A Plethora of Pin Flags

By Jessica Lumb

Redbanks. April 2012. An uninspiring ploughed field and a group of Archaeology students.


The ’empty’ field.

Ask many of them, I’m sure they were equally underwhelmed when we arrived. Wait, where’s the Archaeology? What on earth was going to keep us busy in this empty desolate field for a whole week?

After our initial orientation of the site, it became apparent. Out of the clods of earth, covered in dirt, hidden between the stalks of upright wheat, there were hidden treasures. Artefacts. Tiny gems of historical and archaeological wonderment.

Day two was the eye opener, and my first experience with a wonderfully bright and cheerful indicator of archaeology; the pin flag. Nothing extremely special in itself, a long straight piece of wire inserted into one end of a portrait orientated rectangle of coloured plastic; but the passion I feel for the pin flag is magical. I can remember feeling the same way about rainbows at about six years old; yes the rainbow itself was visually pleasing, but it was the idea of that pot of gold at the end that I was constantly obsessed with.

Of course, at the end of our rainbow pin flags inserted into the earth there were no tiny pots of gold, but for the Victorian domestic ware enthusiast (me) it was pure heaven, for each pin flag represented at least one shard of glass, ceramic, or other item of significance. The number of these tiny magical items was absolutely overwhelming.



Section of ‘Rhine’ pattern ceramic.


The pin flag’s work was never quite done in this field. Almost as soon as an artefact location had been recorded, and the pin flag removed, it was usurped by another team and inserted into another section of the site. A hot commodity indeed!

As such, the sheer volume of artefacts we recovered during the week (in my entirely visual opinion) cannot best be represented by a table of numbers, but in a simple photograph of a small section of an ’empty desolate field’.



A plethora of pin flags


Field Work, News

Flagging Tape, Body Bags, Witches Hats and a Mud Die – Improvisation in the Fields of Redbanks

By Rhiannon Agutter

It’s not exactly the Sahara or the slopes of Everest, but there is something about the wheat field of Section 103, Hundred of Grace that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere – even if the township of Redbanks is only just across the street, and Mallala only 7kms down the road. Even though we were not so stranded, and not quite in the middle of nowhere, with the blistering heat of the sun scorching our skin and the gusty wind sending our hats flying and mattering the hair of those foolish enough not to tie it back (yes, that was me), survival instincts kicked in and 12 archaeology students and a handful of staff on a Flinders University field school were forced to show their creative side. And, as it turns out archaeologists are a creative (and perhaps slightly crazy) bunch.

Flagging tape. It’s the ultimate accessory that every good archaeologist should have. Not only does it come in a range of fetching fluoro colours to suit any standard Munsell soil colour but it can be used for so much more than just flagging.

When the wind gusts are strong and your hat blows away; never fear for flagging tape shall save the day!

Yes that was lame, and I shall never deliberately attempt to rhyme again, but seriously folks, flagging tape – who knew? And it does so much more than keeping your hat on…

It helps keep pens handy;

(Face blurred to protect the innocent from the embarrassment of a silly pose)

It looks dramatic blowing in the wind;

And if your pin flag breaks…

But flagging tape can only go so far. What if you have no hat to tie on? What if you have a hat but it has a brim so obscenely large that you can’t see anything if you have it on? These were very real problems faced by our crack team of archaeological improvisers.

The genius and slight insanity (I blame the heat) of those on the Redbanks field school continued to amaze me. By the final day the team had:

Invented a scoop for cleaning out auger holes which was much more efficient that any hand shovel we had;

Developed new ways of testing just how much clay is in the soil;

And found new uses for each other’s heads.

And then there was Sam…

Finding herself out in the field with no box or large bag on hand Sam did what any real archaeologist would do. She stuffed artefacts up her shirt.

Lots of artefacts…

Front and back.

Now that is what I call a “body bag”!

Archaeologists are a creative bunch. Redbanks taught me that. It’s not quite the middle of nowhere but even so it’s good to know (unintentional rhyme I swear!) that when conditions are against you, or you find yourself without the necessary equipment you can always count on an archaeologist to get the job done. In any way possible.

A big thank you must go to all the people on the fieldschool (especially the people who let me photograph them doing silly things).

Thank you to my fellow students: Mandy Atkinson, Di Baldry, Marc Brown, Sam Deer, Julie Forgan, Viki Gordon, Antoinette Hennessy, Matt Judd, Clare Leevers, Jess Lumb, Amanda Markham, and Britt Wilson.

And a humongous thank you to the staff and volunteers: Mick Morrison, Heather Burke, Bob Stone, Rob Koch, Chantal Wight and Shaun Adams.