Indigenous archaeology

A day of earthquake archaeology in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, archaeological work in the city and the surrounding areas has increased exponentially. New Zealand’s archaeological legislation protects anything deposited or built prior to 1900, meaning that we as archaeologists have had the unprecedented opportunity to record and excavate the architectural and material foundations of an entire city (founded in 1850), along side the archaeological traces of indigenous Maori activity in the area before and after the city was settled.

From day to day, we (Underground Overground Archaeology Ltd) visit sites to monitor foundation removals, record 19th century buildings scheduled for demolition, excavate archaeology from rebuild sites through the city and monitor the almost incomprehensibly vast task that is fixing Christchurch’s horizontal infrastructure (roads, sewers and wastewater). We assess the archaeological potential of hundreds of sites, to determine whether or not they fall under the national legislation protecting archaeological heritage; wash, analyse and photograph boxes and boxes of artefacts and midden; and, of course, write the whole shebang up into archaeological reports and blog posts (on our own blog Christchurch Uncovered).

In the midst of all this we make some fantastic discoveries and some less than exciting ones, all of which are slowly coming together to provide us with a comprehensive idea of how this city and its people grew from a small settlement on a swamp to the place and community it is today. In a city where streetscapes and skylines can change drastically in a week, thanks to the constant demolition and construction required after the earthquakes, archaeology is so important, not only as a window into our past, but as a way of recording and preserving the heritage of Christchurch for future generations.

For the Day of Archaeology, we’ve selected a few snapshots of our day as it unfolded, from that first coffee in the morning to the well deserved beer at the end (with a bit of archaeology in between).

Archaeology in Christchurch always begins with coffee. Always. Image: Jessie Garland.

Archaeology in Christchurch always begins with coffee. Always. Image: Jessie Garland.

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Washing artefacts, one of the most glamourous aspects of archaeology. Uncomfortable though it is, far better to wear the mask than to find yourself sneezing out vast quantities of dust later in the day. Image: Jessie Garland.

Recording a 19th century house in Christchurch. Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, archaeologists in Christchurch have recorded hundreds and hundreds of houses prior to their demolition, recording the city's 19th century architecture for future generations. Apparently, on occasions like today, it can be a frustrating exercise... Image: Matthew Hennessey.

Recording a 19th century house in Christchurch. Since the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, we’ve looked at hundreds and hundreds of houses prior to their demolition, recording the city’s 19th century architecture for future generations. Apparently, on occasions like today, it can be a frustrating exercise… Image: Matthew Hennessey.

Beautiful fragment of a clay tobacco pipe with painted relief decoration. Image: Jessie Garland.

Beautiful fragment of a clay tobacco pipe with painted relief decoration, found in a bag of artefacts this morning. Black clay pipes like this are rare in Christchurch, let alone ones with painted decoration.  Image: Jessie Garland.

Photographing artefacts behind the scenes. Image: Jessie Garland.

Photographing artefacts behind the scenes. A meta photograph of a photographer photographing even. Image: Jessie Garland.

Typical site work in Christchurch, on a beautiful winter's day. Image: Jessie Garland.

Typical site work in Christchurch, on a beautiful winter’s day. Most of the archaeological work in the city is undertaken in conjunction with mechanical excavation, especially on sites to do with house demolition or rebuild bulk-outs. Image: Teri Anderson (top), Megan Hickey (bottom).

Appraisalists appraising. These guys work hard behind the scenes assessing the archaeological potential of sites here in Christchurch. Image: Jessie Garland.

Appraisalists appraising. These guys work hard behind the scenes assessing the archaeological potential of sites in and around the city. Image: Jessie Garland.

Getting the paperwork done. Image: Jessie Garland.

Getting the paperwork done. So much of our work involves writing up site excavations, monitoring, surveying, artefact analysis and archaeological assessments. Like any other job really. Image: Jessie Garland.

That annoying point in the day when you have a maker's mark on a bone toothbrush, but you still can't decipher it to figure out who the damn manufacturer is. Image: Jessie Garland.

That annoying point in the day when you have a maker’s mark on a bone toothbrush, but you still can’t decipher it to figure out who the damn manufacturer is. Image: Jessie Garland.

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Sorting midden and artefacts. Not the most exciting of assemblages (although there may be a possible association with an oyster saloon, which is fairly fantastic), but still needs to be done. Image: Jessie Garland.

Archaeology in Akaroa, near Christchurch. Stunning, isn't it? Image: Kurt Bennett.

Archaeology in Akaroa, near Christchurch. Stunning, isn’t it? Image: Kurt Bennett.

Around 4 pm, things got a little out of hand. Kim's stack of coffee cups (from the photo above) came under attack and she was forced to defend it. Surprisingly, this is not an uncommon occurrence amongs archaeologists in Christchurch. Image: Jessie Garland.

Around 4 pm, things got a little out of hand. Defending her stack of coffee cups (from the paperwork photo above), Kim was forced to take a stand. Or knee, really. Surprisingly, this is not an uncommon occurrence amongs archaeologists in Christchurch. Image: Jessie Garland.

Unsurprisingly, I got very little actual artefact analysis done today (I did try, but too much social media does not make for good analysis). Still, this is what I'd normally be doing in a day. Image: Kim Bone.

Unsurprisingly, I got very little actual artefact analysis done today. Still, this is what I’d normally be doing in a day. Image: Kim Bone.

And we're out. A few (well-deserved) beverages to round out the day. Image: Lydia Mearns.

And we’re out. A few (well-deserved) beverages to round out the day. Happy Day of Archaeology from the UnderOver Arch team!  Image: Lydia Mearns.

Jessie Garland

Mud-Avoidance

My Day of Archaeology, is, as it was last year, meta.  I am one of the founders of the Day of Archaeology project, and I have spent my day (mostly) online, editing and posting articles and Tweeting about the project.  This is pretty much as good as my Day of Archaeology is going to get.  The loosest relationship my day had to field archaeology was when I went to see my back specialist this morning about a back injury I exacerbated last year when I was digging in Poland –  I went a bit mental with the de-turfing and hurt my back so badly I had to return to the UK and missed out on working on the most amazing 14th C. Baltic site.

A pal on Twitter said to me yesterday that I was mud-avoidant.  I will be the first to admit that what  I do for my PhD isn’t exactly archaeology.  I am a PhD student at the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, and my research is ‘Public Archaeology in a Digital Age’.  So I’m looking at how, where and why archaeology and the public meet online and how archaeology as a sector creates, sustains and uses online community.  There are a few things that keep me awake at night about my research, mainly because it’s just so damn fascinating.  At the moment, I am researching the concept of archaeological authority and knowledge-ownership –  I think that  changes to the landscape of communication in archaeology are simply a technologically-facilitated continuation of longer-term developments within the sector as a whole (get me).  But  how far has the growth of participatory media impacted the archaeological sector in the UK?  How have these media facilitated collaboration between professional and layperson? Has the encouragement of audience participation gone any way towards supporting any real acknowledgement of multi-vocal approaches to heritage issues? What evidence exists that social media dialogue is about sharing archaeological authority at all, in an online context?  Which part these ‘non-professional’ digital voices will be considered inauthentic, and why?  So many questions…

I do a lot of research through surveys, and talking to people, but a lot of my work is also observation.  How people interact, what is said, how it is said, where it’s said.. so today has been interesting!  I absolutely love my PhD topic and feel hugely privileged to be funded to undertake it.  I get to read lots of sociology, which is my new Best Thing, and I have learned so much by being part of the Centre for Digital Humanities, and the interdisciplinarity there.   It has been the most interesting 2 years of my life ever (and I’ve had some interesting years, believe me)..  I just hope someone will employ me at the end of all this, the big worry for every PhD student.

I have recently moved back home to East Anglia, mainly because it’s cheap, but mostly for some peace and quiet.  The flat, open landscape here created the archaeologist inside me (she really ought to get out more, poor girl).  The wealth of wool churches, the Norman castles, the shadows of Norse in the dialect, and the Scandinavian street names led me to study medieval archaeology 21 years ago, and although I am all about archaeology and communication, AD 400 – 900 is my secret passion.  But if anyone asks, I’m strictly social media & comms, right?  Right?

For us Public Archaeologists, understanding how we meet, discuss and inform the public and understanding the technologies we can use to do this is, I think, vital.  I just hope that my research outcomes will play a small part in having an impact on how archaeology exploits Internet technologies.  Part of this understanding is the development of the Day of Archaeology itself.  I am overwhelmed by the support we have been offered by archaeologists worldwide, for free, for the love of archaeology, because we believe it matters, not just for ourselves but everyone. That we have managed all this through the power of the Internet is witness to the increasing importance of Public Archaeology at a time when archaeology is being given the death of a thousand cuts.  Without public support, we will wither.

Better get writing then, eh?

Stronger Futures: An Archaeology of Contemporary Indigenous Graffiti in the Northern Territory, Australia

I am an archaeology Honours student with Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. For the last year I have been undertaking research into contemporary Indigenous graffiti in an Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. I am due to submit my thesis next Monday.

I am taking time out of my research to post this blog for the Day of Archaeology. Today I have been sitting at my computer, writing about some of the issues I discuss in my thesis, so I will relay them to you here.

To begin, I just wanted to draw your attention to two recent events that are of significance to Australia and will soon find their place in Australian history:

  • Australian racehorse, Black Caviar won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at the Royal Ascot; and
  • the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2012 passed through the Australian Senate with bipartisan support and is now legislation.

Black Caviar’s recent win is significant because with 22 races undefeated (including Royal Ascot), it is the current living racehorse with the most undefeated wins (and it’s Australian).

The passing of the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2012 into legislation is significant because it extends the Howard government’s controversial Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (NTER) for a further ten years. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights condemned the NTER in 2010, claiming that it stigmatises already stigmatised communities.

Have a guess which of these stories featured more prominently in the Australian media?

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