Author Archives: fene0012

Photography with Tindale

By Adrian Fenech, Graduate Diploma, Archaeology student

This practicum involves working in the South Australian Museum Science Centre adding new indexed information to the online archives. I am analysing photographic slides taken by the well-known Australian ethnographer Norman Tindale.  Tindale travelled around Australia documenting Aboriginal languages, clan or language group territories and material culture (Tindale 1974: 121 and 164). The indexed information I document will be made available to the public. However, some access limitations exist in relation to the materials listed in the index mostly due to cultural sensitivity provisions.

The 35mm photographic slides were taken by Norman Tindale on his many trips around Australia and elsewhere. The information regarding these slides will be available in the online archives and will include information such as the location and a description of the slide subject. These slides can be useful for research purposes, either general interest or academic because the slides can be linked to one of Tindale’s numerous journals. They can also be of great interest to Indigenous communities who may be the subject of the photographs.

Entering slides into the database

As noted above, not all slides will be available in the archive because some were removed by various Aboriginal representatives due to the fact that they contained sensitive cultural material. A few other slides are still physically in the material archives but have been labelled as restricted. Some indexing information has, however, been allowed on the online archive, at least enough to give a general idea of the slide, for example when and where the photograph was taken.

You can look through the Tindale Archives at:


Tindale, N.B. 1974, Aboriginal Tribes of Australia. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Sugar is useful in archaeology

By Adrian Fenech, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology Student

The directed study I am working on involves reanalysing material excavated by Mick Morrison from Weipa in northern Queensland and uses sugar to aid the ‘floatation’ lab technique. I’m doing this because previous research projects on shell mound sites in northern Australia suggests that they contain very few faunal materials other than shellfish remains. The aim of this work is to find if the low recovery rate of faunal materials in samples is due to taphonomic or sampling technique biases. I am going to use chemical floatation to assist the sorting and faunal identification processes.

The chemical floatation process involves dry sieving the archaeological material and then immersing it in water that has been treated with some kind of chemical (Ross and Duffy 2000, p 33). This is designed to change the specific gravity of the water to separate materials that have different weights. For reasons of personal safety and economy, sugar will be used, hopefully the lab technicians, John and Chantal will not think that I am cooking in the lab.

A secondary process I am considering is defloccation which involves swirling archaeological materials around in a solution of water and some form of cleaning agent. I will be playing this by ear until I can see if the floatation cleans the material in any way.

Dry sieving


Ross, A. and R. Duffy 2000, Fine mesh screening of midden material and the recovery of fish bone: the development of floatation and deflocculation techniques for an efficient and effective procedure. Geoarchaeology 15(1): pp. 21-41.

Vale, D. and R.H. Gargett 2002 Size matters: 3mm sieves do not increase richness in a fishbone assemblage from Arrawarr 1, an Aboriginal Australian shell midden on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, Australia. Journal of Archeological Science. vol. 29: pp. 57-63.