Author Archives: fene0012

I am one of the few animals in the room

Directed study
Adrian Fenech
Blog post 3

So far I have sampled the midden materials from the top three layers of Mick Morrison’s excavation of the midden SM:88. Unfortunately, I have not located many faunal remains, or more than a couple of otoliths. It is possible that more faunal materials are present in the lower excavation layers. This is because the shell midden I am working on had its material very loosely packed, which Morrison (2010: 146) argued allowed fine sediments to move downwards. Given that most of the faunal material I have sorted so far is highly fragmented, it may have been able to move downwards as well. As I get further along in the sorting I should be able to determine whether this has occurred.


Another possibility is the chemical and physical processes that could have affected the faunal materials while inside the shell midden. An example is a test performed by Solomon and David (1990: 240),  who found that if dingoes eat kangaroo remains, very few kangaroo bones survive the process. The likelihood of a similar situation in this project will be determined when I am able to put the faunal material under a microscope. This should allow me to identify any tooth marks or acid etching, the latter being the result of bones being digested.

Reference list
Morrison, M. 2010, The shell mounds of Albatross Bay: an archaeological investigation of late Holocene production strategies near Weipa, north eastern Australia. Adelaide: Flinders University.
Solomon, S. and B. David 1990 Middle range theory and actualistic studies: bones and dingoes in Australian archaeology. In S. Solomon, I. Davidson and D. Watson (eds), Tempus. St Lucia: University of Queensland, pp. 235-256.

Work at Netley

Cultural Heritage Management Practicum

Blog Post 4

Adrian Fenech

On the final day of my practicum I was given the opportunity to work at the South Australian Museum storage facility at Netley, helping to catalogue the collections. I was taught how to handle various artefacts correctly, which proved to be very helpful due to the preservation of some materials. The Aboriginal contemporary artwork was also very interesting in this regard when compared to the older artworks in the collection.

Spear throwers (Photograph from the South Australian Museum Netley storage facility).

The handling of artefacts, as I was informed, is generally common sense and simply being careful with the materials. Part of this is keeping an eye out for any signs of deterioration in the material which could cause damage if pressure is applied. This was often the case for Aboriginal bark paintings which had splits in the bark or where the edges were fraying.

A6431, Lake Condah Eel trap. Victoria. Collected 1910. (Source: artefact purchased from A.S Kenyon).

The most interesting materials that I was asked to catalogue were in fact the contemporary artworks by various Aboriginal artists. From my limited experience with ancient Aboriginal art, I was able to observe some similarities between the contemporary and ancient examples, such as concentric circle motifs. However, I also observed some differences between the temporal periods and noted that the contemporary examples had some quite geometric designs which I have note seen in archaeological contexts. I found these aspects interesting because they are some examples of continuity and variety in Aboriginal art over time.

Material of the SA Museum storage facility at Netley

South Australian Museum Archives Practicum – Blog Post 3

By Adrian Fenech

On one of the work placement days I was given a tour of the South Australian Museum storage facility at Netley by PhD student, Gary Toone. On the tour, Gary explained the cultural heritage values of objects the museum has in the Australian Ethnology collection. He talked to me about the collections of shields, boomerangs, string bags and mats and told me that their cultural heritage value arises through the connection of present-day Aboriginal people to the artistry, technology and memories they represent.

Museum exhibits are only a fraction of the material the institution looks after (Photograph from StudyAdelaide 2008).

The objects have cultural heritage value because they continue to be accessed and utilised today. Indeed, living Aboriginal artists like to visit the store to see their early works and to seek inspiration and ideas from the shapes, colours and designs on some of the older objects. Young Aboriginal people also have opportunities to visit the store where they can see and ‘connect’ with the thousands of objects.

As noted above, the string bag and mat collections hold cultural heritage value partly because of the materials and techniques used to manufacture them. Aboriginal women are now examining the string products to identify the plant materials and the various techniques that that were used to create them. Sometimes the people who made the actual objects are there to pass on this information to others. These techniques are then used to create new string products, continuing the use of these technologies and methods (Gary Toone pers comm. 2011).

Reference list

StudyAdelaide 2008 Arts & Culture. Retrieved 6 October 2011 from

Pictures tell thousands of words

South Australian Museum Archives Practicum – Blog Post 2

By Adrian Fenech

I have had some successes and challenges in analysing Norman Tindale’s slides at the South Australian Museum Archives (located at the Science Centre). I have learned techniques to relate Tindale’s journals to his slides by addressing pieces of information in conjunction with each other. Initially I made some errors in the input of data into the information fields which made it more difficult to understand the slide information. The largest error was not being specific enough in differentiating between the “title” and “description” data fields. This is because I originally classified “title” data to be all of the text on the top portion of the slide. This sometimes included the beginning of a sentence which continued on at the bottom of the slide in which case I began by putting the bottom portion of the entry in the “description” field.

However, by looking at the many pieces of data together in Tindale’s slides I have been able to connect more of them to his journals. These fields are: photograph date, location and the name of Aboriginal group involved. Employing all three fields together helps to narrow down the journals that may relate to the slides. Google maps has also been used when the journal information does not contain the specific place a slide mentions. This involves finding which area that Tindale was visiting at the time and using Google maps to determine if the location mentioned on the slide is nearby.

The South Australian Museum Science Centre (photograph from Whitford and Browne 2003).

Reference list

Whitford, K. and R. Brown 2003 Museums and Fish Collections. Retrieved 6 October 2011 from

Midden sample floatation process going swimmingly

By Adrian Fenech, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology Student

I have started the floatation procedure that I described in my earlier post and it is proceeding reasonably quickly. I am still thinking about the defloccation procedure but I am unsure if I will have enough time to accommodate it.

Despite the mess of sugar water I am making in the archaeology labs, the floatation is going well because it has managed to float quite a few materials that will be picked out in the sorting stage. So far, the dominant floated materials have been charcoal and vegetation, the former would have been difficult to locate in sorting. This is because of the many other dark-coloured materials in the samples. The photos below show the resulting fractions produced by the floatation work.

Light fraction: material which floated

Heavy fraction: material that sank

The photos show the contrast in materials that the floatation produced. The light fraction consists primarily of charcoal with some vegetation and a few shells. The heavy fraction is dominated by shell with a considerable amount of stones and some faunal material (from a glance). I’ve only just begun the slow process of sorting through the heavy fractions; hopefully I’ll find some non-molluscan fauna!

I am considering the defloccation procedure because the sugar water is often black after its second floatation. After the materials have been rinsed off, they are still encrusted with a considerable amount of sediment. A test will have to be performed; two samples of materials, one with defloccation performed and one without will be sorted and the ease of sorting will be compared. This will be subjective, though because it will be difficult to get two samples that are equal in quantities of material types.