Australia

A Precious Day Off in Kakadu National Park

A quite belated Day of Archaeology post since I’m in the field at the moment and am quite restricted for time, which is basically what this post will be about.

I’m an honours student in archaeology at the University of Queensland and for the past month I have been volunteering on archaeological excavations across Arnhem Land in the north of Australia. When I’m not being a student and volunteering on digs I’m also the Membership Secretary for the Australian Archaeological Association (AAA).

Currently I’m working with a fabulous multi-disciplinary team on the re-excavation of Malakunanja II, which is in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, Australia. This is a key site in Australian archaeology due to its early age and potential to improve what we currently know about the early occupation of Australia. Due to agreements made with the Traditional Owners of this area I cannot post details on what we’re doing at the site, so it is quite fortuitous for me that the 29th falls on a day off for us and the first one I’ve had since arriving in the Northern Territory.

On this Day of Archaeology I am busy catching up on my work for the AAA, which is run exclusively by a small number of volunteers who keep the Association running and continually improving. Even though I have internet access of an evening finding the time to attend my AAA responsibilities (as well as my own research!) after a full day of excavation (7am-6pm in the field) is near impossible. So this precious day off is being filled with yet more work.

As the Membership Secretary for AAA my main responsibility is to manage our membership base, e.g. making sure memberships are processed correctly, updating member details, providing access to the member only pages of the website.  I’ve spent most of the 29th working on AAA’s new website and sending out individual login details to our members. This has essentially meant sitting at my computer all day and sending practically the same email to AAA’s 800+ current members.

My main reason for devoting my day off to such a tedious job is not just out of a sense of responsibility, but also out of genuine affection for the Association and the work that it does in the Australian archaeological community. Whilst the responsibility of being an executive member of AAA can be overwhelming and time consuming, it is extremely rewarding and has provided me with an incredible number of unique opportunities. So I should probably consider myself lucky to have it taking up my first day off in a month.

Ultimately time is precious to archaeologists in more ways than one. I think this is a valuable lesson to learn as a student, and balancing competing responsibilities and demands on my time is something that I will likely spend the rest of my career working on.

We’re returning to excavation tomorrow with the privilege of starting work at 7am! You’ll be able to follow some of our progress by following me on twitter, @archaeo_jacq.

Jacq 🙂

Some of the beautiful scenery I’ve been lucky enough to experience whilst doing fieldwork in Arnhem Land for the past month.

Archaeology and Mining (and Reptiles!) in Western Australia

I have been working as an archaeologist at an archaeological consultancy firm, since late last year and today is a rare day for me – a day in lieu! As this hasn’t been very exciting, I will document the day for which I earned this time off..

Since joining my work place, most of my work has been based in our Melbourne head office. We take on a variety of clients, and one of our biggest projects is based in the Pilbara desert, Western Australia, where a number of iron ore mines have been, or are currently being, constructed. The Pilbara desert is also home to some of our richest and previously undisturbed Indigenous heritage, and there are several practices that mining companies must observe prior to developing the land in accordance with Western Australian Indigenous heritage legislation. This is where we come in.

For most of the year, my work has included managing the data that has been sent back from the field in the Pilbara and writing reports (there are lots to be written!), most of which are applications for Ministerial consent to disturb archaeological sites. Following the completion of one such report and the receipt of Ministerial consent to conduct excavations at a number of sites, I was sent with one of our teams out to the desert to take part in these excavations. This was my first time out to the Pilbara, and I was quite nervous! Western Australia is home to some of our deadliest snakes, and the first thing I saw when I arrived at our accommodation was a sign outside my door reading ‘beware of snakes’. It struck me then just how far from the office I was..

The day on which this photo was taken was characteristic of my two week ‘swing’ (or fieldwork stage) out on the mining site. We generally rose at 5.15am, leaving us time to eat breakfast and pack our lunches before meeting the rest of the team at 6am. We usually arrived on site by 6.20am, working through until 4pm. This photo was taken towards the end of the swing, and on this day we were working in a lovely, large and shady site and were conducting excavations. We found a range of cultural material at the site, making it a particularly interesting working day, and the three archaeologists present took it in turns at excavating, sieving and site recording. Also on site were field representatives of the mining company and the Traditional Owners, who we work very closely with in all areas of our archaeological site investigations.

Working in the Pilbara also meant working closely with wildlife! A number of snakes were spotted on this day (thankfully, not by me), and we received a visit from this curious gecko during our lunch break.. After a cuddle and a photo opportunity, he was  returned to his rock in the sun where he watched us work for the rest of the day, apparently finding our ‘day of archaeology’ as interesting as we did. After packing up our equipment, we then headed back to camp for showers, dinner, and a mid-strength beer or two.

And now that we’re safely home in Melbourne, here comes the really fun part – writing up the excavation report!

 

New Zealand Archaeological Association 2012 Conference Fieldtrip

New Zealand Archaeological Association 2012 Conference Field Trip

The conference this year is being held in Oamaru in New Zealand’s South Island.  Two bus loads of archaeologists went on the field trip today – coincidentally the Day of Archaeology – it is a feature of every annual conference run by the Association.

There is information about the Association and the conference including a programme here:

www.nzarchaeology.org

http://nzarchaeology.org/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=66:conference-2012&Itemid=60&layout=default

The conference programme and abstracts can be downloaded here.

 

Inspecting the Awamoko shelter site

Inspecting the Awamoko shelter site

 

Oamaru is renowned in New Zealand for its architecture. It had early wealth from its fine agricultural land, first in exporting grain but later from other crops, and pastoral farming. The wealth of the town in the late 1800s was reflected in its classical architecture. The buildings utilised a local white limestone – Oamaru stone, which was valued for building here and elsewhere in Australia and New Zealand

 

One of the buildings in Oamaru

The area is also rich in prehistoric sites. Early Maori sites occur at river and estuary mouths. They commonly have the bones of New Zealand giant extinct birds, moa, but also other birds, marine mammals and fish exploited by the first residents.

The most notable prehistoric sites in the area are the rock art sites that occur in overhang shelters and caves along the valleys in, and at the margins of the limestone. These date from the whole of Maori occupation and into the contact period where settler items also appear.

Out field trip visited a number of these sites, on a cold clear day, where there was fresh snow on the adjacent hills. We were guided by Maori manawhenua (people of the land) Ngai Tahu who have an active programme in preserving and studying these sites. Brian Allingham who works with them and has long studied them talked at each of the five sites visited as did Amanda Symon, curator of the Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust. They requested that any website use of images has their approval. As a consequence it is only the social views that appear here, but there are many images on the web – see the links.

The images we saw in the sites we went to included a spiral carved into the rock and drawings of people, dogs and animal forms. At other sites there are pictures of birds, canoes and many decorative elements.

Entering a decorated shelter

The Te Ana rock art museum in Timaru is a great place to start a visit to the area http://www.teana.co.nz/  It is run by the Maori manawhenua, Ngai Tahu.

Some more information on rock art can be found here and here and here and here.
A google search for images can be made here

Amanda Symon - one of our guides

Amanda Symon – one of our guides

Shelter near Duntroon

The buses near Duntroon

Walking between sites in the limestone outcrops

Snow on the Southern Alps foothills

 

The last stop on the trip was at Otekaieke. This is a grand estate house built in the Scottish manorial style by an immigrant Scot, Robert Campbell. He imported Scots craftsmen to assist in its construction. It is one of a number of like estates in the South Island built on wool wealth. Huge sheep runs were the locations of all these estates. It was only occupied as a house for a few years before Campbell died young, followed shortly after by his widow. They had no descendants. It was subsequently part of the series of estates broken up around 1900 under Government pressure to create more land for small farmers. The home and site was later a boy’s reformatory school but went out of that use and is now privately owned. The gardens are now much degraded and the site cluttered with a diverse range of more modern buildings dating from the school use.

 

Otekaieke – Robert Campbell’s great estate

 

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust register entries for the house and the associated stables can be seen here:

http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=4378
http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=4377

There is more about the station history  here.

A fuller set of pictures from the trip can be seen here on facebook.

The site locations are here on Google Maps

 

Learning, Laughing and Living: An Archaeology Student Group from Down Under

In an average week, members of the Flinders Archaeological Society (ArchSoc) committee spend hours organising events and opportunities for the professional development and social interaction of archaeology students from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. Today is different, however, because we are taking time out for the exam period and end of semester assessments, and although we are not doing an incredible amount today, ArchSoc wanted to support this fantastic project nonetheless.

Semester one, 2012 has been a particularly busy semester for ArchSoc as we have organised an unprecedented number of events, and we have witnessed unprecedented high membership rates. For the most part, we assist the Department of Archaeology in hosting visiting archaeologists by making their time at Flinders an enjoyable experience. In many ways we are the life and energy of Flinders archaeology.

This semester began with a field trip. We sent a group of eight students to the Port Arthur Heritage Site in Tasmania to assist the local archaeologists in cleaning and cataloging artefacts from a recent excavation. The students that attended this trip had no previous archaeological experience and ArchSoc is proud to have given them this opportunity.

Site survey at Port Arthur

Next we ran a pub crawl. This event saw around one hundred archaeology students hitting the town in our bright blue t-shirts. How do you like the design? 🙂

ArchSoc conducted a site survey and a ‘Meet the Archaeologists! ‘ night to coincide with National Archaeology Week and ‘About Time: South Australia’s History Festival’. These events saw many members of the public actively engaging with archaeologists and students (out of over 500 events, ours were consistently listed as the first and second most popular throughout the festival!).

Our final event for semester one was a quiz night among the cells and gallows at the heritage listed Adelaide Gaol. The table of lecturers lost to a student table by only 0.5 points!!

Without a doubt, this semester has been fantastic and beneficial to Flinders archaeology students, not only in their professional development, but in social interactions as well (arguably the greatest aspect of this semester has been our new item of merchandise: Flinders ArchSocks!).

Here’s to another great semester! What have other archaeology student groups been up to this year?

Flinders Archaeological Society

www.flindersarchsoc.com

Penn Museum Archaeologist; Near East

I love being in the field, but this year I’m not excavating. My work is museum related for now, an important part of what we do. So, here’s my Day of Archaeology so far:

Got up around 6:30am and checked my email through my Blackberry. Found that our subcontract to the British Museum has gone through (much of what I do these days is done jointly with London and they are five hours ahead of me, so they have already begun work when I get up).

Got to the museum around 8:00am. I live nearby, which I like because I can walk to work. My computer is my secretary, so I checked on my ‘to do’ file. Yes, if I were more up-to-date I’d just use Google Calendar or some such, but I like having individual files for each day on my hard drive. I looked through the previous day making sure the most pressing things got done, deleting those items and assigning most pressing for today. I had a committee meeting for the Ur Project yesterday; I have to write up the minutes today for distribution to others on the project, that gets the most pressing mark for the morning.

 

Brad Hafford in his cluttered office, 524 Museum

 

Our project is taking legacy data, excavation material from 1922-1934, and modernizing, that is, recording it all digitally and uniting it in one place — the interweb. The excavation was a very important one, that of the ancient city of Ur in southern Iraq and was conducted jointly by the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Under laws of the day, artifacts collected were divided between the nascent state of Iraq with its newly founded National Museum and the two excavating institutions. Thus, half the artifacts are in Baghdad, the other half are split between Philadephia and London. But there is much more to an excavation than artifacts. There are also field notes, photographs, catalogues, letters, telegrams, receipts, drawings, watercolors, and so much more. We are digitizing and uniting all of this material. We want to create a site where anything and everything concerning Ur and its excavation can be accessed, researched, and gazed upon in wonder; all in open-source, freely accesible and linked data form.

Creating it takes time, patience, and money. It takes access to the artifacts and archives which are not solely spread among the three museums mentioned, but objects also secondarily sent to many smaller museums around the world, paricularly the Commonwealth at the time. There are Ur artifacts from our excavations as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. And many more in the UK: Almost 1000 artifacts are in the Birmingham Museum and Art Galleries. Not only that, but reconstructing the original numbering system for artifacts and photographs, and connecting that to the modern museum numbering systems, linking objects back to their original field records is not as easy as one might think. Our work is quite complicated. But also most worthwhile.

Museum cafe opens around 9am. Armed with coffee, and organized on my computer daily to-do list, I can face the rest of my day in confidence.

10:00am Eastern: Skype conference with British Museum colleagues. We’ve been trying now for some weeks to establish dates and room reservations for a project meeting near the end of the calendar year. Since this one needs to include funding agency, high-level museum administrators, principle investigators, other museum representatives, etc. it’s been difficult to mesh schedules. It’s also difficult to get space in the British Museum since it is in high demand.

Next we discussed the state of the merger of datasets between our two museums concerning Ur. It’s going slowly because we created our digital data from two sets of records divided by decades and the Atlantic. These records have to be meshed so that a unique identifier refers to each and every object. Then we have to get it all on a server so that both museums can access, update, and correct it. As I have probably already noted, re-unification is not easy. But we have great people on both sides of the pond working on it. Birmingham is on board and we’re starting the process of contacting the other institutions that have subsets of the Ur material. And of course we’re still trying to get the Iraq National Museum on board, but politics has gotten in the way for now.

More emails and arrangements have placed me at about the half-way point of my Day of Archaeology. More in part 2…

A Lego Colosseum and Other Stories

I am a Classical Archaeologist at the University of Sydney in Australia, and work as the Manager of Education and Public Programs at the Nicholson Museum, Australia’s largest collection of Old World archaeological material.  So my ‘Day of Archaeology 2012’ is spent like most others – trying to balance between museum education and archaeological research on the project I am working: excavations of a Hellenistic-Roman period theatre site in Paphos in Cyprus.

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The Archaeology Data Service, Working to Keep Your Bits in Good Order

Welcome to the Archaeology Data Service (ADS)  Day of Archaeology blog 2012

If you want a quick introduction to the ADS and what we do see last year’s post.

We have contributions from two members of staff from the ADS this year, one from Stuart Jeffrey ADS deputy Director (Access) and one from Ray Moore one of the ADS Digital Archivists.

Stuart Jeffrey

Stuart Jeffrey

Another busy day at the ADS today, lots of looming deadlines and lots of work to be done.  Since the last Day of  Archaeology the ADS has continued to expand its collections and participate in more and more national and international projects, which is great news and it certainly keeps us out of mischief. In terms of recognition for ADS’s work, it’s actually been a very good year too, the ADS was a major part of the submission that got the University of York’s Department of Archaeology a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education and we are also short listed for a BAA award for innovation (to be announced on 9th July, so fingers crossed!).

The project that is occupying most of my time today is the Economic Impact of the ADS project. The ADS is a free to access digital archive, but it’s really important to us, and funders, that we have a good idea of what the actual economic value to the whole sector of the ADS actually is, so we have embarked on a JISC funded project to try and find out, it’s no easy task to try and put numbers on this kind of ‘value perception’.  I’m preparing for a meeting with John Houghton the Professor of Economics (from CSES in Australia) who is carrying out the analysis for the project in Oxford on Monday. This will be our first meeting since the on-line survey of users and depositors will have closed and I’m really looking forward to seeing the responses. (BTW is closes tonight so if you want to participate there is probably a bit of time left, follow the project link above).

Copyright Clive Ruggles from ImageBank

A nice image from the ADS archive, Cloonsharragh, Ireland, Copyright Clive Ruggles, image taken from ADS ImageBank

Also today, I’m also putting the finishing touches to a joint application, with Internet Archaeology, for an IfA HLF work place learning bursary. We have hosted a couple of these in the past and have always enjoyed the experience of giving someone the opportunity to bring on their skills in a work place environment. We also think there is still a skills gap in the archaeological work force when it comes to digital data management, especially the complexities of digital archiving, and managing data and understanding archiving should really be core skills for archaeologists.

I’d also like to mention the fact that the ADS are proud to support the Day of Archaeology. We’ve been really impressed with the response to the Day of Archaeology project in general and the way a ‘snapshot’ of archaeological activity has been built up covering all sectors including academic, commercial, fieldworkers, specialists, students and curators. As well as fulfilling its role of information sharing and community building amongst the profession, it is also clear that the snapshot created on this one day in 2012 could well become a valuable document for the historians of the archaeological discipline in the future. With this in mind, the ADS are keen to help archive these contributions for the long term. Everyone’s contributions today could well be part of a future research project in 2112!

Finally, as we near the end of the month it’s time for me to change the ‘featured collection’ section of the ADS front page. Ray has been busy archiving and validating a lot of Grey Literature reports, our total is now over 17,000 I think, and some of these relate to archaeological work done in advance of the construction work at the Olympic sites in London. Given that the Olympics are nearly upon us it seems a good idea to make the major MoLAS report (533 pages!) on this work the featured collection for July, very topical. Topicality is not always something that easy to manage when dealing with archaeological archives, but we like to give it a try.

Details of Ray’s Day to follow…….

 

 

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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The Archaeology of Food!

I’ve been a commercial archaeologist for 13 years and have worked in Ireland, Greece and Australia. My days once consisted of jumping into a muddy hole in the depths of winter to shovel out the sticky and waterlogged fills within and then trudge to the spoil-heap with heavy boots. My days also consisted of excavating beautiful wooden troughs in fulachta fiadh (burnt mounds) or excavating postholes of Bronze Age structures in the balmy summer sun. However, the recession in Ireland has led to a decline in commercial archaeological work and the absence of muddy viz-vest clad hordes of trowel-grasping excavators is the most visible proof of this!

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A Day in the Life of Gaye Nayton, Heritage Archaeologist

Hello from Perth, Western Australia where I want to introduce you to a day in my life. As an archaeologist I am a bit of a hybrid beast. I work as a consultant archaeologist/heritage consultant and run my own consultancy. I also carry out academic research, having a PhD from the University of Western Australia and authoring the first book on WA historical archaeology. I also work as a public archaeologist running public outreach programs and I am authoring a book on WA historical archaeology aimed at the general public. You can check out my varied archaeological personalities at my web page at www.gayenaytonarchaeology.com.

When people think of archaeology and archaeologists they think of digging but the truth is most archaeologists spend 90% of their time in the office or lab. I thought for the Day of Archaeology I would take hourly photographs throughout my day to show how my day panned out. I could have been on a site but statistics are against it and this day like many others is going to be spent mainly in the office working on reports. My sister Jackie is helping out my Day of Archaeology project by hanging around and snapping photos every hour. (more…)