40,000 years ago, Archaeology says nothing happened at this site.

Reading these other blogs I wish I had some great pictures to show you, or even report that I got some sand between my toes. But alas, my directed studies topic “Archaeology and the development boom: an analysis of professional ethics and standards in Australian archaeology’’ involved less adventurous, but I hope as revealing, telephone interviews.

So interviews done, surprises aplenty, but perhaps some only from my inexperienced point of view. It seems, despite a very small sample (two one-hour interviews with CHM practitioners) that Dr Mick Morrison’s belief that a research project awaits, is well founded.

One surprise would seem to translate across the field of archaeology, even to my untrained ear. CHM has potentially discovered Indigenous artefacts with a date of 40,000 BP, yet the results may never be subjected to academic study or even recording. That would seem to pose a significant problem.

The details: So the entirety of my question to the second anonymous subject, based on criticism in the literature, was: “How often during survey work have you recommended the need for follow up specialist academic investigations (e.g. excavation, dating, detailed lab work, conservation work) and have you encountered resistance to such work from the client: very often, sometimes, rarely, or not at all.”

The answer included (with potentially identifying comments marked with an x):

“I will give you one really good example. We just did some investigations just xxx near xxx and I have some basal dates associated with artefacts at 40,000 years. They only have a TL date and I don’t want to publish it and I don’t want to tell anyone about it because I can’t say positively that I’m happy that the association of the artefact with the age is the real one. Now I can’t get the proponent X … X to actually fork out to do more research. It desperately needs it but I just can’t get him to respond. It is probably one of the most important sites in terms of age in Australia it has got to be the oldest site on the XXXX.

Unless someone has some political will this is going to go on and on and on. And this guy is notorious for taking people to court so we really have to watch what we do. The answer would be in terms of specific research it is rare.”

For now I’ll leave it to far more experienced minds to judge the potential significance.

Miles Kemp

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