Author Archives: mickmorrison

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
http://www.mitchamcouncil.sa.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/Photographic_Collection.pdf
http://www.mitchamcouncil.sa.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/Tiled_Tabletop_Tour.pdf