The archaeology of ‘guess who?’

Directed study in cultural heritage management
Adrian Fenech

This semester, I’m undertaking a Directed Study in Cultural Heritage Management as part of my Graduate Diploma in Archaeology. My industry partner is Adelaide-based heritage firm Australian Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd (ACHM).

ACHM do a lot of work for the mining industry in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. One of the issues out there is that often it’s not easy to tell if a rockshelter has been used by Aboriginal people in the past. My job is to collate all the available information to see if there are some characteristics of rockshelters that will help us to work this out.

The key issue here is a site with Potential Archaeological Deposit, which usually means it displays features that are related to use by Aboriginal people, such as proximity to water sources. There may be no evidence of the use of the site by Aboriginal groups on the surface.

I am going to use information in previous reports to create a database of all these PADs and genuine rock shelters, recording such data as shelter dimensions, number and type of surface artefacts recovered and excavation details where applicable. Hopefully, when I analyse this data, we will be one step closer to working out how to distinguish between legitimate archaeological rock shelters and those that haven’t been used at all in the past. This information will help all future archaeological work in the Pilbara region.

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