OzArk in the field

Hello folks!

Since my last entry, most of my OzArk internship work has been in the field. It’s made a nice break from office work!

My first fieldwork during April was a survey of Indigenous heritage in two areas of State Forest in the Blue Mountains in order to determine whether sites existed that might be affected by subsidence caused by nearby mining activities. Given that the area is underlain by sandstone and is characterised by significant outcrops, our primary focus was on possible rock shelters. Narrabeen sandstone is quite friable and is therefore usually unlikely to contain art, however we thought deposits were possible.

We were unsurprised to discover no artwork, as wind erosion was a constant feature in the overhangs and any art that might have been present once would have been removed by the wind. No items were found in any of these shelters that could conclusively be identified as artefacts, however a number of isolated and clustered artefacts were located along vehicle tracks and in the open country to the west of the mountains. Whilst surveying a number of pagodas, one of our Indigenous community representatives stated that he believed we had found a group of ceremonial (initiation) sites.

The 21st of April saw a shift from Indigenous archaeology to industrial archaeology, as OzArk conducted a survey of twentieth century dam / pipeline / reservoir sites in the western Blue Mountains. What was interesting about this survey was the way in which industrial heritage is something of an evolving beast. Few of the items examined remained in their original state, but rather they had been modified, moved, removed and / or repaired according to operational needs. It would be easy to be precious about modifications to buildings and infrastructure – such as new instead of original pipeline materials, new roofing over structures without original roofs, or new facades on old workshops – but the nature of a major water provision service have at times over-ridden some heritage concerns, with justification. The components examined were working buildings and infrastructure and the requirement to provide water services in accordance with best-practice techniques (especially with regards to community and workplace safety) justifies such alterations.

A further aspect of this project, particularly interesting for me as a student of military archaeology, was the presence at two sites of buildings often referred to as “Nissen Huts”. These are sheds where the walls and roof form a continuous semi-circular shape, and are also referred to as igloos thanks to their shapes. These sheds were designed during WWI by a British Army Major and variants became common throughout the UK, USA and Australia during WWII. The common term “Nissen Huts”, though, is something of a misnomer, as later incarnations of this style of prefab building had other names, such as the Romney Hut, and it’s important to find the right nomenclature (not easy, as these are not particularly well differentiated in the literature by archaeologists in Australia, most of whom (other than Iain Stuart) seem happy with Nissen Hut as a blanket term!).

This week has me in Central Western NSW excavating a farm paddock as part of a future housing sub-division. More on this in my next blog!


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