Category Archives: Archaeology and heritage news

ArchSoc’s Trip to Port Arthur

A few weeks have passed since the Flinders Archaeological Society (ArchSoc) sent six of our members and two of our committee to help the Port Arthur Historic Sites Management Authority (PAHSMA) with their artefact collection from the 2011 Hobart Penitentiary Chapel excavations.

From left to right- Back: David Roe, Jeanne Harris, Tom Lally, Ilona Bartsch, Maxim Ayres and Louisa Fischer. Front: Andrew Wilkinson, Leah Ralph, Annita Waghorn, Lauren Davison and Holly Winter.

As you can see from the blog entries that the participants wrote at the end of each day, everyone enjoyed themselves and learnt a lot. This is the first time ArchSoc has organised a field trip like this and it is a testament to the dedication and organisation of this year’s committee that the trip went off without a hitch.

On behalf of ArchSoc, I would like to thank those that helped make this trip possible from the onset. Thanks go to Claire Smith, whose networking made this possible, Natalie Bittner, who along with myself, conducted the initial consultations with PAHSMA, and to David Roe and Annita Waghorn from PAHSMA, who were both more than happy to host several student volunteers.

BBQ in the Plaza @ Flinders

I would also like to thank those that helped in the planning stages and those that helped us in our more-than-successful fundraising BBQ and Bake Sale including the ArchSoc Committee and staff from the Department of Archaeology. There are too many individuals to name, but you all know who you are.

Thanks to everyone that applied to go on this trip, sorry we couldn’t accommodate all of you and to Andrew Wilkinson and Tom Lally who co-ordinated the trip at short notice when it was clear that I could no longer attend.

Lastly, a very big thank you goes to Jeanne Harris, David Roe and Annita Waghorn from PAHSMA for hosting ArchSoc on what was a very successful trip. We hope this is the start of a long relationship.

Bake Sale in the Humanities Courtyard

The professionalism of our committee and participants is highlighted in an email that David Roe sent to me shortly after the trip:

“From our perspective the week was a great success: we were able to get a number of important fieldwork jobs done and a significant hole has been made in the cataloguing task for the Penitentiary Chapel assemblage.  Jeanne, Annita and I were impressed with the Flinders contingent: they worked hard and were a pleasure to have around.  Their enthusiasm and conduct reflects most admirably upon the Flinders ArchSoc in particular and the University in general.  Please accept our thanks for having organised and underwritten the trip; we look forward to more such visits in the future.”

Again, thanks to all involved!

Jordan Ralph

President, Flinders Archaeological Society

Sorting artefacts in the Port Arthur lab

This post originally featured on ArchSoc’s blog @

Gunbalanya Repatriation – Stealing is No Bloody Good

This post discusses part of the Barunga, NT Rock Art Field School, with a focus on one of the more significant social and political events that occurred in 2011. I was a volunteer demonstrator on this field school because it was taking place in the area that I am conducting my research and I was due to begin my data collection. The participants of the field school were due to depart Darwin on Tuesday 19th July 2011, for Barunga but like all fieldwork, this changed…

Sally May (ANU) phoned Claire Smith on the Sunday before our departure to say the human remains that had recently been repatriated by the Smithsonian Institute (USA) as well as some Australian museums were being reburied in a ceremony at the community from which they were stolen. The largest collection of remains was taken from the Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) region of Arnhem Land as part of the Northern Australian Expedition led by Charles Mountford. Since then, the remains have resided at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Other remains from this area that have resided in Australian museums, such as the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, had also been returned.

Our detour from Darwin - Gunbalanya - Barunga

Orchestrating the return of these remains was a long process involving many consultations between the Gunbalanya community and the museums. Ultimately, the hard work of Traditional Owners and community members paid off and the remains were returned to country.

The reburial ceremony was due to take place mid-afternoon on Tuesday and we decided that this was an event not to be missed; unfortunately, repatriation of human and cultural remains does not happen very often. In order to be on time to the cermony we had to leave Monday, which posed a problem, as some people were not arriving in Darwin until 2am Tuesday!

Flinders rock art field school crew

I left Darwin on Monday morning (with fellow students, Bianca, Nessa and Yolanda), following Sally and Ele in our rental four-wheel-drives. We arrived at Gunbalanya at about four in the afternoon; the rest of the Flinders cohort was to follow as they flew into Darwin. The second convoy (Mick, Ebbsy, Beckie, Jarrad and Tegan) arrived at about eleven pm. We were sharing a run-down, asbestos-riddled house of the like that are all too common in Aboriginal communities. The final convoy (Claire, Jacko, Michael, Zidian, Andrew, Britt, Lauren, Tom, Antoinette and Rebecca) arrived at about six am Tuesday morning.

While those that had little to no sleep slept, the rest of us helped organise the post-ceremony celebrations. The Art Centre capitalised on the large number of willing volunteers, and roped a few of the Flinders crew into helping with stock-take. What a great introduction to the necessity of flexibility on fieldwork!

The Flinders staff and students played a proactive role in the organisation and running of the events of the day; Mick, Michael and I acted as photographers for the community and visually documented the procession and ceremony. The rest of the group acted as de facto caterers for the community at the celebratory BBQ.

Cooking buffalo steaks for the celebrations

While this is a positive event, the remains should never have been stolen, especially under the guise of ‘research’. I use the word ‘stolen’ and acknowledge that some may disagree with this, however, I am not a fan of beating around the bush; this is what happened, it is the way the community feels and it is the way I feel. As Traditional Owner of the region, Jacob, says in the ABC footage, “stealing is no bloody good”. It is very important to acknowledge the wrongdoings of past researchers, however righteous they believed their actions to be, so that we can continue to learn and improve our approaches to culturally sensitive materials and issues. It is an indication of the strength of the current Australian archaeological and anthropological disciplines that most contemporary research is carried out professionally and ethically.

I will not describe the official events of the day because it is something that is better seen than read.

Instead, visit these links to the ABC news reports:

Official procession to the burial grounds

There is no doubt this is one of the more important social and political events that occurred in 2011; it deserved much more media coverage than it received.

Jordan Ralph

This post originally featured  on my personal blog @

All views are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisations, institutions or individuals mentioned within.

Walking… and a little bit of archaeology

Surveying for Shipwrecked Mariner Graves off Loch Sloy, Kangaroo Island, SA

By Maddy Fowler and Cassandra Morris

On the 27th March, Kyle Lent, Cassandra Morris and Maddy Fowler, maritime archaeology students at Flinders University, embarked on the Sealink Ferry to Kangaroo Island to participate in the 2012 survey of historic shipwreck burial sites lead by Amer Khan from the Department for Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). This project involved conducting an archaeological survey to investigate possible locations of the burials of twelve bodies recovered from the sea following the wreck of Loch Sloy. The vessel was bound for Port Adelaide when it wrecked north of Cape de Couedic in the early morning of 24th April 1899. The location of the remains of the shipwreck is at present unknown.

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Join us for our first public lecture of 2012!

Taking the Plunge at the 2011 AIMA Conference, Brisbane.

By Cassandra Morris

On the 2nd and 3rd of September, the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA) held their annual conference at the Queensland Museum, South Bank, Brisbane. This year’s theme was ‘Forging the Links’, looking at the connections made to effectively preserve our maritime heritage. A group from Flinders consisting of students and staff travelled to the conference, including a mix of presenters and those there for moral support. Once the conference was in full swing, Flinders appeared to make up a good portion of the attendees, especially when taking into account the number of past students present. Presentations given at the conference were of a wide variety – ranging from students presenting on their thesis ideas and progress (myself included) to recent wreck discoveries, cannibalism, investigation techniques and current research projects. Three public lectures were also given as part of the conference which anyone was welcome to join. By the end of the two days, it was clear that Flinders had done well with approximately half the presentations at the conference given by current staff and students. At the closing of the conference awards were given to presenters for ‘best presentations’. This year our own Wendy van Duivenvoorde won the award for ‘Best Conference Paper’ and Honours student Maddy Fowler won ‘Best Student Conference Paper’.

The conference also presented an opportunity for a small initiative to gain recognition outside of South Australia. This initiative, “Take the Plunge – Protect Australia’s Heritage”, is a student initiated cause to promote the need for the Australian Government to ratify the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Currently based through Facebook, the initiative has six pre-written letters, addressed to prominent governmental members, which are available for everyone to download, add personal details, and post. Alternatively, these letters can be emailed to their addressees. AIMA 2011 Conference was the perfect opportunity for the initiative to get further feedback from professionals at the event, as well as promote its cause as much as possible. Throughout the two days, Flinders students (many of the student attending the conference were actually the initial ‘Plunge’ team and later its Committee) could be seen hunting down conference goers in the tea breaks. The sound of paper and pens was soon audible below the conversational chatter, as the conference attendees took to the initiative, aiding its expansion by offering advice and signing all six letters each. Collecting all of the letters (over 100) the ‘Plunge’ then posted them on behalf of everyone.

Creators of the 'Take the Plunge - Protect Australia's Heritage' Poster and their prize at the conference. Photo by John Naumann

This initiative was also encouraged through two additional aspects. A presentation was given about the group by the now President of the ‘Plunge’, Danielle Wilkinson. It detailed how the ‘Plunge’ was started, choices made, efforts for funding and recognition, and most importantly future plans for the initiative. In addition, a poster was made for presentation at the Conference, summarising the details contained on the Facebook page and in the lecture. Created by the author and Danielle Wilkinson, the poster was a great success, giving people an idea about what the initiative was about, without being overwhelming. The poster was awarded ‘Best Conference Poster’ at the closing ceremony. Due to the feedback received through the Conference, from those signing letters, viewing the poster and comments made regarding the presentation, ‘Take the Plunge – Protect Australia’s Heritage’ has improved and supercharged its efforts. There are many ideas in the works, scheduled for the remainder of this year and early next year. But, please don’t wait for the ‘Plunge’ to come to you…. Take the Plunge and download the letters today!

‘Take the Plunge-Protect Australia’s Heritage’ is sponsored by AIMA, Flinders University, Flinders University Archaeological Society, Society for Underwater Historical Research and the Flinders University Underwater Club.


Facebook Page:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Letter:
Email Through:

Hon Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition. Letter:
Email Through:

Hon Kevin Rudd, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Letter:
Email Through:

Australian National Commission for UNESCO. Letter:
Email Through:

Department of Veterans’ Affairs Letter:
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Senator Kim Carr, Minster for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. Letter:
Email Through:

Contact ‘The Plunge’ team through their email if you have any feedback or ideas: