Author Archives: mickmorrison

The Flinders Archaeology Blog: one year on

Hello everyone,

As one of the blog admins I thought it might be time to give readers a brief snapshot of how things are going with the blog and also to seek some ideas and inspiration for its ongoing improvement in 2012.

In summary, things have been going extremely well with the blog since we redeveloped it in 2011. We have a steady stream of new posts – on average around two per week –  that  represent  the broad range of activities that our students and staff are involved in. We have on average around 1500 hits per month and around 50-70 hits per day, most of which come from search engine traffic. The most interesting statistics though are for the top  posts for the last 12 months and I’m pleased to report our ‘top 5 for 2011-2012′:

  1. Alex Kilpa’s The Magnetometer and its use in Underwater Archaeology with 488 views.
  2. Kyle Lent’s The Methodology of Dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) with 440 views
  3. Dennis Wilson’s Side Scan Sonar: The Key to Underwater Survey with 405 views
  4. Dennis Wilson’s The Survivor’s Guide to Practicum: One Man’s Journey to Maritime Fieldwork Enlightenment with 352 views
  5. Danielle Wilkinson’s Lights Cameras…Artefact! with 349 views.

So well done to all of you for writing such great posts! There are a couple of strong themes here. First maritime students clearly rock when it comes to writing blog posts as they  made up 9 of the 10 top posts for the year. Second, most of the top 20 posts had one thing in common: they provided tips, guides, or overviews of particular topics or methods that might be helpful to others. That is, rather than writing opinion pieces or posts about what they had done, they wrote to try to help others. Maybe there is something in that for those of you writing over the coming year?

I’ve added a screen grab of the top 20 posts for the year below.

Our top posts for 2011-12

Another important number that I think is worth mentioning here are our subscriber statistics. Last I looked, there were 559 people who are subscribed to our blog! That’s quite a readership and shows just how much interest there is in what we do here in the Archaeology Department. It also illustrates why it is important to make sure you write as well as you can when posting here: who knows who’s reading your work?

So where are we headed in 2012? Well, we do have a few ideas. For example, we think that there is quite a lot of design work we can do to improve the blog: archaeologists take fantastic pictures and so we would like to be able to use more of those around the site; the overall layout is a little dry, so we’ll be updating to make it more visually appealing; we also want more social media integration to make it easier for people to share our great content through Facebook and Twitter. We’re also toying with the idea of installing Buddypress so that we can build more of a community around the blog (see what they do with Buddypress at CUNY for example).

What I want to know from our users and our readers is this: what do you think we should do? What features are missing? What kinds of posts do you want to see? What don’t you like? Leave a comment below or drop me an email at They’ll all be taken on board as we develop the site from here forward.

Thanks once again, particularly to our bloggers for all of your hard work and energy and congratulations again to Alex, Kyle, Dennis and Danielle and all of the other top 20 bloggers for the year!

Mick Morrison

Community based research at the Marranggung burial ground, Tailem Bend

By Michael Diplock, Associate Lecturer in Archaeology

On the 11 & 12 June this year a small group of students & staff from the Archaeology Department at Flinders were treated to a special weekend alongside the majestic (& very healthy looking) Murray River at Maranggung near Tailem Bend. We had been invited to share some of our survey and geophysics skills in a joint project involving members of Karpinyeri  Inc, Assoc. from Tailem Bend SA.

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Inside the British Museum…

This is guest post by Oliver Spiers, Trainee Curator- British Museum who graduated from our program early in 2011. You can read Olly’s thesis here [pdf].

Having recently completed a Masters in Cultural Heritage Management at Flinders there comes a point where you finally submit, take a sigh of relief and then think ‘what the hell am I going to do now?’ I was lucky enough to come across a traineeship at the British Museum called the Future Curators project.

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Welcome to the new Flinders Archaeology Blog!

Welcome everyone!

Many of you will be aware that for the past few years the Flinders University Archaeology Department has maintained a small blog. Late last year, we decided to move it to a new home here at  Although we’ve imported all of our old content, we’ve significantly changed the look and feel of the blog and it will be operated a little differently. In this post, we want to outline the purpose of the new site, highlight some of its key features and take some time to encourage you all to to think about how you might be able to contribute.

We have developed this site as an information hub for existing and potential students, community members, industry partners and others who have an interest in our activities. We hope that it will be of particular value to existing students who want to build their own online portfolio of work and for distance students who want to become more involved in the archaeology community at Flinders. Industry and community partners are also very important to us and so we hope that the new blog will allow you to find out more about our activities and to promote the projects and opportunities that you or  your organisation is involved in.

Your feedback and input is also very important to us. Commenting is entirely open and we welcome ideas or suggestions about particular articles or the site in general. You can contact us directly through our contact form, or you can share you thoughts and provide feedback using our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Blog progress

This is a new site that replaces the former blog of the Flinders University Department of Archaeology. We’ve imported all of the old content and are in the process of checking for errors and building the new site. There are many things to fix….but we are working on it!

We hope to have a formal launch within a few weeks.

Geochemical characterisation of Aboriginal Australian ochre

The presenter in the Department of Archaeology’s regular seminar series yesterday was Dr Rachel Popelka-Filcoff, whose research at Flinders is funded by an AINSE fellowship.   The abstract of her fascinating talk is below.

Geochemical Elemental Characterization of Aboriginal Australian Ochre for Determination of Archaeological Use and Exchange

Although some of the Aboriginal Australian cultural implications of ochre are known, very little is understood about the procurement and trade of the mineral pigment in the archaeological record.  Given the prominence of ochre in the landscape and in Aboriginal Australian artifacts and artworks, the fundamental chemistry, mineralogy and physical characteristics of ochre must be fully understood in order to yield significant archaeological and ethnographic conclusions about its role in pre-historic technology and trade. The key to identifying geochemical variations between samples lies not in their mainstream bulk characterization, but rather in their trace element composition. Instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA), along with multivariate statistical analysis, provides the ideal method for this complex archaeological material. This presentation describes the establishment of a geochemical ‘fingerprinting’ method by comparator NAA that can be used to identify the geographical and geological origin of Australian ochre minerals, potentially including those present on Aboriginal artifacts and objects.  Data from NAA from both the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) and k0-NAA from the OPAL facility, ANSTO will be used to construct a comprehensive elemental, mineralogical and spectroscopic database for the known major and minor ochre source sites, along with ethnographic and archaeological data. In addition, future studies include analyses by PIXE (particle induced X-ray emission) at ANSTO.  This combined database will provide a foundation for archaeological inquiries including geochemical analysis for elucidating trade routes and technical aspects of ancient and contemporary pigment treatment and uses. 

Wilgie Mia ochre mine in WA (image courtesy of John Robinson)

Making Heritage Brochures

Brochures are one of the main means by which the MHRC promotes Mitcham’s heritage, and they currently have over 40 available from the centre and online. These brochures cover many aspects of the area’s history – from suburbs and wards, prominent people and buildings, to cemeteries and reserves within Mitcham – and are usually presented as chronologies or timelines.

My first individual project at the Centre was to create two new brochures suitable for the public – one for the photographic collection and the other for a tiled table top tour. Already there existed four brochures regarding the photographs, one for each of the four major donors to the collection, but Maggy’s brief was to make an overarching brochure which would encompass the collection as a whole. There were no existing brochures regarding the tiled tables, and Maggy’s brief was that I make a ‘tour’ brochure that people could use to visit the 6 tables.

I used the local history collection to research my two topics, to gather information and images. I had decided early on that I didn’t want my brochures to be just another two chronologies to add to the collection – I wanted them to be interesting, original and useful. I wanted to make them more engaging to the public with a fresh layout, easy to understand, relevant and informative text, associated photographs, a map for the tour and an order form for the photos. I was also aware, particularly with the photographic collection, of not repeating information that could already be found in other brochures.

After several edits, the brochures were debuted to the public at the Princes Rd centre opening in November 2009, and are now available from the Centre and online. A new table top is being unveiled for History Week 2010 (see Mitcham website for details) and my table top tour brochure will be peddled at that event to encourage people to visit the other sites around Mitcham.

for your own copy, click on the links below