Field Work, Port Arthur Field Trip

Port Arthur – Day Six – Back in the Port Arthur Archaeology Laboratory

Today we all went back to the labs to do much of the same work we have been doing during the past week here at Port Arthur, and the only major difference noted by all was the chilly weather that slowly crept up on us throughout the duration of the day; luckily there was no real rain!

Lauren, Leah and I (Bradley) worked in the trench for the first time with Annita and David. We familiarised ourselves with the purpose of the trench, which is to allow a fire suppression pipe to be installed. We were also shown the different deposits found in the trench and what contexts they are in. We started by doing a section drawing of the first feature of the trench, which had descending layers of soil, clay, bricks, a thin layer of charcoal, and a hard brick layer. David and I then did a Dumpy level survey, and he explained to me what it is, how it works and how to perform the survey.

After our rather long lunch break, in which a man named Charlie and his wife came to visit Annita, Andrew and the others and tell us some amusing stories, Lauren and Leah began photographing and doing section drawings of feature two, while I helped Annita collect and bag the artefacts found in the trench spoil pit, as well as plotting the lengths of each feature on a scale map of the trench area. Later in the day, David set up a drawing grid over feature three, which contained an interesting drain pipe feature, and I assisted him in drawing a scale version of the feature using the grid and a plumb bob.

At the end of the day Jeanne showed us a collection of different kinds of old glass bottles and jars, and told us all about them, which was interesting. Finally we all took a few group photos in front of the penitentiary building, which allowed a few of us to show our silly sides, and enjoy ourselves a bit before the last day at Port Arthur arrives.

We bade a fond farewell to Lauren who returns to Flinders University for her well deserved graduation ceremony.

Field Work, Port Arthur Field Trip

Port Arthur – Day Five – Touring the Greater Port Arthur Area


Today we had a day off from working in the labs and the field, and so David and Jean were kind enough to take us on a tour of the greater Port Arthur area, following the spread of convict activities.

We first drove up to the probation station at Saltwater River, and then we spent the most part of the day at the historic coal mines further around the bay. At the coal mines, David and Jean took us on a detailed walking tour around all the main features, such as the prisoners’ barracks and solitary cell complex, the commissariat store at Plunkett Point, and then up to the main mining shaft and the air shaft, stopping to have a nice relaxed lunch by the remnants of the buildings.

After the coal mines, we took a quick detour out to Remarkable Cave to satisfy the tourist within us and then we headed over to Point Puer, which was where they kept the boy convicts from about 9-16 years of age. Looking at the evident ideas of criminology and the execution of criminal justice in the 1800’s was really interesting, especially when you compare it to how things are done today. At Point Puer, David took us on a bit of a bush–bash around all the remaining features such as the solitary cells, the church, the stores, the saw-pits, the incomplete aqueduct and the (possible) tannery.

Back to the house for dinner, and we are about to head off on one of the famous Port Arthur ghost tours, to make some pale new friends… some of us hope…

Field Work, Port Arthur Field Trip

Port Arthur – Day Three – In the lab

View from the Lab

It was a beautiful day today in Port Arthur and a great start to the lab and field work. At 9am, we all met down at the Policeman’s Cottage and split into groups. Louisa and Tom went with Annita and David to do surveying and some excavation work, Andrew and Bradley started with photography, and the rest of us started sorting through artefacts and eventually cleaned all the artefacts that were recovered from the Penitentiary Chapel.

Sorting Artefacts from the 2011 Penitentiary Chapel Excavations in Hobart

For those of our group that are new to the archaeology scene, today was a very important introduction to the world of archaeology and they are all learning so much. It was a great experience to look at all the artefacts that have been recovered and begin to understand what was going on with the convicts at the Penitentiary Chapel.

Artefact Photography
Site Survey with Louisa and Tom
Field Work, Port Arthur Field Trip

April Field Season. Good Luck!

Volunteers on our Port Arthur lab work have (hopefully) departed this morning for a week of artefact cataloging with the Port Arthur Historic Sites Management Authority (PAHSMA). A lot of consultation, organisation and fund raising went into making this trip a reality, so thanks to all those that made it possible. A very big thank you to Annita and David from PAHSMA for hosting us. Hopefully ArchSoc will continue to work with PAHSMA in the future. Our volunteers will be blogging about their time in Port Arthur over the next week, so stay tuned 🙂

The week-long Archaeological Field Methods field school at Redbanks (Mallala) starts today as well! It’s great to see so many Flinders archaeology students getting some hands-on experience.

Good luck to everyone involved in field work this season and condolences to those stuck at their desks, perhaps the July field season will be kinder to you!


Field Work, Port Arthur Field Trip

Artefact Cleaning, Cataloguing and Photography in a World Heritage Site.

In just under a fortnight, eight ArchSoc members will be heading over to Port Arthur, Tasmania, to assist the Port Arthur Historic Sites Management Authority (PAHSMA) with some artefact processing and cataloguing. The artefacts in question come from an excavation that took place at the Hobart Penitentiary Chapel in 2011 (for more information visit The team, led by Andrew, consists of Bradley, Holly, Ilona, Lauren, Louisa, Maxim and Tom. Continue reading “Artefact Cleaning, Cataloguing and Photography in a World Heritage Site.”

Field Work

Port Arthur Volunteer Experience

Posted on behalf of Natalie Bittner


So, to celebrate the start of the Uni semester, we are now opening the floodgates to all members of the Flinders Archaeological Society to apply to attend a fieldtrip to PORT ARTHUR, Tasmania from the 8th to the 15th of April. The only forseeable cost to members is the cost of the return flight to Hobart, food and accommodation will be provided. We have six spaces for members of the Flinders Archaeological Society to be part of lab work in Port Arthur. This will involve processing artefacts excavated in the 2010 field season.

Some of you may be aware that as of this year, the Port Arthur Historic Site management authority have CEASED RUNNING the annual field school. This means that as of 2012, Flinders archaeology students will be the ONLY students permitted to work onsite. If you would like to be part of this fieldtrip, write a short paragraph about who you are, any previous field experience (if you have no previous experience APPLY ANYWAY! We all have to start somewhere!) and why you would like to come with us, and send it to

Remember- we can only take MEMBERS, so get onto that ASAP. For logistics (and to keep the costs down to those accepted!) we will be confirming attendees very soon. Applications will close on the 12th of March, so ensure your membership is up-to-date (Earlybird memberships are $10 this week!) and email me! Look forward to hearing from all of you-

Natalie Bittner 😀