students. Each dugout became the domain of one group for the week and became the scenes of much measuring, plotting, photographing and just a little swearing. This was in part a teaching exercise, but will also provide valuable data that will provide a benchmark for future research.

Coinciding with the feverish and partially subterranean activity at Blyth St, was a more sedate and far more technologically advanced survey, at Mitchell Flat on the banks of Burra Creek.

This site contains numerous collapsed dugouts, which were the victims of periodic floods and natural attrition. Tim Anson, who is intending to do his doctoral research there was aided by students in a systematic survey of this extensive site.

Cultural material was observed in and around the dugout sites, some of which appear to have been quite large. At the northern end of Mitchell Flat, adjacent to the site of the Pig and Whistle Hotel, which itself is no more than a depression now, a large amount of ceramic, glass and other material was found eroding out of the creek’s bank.

Cultural Tourism students from Flinders under the direction of Jane James, also participated in the weeks work, providing an interpretive service in the form of a pamphlet and as guides for visitors at the Blyth St site. This site is a popular stop for visitors in the area and a large number passed through the site during the week, which also provided Archaeology students with valuable experience in Public Archaeology.

The weeks activities were recorded for posterity on video by Paul Rapita, although periodic calls for make-up were ignored. Paul hopes to produce a short documentary as part of his honours degree, which deals with the heritage value that archaeology can produce for ordinary punters, who after all unbeknownst to them, pay for most it.

Recreation in Burra is a little limited, but a nocturnal visit to some of Burra’s heritage attractions, the Brewery Cellars, Redruth Gaol and the cemetery was fascinating, as was the quick tour undertaken on the Friday prior to departing, of the Hampton township, along with a tour of the site where the smelters once stood, as well as the remaining engine houses located at the mine.

Lastly, considering the potentially ongoing nature of Flinders involvement with Burra, a quick pub guide is probably not inappropriate. The Royal Exchange which was about one stagger from the Old Courthouse Hotel (unfortunately no longer operating in this capacity) where we stayed is good for a quiet drink.


Gender Games: Do the men still win in archaeology?

According to statistics provided by DEET in 1993, women constitute over 50% of students at all universities in Australia. But what about archaeology- and how does Flinders compare? Are the commonly held beliefs that women earn and work less than men accurate for our field?

Visibility in Academia

The last decade has seen an explicit attempt by universities to increase the number of women to enrol and progress through faculties. We may all remember campaigns in high school to encourage ‘girls’ to gain an interest in traditionally male fields such as engineering. Data available on the distribution of the sexes in archaeology show that these campaigns may not be as effective as the promotion implied.

At undergraduate level, relatively well researched data indicates a balance slightly towards female numbers for archaeology at a national and international level. (Beck: 1994)

This holds true for Flinders University (see Figure 1) with women being 56% of undergraduates in first year, 55% for second year and 62% for third year in 1998.

Figure 1
Figure 1

However it is the higher levels of study that need to be examined closely. There is a serious disparity when comparing the gender balance of Honours students with that of those in higher positions. This year at Flinders the balance in Honours is even (48% men to 52% women) – but according to trends exposed in 1994, 40% of women who achieve Honours degrees do not go on to further study as compared to 90% of men who do make professional careers in archaeology (Goulding & Buckley: 1994).

Figure 2 represents this same disparity for Flinders in 1998 – with an increased number of men in postgraduate study. Only 40% of higher degree students in archaeology at Flinders are female. The reasons for the women’s poor numbers are complex – could they include the fact that scholarships are a necessity for higher education and that these are determined by the Faculty? Or is it that women have less confidence in their ability to succeed, or less motivation, or have less support generally?

There are other important issues which need to be considered. Firstly, the gender of post-graduates who are recruited for teaching and research (and who also are practitioners and policy makers) will impact upon the value given to gender studies in archaeology. This is particularly important given that it is post-graduates who nurture the theoretical and methodological direction of archaeology departments.

For the healthy development of the discipline it is essential that archaeology departments incorporate both women and men at all levels. This is important not only in terms of theoretical input but also in terms of having role models for both genders and warming up the ‘chilly climate’ that many women feel in academia.

A related issue concerns the current restructuring of higher education. This is mostly dictated by economic motives and women’s positions in academia, which cluster at low levels of the hierarchy, need to be monitored in relation to ongoing reform processes.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Beyond the PhD

Perhaps a reason for women not striving for careers in archaeology in the past is the lack of financial incentive. Concerning income, the mean annual income for women in archaeology is $25, 290 vs $28, 550 for men in 1994, with 31% of qualified women earning less than $17, 500 per annum (see Goulding and Buckley: 1994).

The recent study ‘Gender Pay Equity in Australian Higher Education, conducted by RMIT found female academics earn $220 a week less than their male colleagues . This is not because women suffer discrimination at application level. They are less likely to receive promotions, however, and often have to take time off for family leave, which impinges upon their ability to pursue long-term research projects. This lack of promotion is related to the fact that less women have Ph.Ds (a catch 22 situation?)

General female staff are also more often classified at HEO levels 3 and 4, with men on 6 and 7 – even though people working in these positions often carry the same amount of responsibility. There appears to be a threshold of 20% for women in Faculties (that glass ceiling again!). Flinders follows this average – with 83% men vs 17% women on staff. These positions held by women in academia are also likely to be untenured ladder positions.

However, it should be noted that the samples sizes on which the above are based are small and a longtitudinal study is required in order to assess whether these gender inequities are transitory or entrenched.

The final word – while affirmative action may argue for equality, the data demonstrates women are still in the minority. Although there are more women in the ranks there is no room for complacency! For further reading: “Equity Issues for Women in Archaeology ” Nelson, Nelson & Wylie (eds) 1994.

Written by: Cherie De Leiuen

Graphs: Donna Flood


To continue reading from Dig It 4, click here: DigIt4

Look out for the next edition of ‘From the Dig It Archives’ on Wednesday the 29th of May!