Field Work, Port Arthur Field Trip

ArchSoc’s Port Arthur Field Trip

A few weeks have passed since the Flinders Archaeological Society (ArchSoc) sent six of our members and two of our committee to help the Port Arthur Historic Sites Management Authority (PAHSMA) with their artefact collection from the 2011 Hobart Penitentiary Chapel excavations.

The Port Arthur Team. Back (L-R): David Roe, Jeanne Harris, Tom Lally, Ilona Bartsch, Maxim Ayres, Bradley Kerr and Louisa Fischer. Front (L-R): Andrew Wilkinson, Leah Ralph, Annita Waghorn, Lauren Davison and Holly Winter.

As you can see from the blog entries that the participants wrote at the end of each day, everyone enjoyed themselves and learnt a lot. This is the first time ArchSoc has organised a field trip like this and it is a testament to the dedication and organisation of this year’s committee that the trip went off without a hitch.

On behalf of ArchSoc, I would like to thank those that helped make this trip possible from the onset. Thanks go to Claire Smith, whose networking made this possible, Natalie Bittner, who along with myself, conducted the initial consultations with PAHSMA, and to David Roe and Annita Waghorn from PAHSMA, who were both more than happy to host several student volunteers.

I would also like to thank those that helped in the planning stages and those that helped us in our more-than-successful fundraising BBQ and Bake Sale including the ArchSoc Committee and staff from the Department of Archaeology. There are too many individuals to name, but you all know who you are.

BBQ in the Plaza @ Flinders

Thanks to everyone that applied to go on this trip, sorry we couldn’t accommodate all of you and to Andrew Wilkinson and Tom Lally who co-ordinated the trip at short notice when it was clear that I could no longer attend.

Lastly, a very big thank you goes to Jeanne Harris, David Roe and Annita Waghorn from PAHSMA for hosting ArchSoc on what was a very successful trip. We hope this is the start of a long relationship.

Bake Sale in the Humanities Courtyard

The professionalism of our committee and participants is highlighted in an email that David Roe sent to me shortly after the trip:

“From our perspective the week was a great success: we were able to get a number of important fieldwork jobs done and a significant hole has been made in the cataloguing task for the Penitentiary Chapel assemblage.  Jeanne, Annita and I were impressed with the Flinders contingent: they worked hard and were a pleasure to have around.  Their enthusiasm and conduct reflects most admirably upon the Flinders ArchSoc in particular and the University in general.  Please accept our thanks for having organised and underwritten the trip; we look forward to more such visits in the future.”

Jordan Ralph

Sorting Artefacts from the 2011 Penitentiary Chapel Excavations in Hobart
Field Work, News

Background noise: a double edged sword

By Sam Deer

Most archaeologists working in the field know far too well of the bothers that can be caused by background noise when looking for artefacts at a site. This little trickster comes in a variety of forms, usually depending on what field you’re working in – e.g. for indigenous archaeologists looking for stone artefacts background noise usually rears its ugly head in the form of stone fragments of the “non-artefactual” variety.

While investigating the site of the Seven Stars Hotel at Red Banks, SA, with a group of approximately 18 Flinders University students and staff, background noise proved to be a bit of a double edged sword, mischievously messing with not just the usual one, but two of the most important senses necessary to carry out a worthwhile investigation in such a setting.

The Seven Stars Hotel was a popular drinking hole for locals in the 60s and 70s and got its name from its location at the time – at the intersection of (yes, you guessed it) seven roads. Today the pub is non-existent to the naked eye – the only remnants are thousands of artefact fragments (bottles, ceramics, bricks and more) scattered throughout a field and the surrounding area. As would be expected when working on a site that’s been cultivated and ploughed extensively, background noise played tricks on the visual senses of field workers in the form of artefact-resembling rocks, remnants of crops, clumps of soil, grass and snail shells (see image above).

Situated right on the roadside (and quite possibly underneath it), the fieldwork being done on the site was hindered even further at the hands of background noise from passing traffic – every time a vehicle drove past the site a deafening roar filled the air and rendered any communication being attempted at that moment pointless. Conversations and instructions had to be repeated regularly, and we found ourselves on more than one occasion having to wait patiently as a convoy of cars cleared the area. This proved to be quite infuriating, especially when trying to communicate GPS co-ordinates across an open field with the wind also blaring in the background.

On the upside, we managed to defeat background noise and make the project and field school a great success – more than a thousand artefacts were collected from the site!

Field Work, News

From red dirt to Redbanks… and back again

By Mandy Atkinson

I have been lucky enough to have worked as a consultant archaeologist since completing my undergraduate and since that time have been working only in Aboriginal cultural heritage management. In a consultant’s world, you walk a lot, there’s nasty bugs and spikey bushes at every turn and there’s always more work to do than there is time to do it, quite a contrast to the friendly field school!

A ‘red dirt’ excavation in western NSW

With a view to enhance my professional skill set, I decided I should try my hand at historical archaeology… and brush up on my field skills while I was there. I drove from Sydney, NSW to the Seven Stars Hotel historical archaeological site at Redbanks, SA, via Condobolin and Lake Cargelligo (as I had work to do on the way). For 1500km I was bursting with excitement and enthusiasm at the prospect of a new ‘archaeology experience’.

I will confess I was completely underwhelmed for the first few days and actually found it much more difficult than I care to admit. On the first transect I caught myself walking past numerous artefacts. Why? Usually I would consider pieces of glass, ceramics and nails as background scatter impeding my ability to discover Aboriginal cultural heritage material.  So I turned around and re-did 20m or so of transect, hopefully unnoticed and concentrating intensely.

Redbanks, South Australia

After I few days of great company and learning a few new ‘tricks’ I started to warm up to the idea historical archaeology and to the site, which may have once been a pub.  I was impressed by a few interesting artefacts, found the working conditions beyond fantastic and was completely baffled by the ‘site boundary’ (and still I am!). All in all, it was a wonderful introduction to historical archaeology however my passion is still, and will always, be for Indigenous archaeology.

In my haste to start a new job, the next day and about 800km away, I left my backpack with all required field gear in Redbanks. Not the best way to start a new job! I must thank the backpack rescue team; Heather for posting it right away and John the station manager for driving 200km into town to pick it up for me!