The 2011 Warriparinga archaeology field school

By Graduate Student Susan Arthure

The Warriparinga Archaeological Field Methods School took place from 11 to 21 April 2011. A group of twenty graduate students joined four Flinders University staff for a two week blitz of navigation, mapping and surveying.

Living Kaurna Cultural Centre

Living Kaurna Cultural Centre, Warriparinga

Warriparinga is located in a ‘triangle’ of land in the Marion Council area, just a short walk down the hill from Flinders University. The name comes from a Kaurna term meaning ‘windy place by the river’ and it is both a Kaurna ceremonial meeting place and a European early settlement site. For the Kaurna people, it plays a central role in the Tjirbruki Dreaming – Warriparinga was where Tjirbruki avenged the unlawful killing of his nephew. In the post-contact years, the Warriparinga area was the site of vineyards and orchards, a homestead (Fairford House) and wine cellars. Today, the new Living Kaurna Cultural Centre sits alongside the nineteenth century Fairford House, between the sculptural Tjirbruki Gateway and the original cottage style gardens, with the Sturt Creek running alongside.

Fairford House, Warriparinga

Fairford House, Warriparinga

The purpose of the field methods school was to teach field skills and techniques routinely used by archaeologists. Somewhat of a challenge, I imagine, for the Flinders staff, since our backgrounds and experience were very varied. Each day began with a lecture, with the remainder of the day being spent on site. Over the course of the field school, we covered a huge amount of material – research design, mud maps, compass and pacing, drawing up preliminary plans using a GPS, sampling and reconnaissance surveys, how to record data including scar trees and open sites, baseline offsets, using a dumpy level to create a site plan, and writing field reports.

Using a dumpy level to measure a vertical profile

Using a dumpy level to measure a vertical profile (author - left)

From my point of view, I began the field school feeling fairly overwhelmed as almost all the concepts were completely new to me. However, the collegial experience of sharing knowledge with students and staff was just fantastic. Working in a small team of four gave all of us the opportunity to try everything many times, and allowed everybody to have an equal voice. The staff made huge efforts to be accessible to the student teams – each of them must have walked for miles each day to ensure that students had access to them whenever they needed assistance. A personal highlight for me was sitting on the ground in Lot 707 with Assoc Prof Heather Burke, while she explained how to identify a stone artefact – one of those defining moments where ‘the light goes on’!

Student processing what he has learned

Student processing what he has learned

After the field school was over, and when the exhaustion had abated somewhat, I realised how much I had learned. A couple of weeks later, I was able to put some of the skills into practice when I accompanied an archaeologist on the survey of an old gypsum mine. Out came the compass and the graph paper, I knew what my pacing unit was and I could read a GPS. So, thanks Mick, for leading the field school, and also all involved for what was an excellent learning experience.

The Department of Archaeology is very grateful to Mr Paul Dixon from the Kaurna community for providing an insightful and enjoyable tour of Warriparinga for field school participants. We also thank the helpful staff at the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre for their assistance during the field school.



2 responses to “The 2011 Warriparinga archaeology field school

  1. Gail Higginbottom

    Dear Susan,
    thank you for your informative and enthusiastic overview of the field school. I certainly enjoyed myself – meeting so many keen and interested students. We were lucky with the weather too! I especially enjoyed our tea times where students (especially your group and other individuals) brought home-made cakes etc and thermos flasks full of tea and coffee. Thank you for the sustaining and welcomed treats on our circuits around the site. I look forward to seeing you all again either on digs, conferences or on campus.

    With best wishes,
    Gail Higginbottom.

  2. Jonathan ball

    The’ light didn’t go on’ for me; they still look like rocks! :) And that is despite the amount of time I spent ‘processing’ what I had learnt. In retrospect the angle of the staff probably goes someway to explain why the corners of Fairford House never seemed to meet when drawing up the the plan.

    Thanks for the blog Susan it is a great read and I look forward to the next time.

    Jonathan Ball