Getting to Know Your Resources

Kahlia Pearce, Grad Dip in Archaeology and CHM

As part of my Directed Study project on the historical archaeology of Calperum station, I thought it would be a great idea to drive up to Renmark one day and look at the local history books in their library, as they didn’t have a catalogue online. The road trip  was long and tiring, but we were lucky it did not rain during the trip.


Renmark Public Library

At the Renmark public library I searched through their local history cabinet. There were a few books in the library that I could not find at the State Library regarding the history of Calperum Station. I am not focusing on Calperum Station, but the other potential historical archaeological sites that may be present in the area, thus it is still useful to read the information as it gives a back story and clues on what I could research.

I mentioned to the librarian that I was doing a research project on the Calperum and Taylorville area. She gave me some contact details for the local historian in Renmark who could help me with my research.

I was very lucky when I contacted the historian, as she has an interest in pastoral history. I have received a lot of advice from her on where to look and what to search for. I recently took a master class on specialist library skills (which I highly recommend for everyone to attend, as it was very helpful), as I had no idea how complicated it can be when trying to research specific areas and all the different keywords that may seem irrelevant but that can turn out to be useful when searching for relevant information.

Getting into contact with other researchers is very useful in the archaeological world, as it is a way of gaining knowledge from other people and finding new things you can research. When I was an undergraduate I had no idea how difficult it actually was when doing a research project that no one had attempted before. I would not trade this experience and it has taught me some very useful tips: particularly that people who are interested in, or specialise in, these areas are the best source of guidance.

National Archaeology Week 2014: Events in South Australia

National Archaeology Week 2014 is creeping up fast! Starting next Sunday, the 18th of May, NAW 2014 in South Australia is packed with a variety of public engagement initiatives. Many thanks to City of Tea Tree Gully Library, Old Highercombe Hotel Museum, Tea Tree Gully and Districts Historical Society, Flinders University Archaeology Department, the Flinders Archaeological Society, the South Australian Museum, and the South Australian Archaeology Society for organising this year’s events!

Please click this link to download the NAW 2014 SA flyer for more information: NAW 2014 SA Events.

For more information on NAW, please see the NAW Facebook page, Twitter account (@archaeologyweek), or contact Jordan Ralph, SA Coordinator of National Archaeology Week.

In South Australia, National Archaeology Week is incorporated into About Time, SA’s History Festival. For more on About Time and the many events on offer, please see their informative website or pick up a program from your local library.


The murder of Chinese shepherd Ah Shong at Cambridge Downs Station, Queensland, 1875

On the day after Christmas day in 1875, the Chinese shepherd referred to only as ‘Ah Shong’ in historical records, was allegedly murdered at Cambridge Downs Station by a large group of local Indigenous people. Although it is the only official account of violence on the station it helps to paint a chilling picture of the atmosphere of terror that likely prevailed over many years as a result of the conflict between Aboriginal inhabitants and pastoral settlers.

On receiving the news that the shepherd had been murdered, Sub Inspector M. Tyrell Day of the Native Mounted Police stationed in Bowen reportedly “proceeded in pursuit of the murderers and continued the pursuit for ten days travelling in that time over two hundred miles” (Queensland State Archives 1876). He followed the suspects without success and was similarly unable to find Ah Shong’s body or other evidence of the murder. Finally returning to Cambridge Downs Station, some two weeks after the incident had taken place, Sub Inspector Day, in collaboration with the station’s managers, questioned ‘witnesses’, “but elicited nothing to prove the murder except that the Blacks were near the place when the Chinaman disappeared and destroyed about fifty sheep” (Queensland State Archives 1876). According to the inquest documents, a young Aboriginal boy informed the police that the man’s body had been cut up and buried in a waterhole.

So many aspects of this incident warrant further investigation, not least of all Sub Inspector Day’s seemingly relentless search for the ‘suspects’ before he even established the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the ‘crime’. But it is possibly because the victim, like the alleged perpetrators, was not of Anglo descent, that the incident demands our greatest consideration. Ill-feeling between European settlers and Chinese migrants is well documented in Queensland’s pastoral and mining history of the period (Evans 2007); is it reasonable to assume that authorities would have viewed the murder of a ‘Chinaman’ with the gravity that is conveyed in the historical record or, perhaps, more pointedly, is it unreasonable to assume that such an incident provided these men with the slim justification they required to initiate a brutal retaliatory attack on local Indigenous people.

As students of archaeology we are constantly taught to question the validity of our sources. It is now impossible to substantiate the claims set forth in this record, and we are similarly even less able to appreciate the principles and beliefs of those who were involved.   Is evidence such as the inquest report for this murder invaluable to teasing out a greater understanding of race relations in colonial Queensland, or does it simply serve to confound our comprehension of an exceedingly complex situation?

 Megan Tutty, Master of CHM student

Evans, R. 2007 A History of Queensland. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

Queensland State Archives: Justice Department I; Series ID 36; Item ID 348647, Inquest into the death of Ah Shong, inquest 58 of 1876.

Unlawful Marriages and Illegitimate Children

By Amy Batchelor

Are you the product of an illegitimate marriage? You could be, especially if your ancestors were married in Adelaide in the month of May, 1842. In her book, Family Life in South Australia Fifty-Three Years Ago, Jane Isabella Watts (1890:139) writes “the glorious uncertainty of the law and the careless, slipshod way in which Acts of Parliament are constructed were seldom, perhaps, more strikingly displayed than in the drawing up of the new Marriage Act.”

The new Marriage Act passed in council on 22nd March 1842. It called for due notice of marriages, the issuing of licenses and certificates, and the registration of all marriages. Ministers of religion now had to be registered and any marriages performed by unregistered Ministers were deemed invalid.

Ministers notice

Ceremonies could be conducted according to the particular religion, however each party now by law had to say to each other: “I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, (name), do take thee, (name), to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband).”

For a “brief outline of some of the Act’s leading and most important provisions” see this article from the Southern Australian, 29 March 1842. While the new Act legalised all marriages in the colony prior to the 30th April, it didn’t come into force until 1st June 1842. Unfortunately, no provisions were made for marriages in the month of May.

At the time of their marriage, Jane’s husband Alfred questioned the legality of the new Marriage Act “but his objections were overruled” and their ceremony went ahead on Wednesday 18th May, 1842.

Marriage notice

Several years later a well-known doctor, who had “also entered the matrimonial state” in May 1842, “discovered the mistake that had been made… and that in consequence thereof, his marriage… was void and his children illegitimate.” While the doctor was understandably “excessively concerned”, Watts didn’t seem upset at all: “in reality the blunder gave (us) no concern… and may probably have formed the ground work of a sly jest between (us) now and then, but that was all” (Watts 1890:140).

By using a variety of online databases I was able to identify twelve marriages that took place in Adelaide during May 1842 (table 1).

table 1

Do you recognise any ancestors on this list? Well, fear not. The Marriages Amendment Act of 1852 placed all weddings under Government supervision and contained a clause “which effectually and forever set at rest all doubts as to (the) legality” (Watts 1890:140) of any marriages performed in May 1842.

Not that any of this mattered of course, because, as Watts (1890:140) says, “no legal flaws had power to disturb their peace of mind, for ‘those whom God has joined together, no man can put asunder.’ A union that is based on mutual love and esteem… can never be snapped in twain.”

(For the latest statistics on divorces in Australia visit the Australian Bureau of Statistics here).

The Danger with Data: Common Pitfalls in Archaeological Data Collation

In the second blog instalment for my directed studies topic in maritime archaeology, I have decided to focus on data collation and the issues that I have personally experienced or could foresee for those conducting similar projects. The end result of my directed studies will be a professional field report from two field seasons of maritime archaeological work on Phillip Island, Victoria that will be used by my industry partner, Heritage Victoria. The idea for this blog topic arose out my many frustrations from trying to collate and make ‘usable’ the raw data collected over the course of two field schools over a three year period, 2012 to 2014. I was only involved in the 2014 field work as a supervisor, making that aspect of the data collation a little easier, the hard part is trying to make sense of the work from others during a field school I was not a part of. I imagine that this is a common problem amongst archaeologists; trying to piece together the relevant data collected by others, sometimes years prior. This exercise has not only made it possible for me to identify the common pitfalls for those who find themselves wading through the collective data of other researchers, but also how best to go about collecting and organising data in general in case it is to be used in the future by others.

The Round-Up

Wouldn’t it be great to show up to the archaeology lab and have every single bit of data from your field project sitting on a glowing silver platter as cherubs sprinkle flower petals down upon you while a harp plays in the background…? It is fun to dream, but here in ‘reality’ you have to find this information on your own. You may have a great professor who gives you a large bag of what at first appears to be waste bin material, but which later turns out to be the data recorded from the last field school. I was lucky to have most of the data given to me, although not all of it. I could foresee issues with having to track down people to retrieve field notes or photographs or pieces of information that ‘you know they know’ but that they never recorded. It would be wise to think about what data you have at the beginning, what might be missing, and then revisit it all just before completion to ensure all of the important ‘stuff’ is actually accounted for.

It takes longer than you think:

When I was first given the task to digitise all of the field reporting, drawings, maps, forms and log books from the two field schools I was not under the impression that it was a large task. I thought that I would be able to, in my own words, “knock this out in an afternoon”. I look back now and laugh at my naivety. It took four full days to digitise all of the logbooks and associated paperwork. That was just the physical act of scanning the pieces (my apologies for commandeering the scanner for four days to anyone I inconvenienced). I then had to organise the PDFs into easy to use files on a USB drive for archival purposes, creating a small database of keywords/file names. Once that was complete, I then did it all over again due to a series of unfortunate events (see next section). The point to be made here is to be realistic about how long the ‘housekeeping’ portion of data collation will actually take.

 Back it up, then back it up again:

Probably the largest and most dramatic problem that arose was when I fell asleep while typing in bed. I then proceeded to inadvertently kick my laptop off the bed and destroyed the hard drive, losing, not only my digitised copies of logbooks, drawings and maps that took me four solid days to scan, but also everything I have written in the report (along with my thesis work as well…but that’s a whole different can of worms). Needless to say, a well thought out back up system could have saved me a lot of time (and stress!). Then to make matters worse, my USB drive holding the only copies of some of my written work was stolen while I was at the university library using their computers while mine was getting fixed. The old adage “those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them” is completely at play in this scenario. I now have two USB drives, an internet based file storage system (Dropbox), and an external hard drive that is ONLY for backing up my system. It may also help to print off some hard copies of any major written sections just in case; a hard copy of my thesis work was a sight for sore eyes during what I call the “dark period” of this current semester.

Figure 1. The ‘Back Up Arsenal’. Photo by Chelsea Colwell-Pasch

Handwriting and Size Formats…Sigh

Another frustrating aspect of data collation is the little things that may not seem like a big deal to those who don’t have to deal with them, such as deciphering hand writing, scribbled drawings and trying to scan the ‘un-scannable’! When it comes to hand writing, unfortunately, unless you know the person and can track them down to translate, it usually comes down to best guess. Legibility is an absolute must when it comes to recording and if you take nothing else from this blog please remember to write as clearly and concisely as possible. The data is useless unless you can use it and researchers like me will thank you for it. The same goes for drawings, try to be clear and please, please, please put in a scale! As for size formats, this one is tricky. The only real issue is in trying to digitise the ‘wonky’ sized medium. It is impossible to get a great scan of a site plan that was drawn on an arbitrarily sized piece of hand cut mylar (plastic paper for underwater recording) that is too large for the scanners copying surface. Scanners are machines and machines can’t cope with anything they are not preprogramed for.

Make it your own

In this final section, I offer not an issue but a tip. When you collate the data, do it in a way that makes sense. Organise the files on your computer (and on your USB, external hard drive, and Dropbox) and compile data into easy to use and understand spreadsheets, graphs and diagrams. Look at every piece of data and think about how you would USE it and then present it in the best possible manner to fulfil its use. But beware! Too often archaeologists present data as end results, forgoing the analysis and interpretation processes. Data is only the means by which you make your interpretations and conclusions, they are not an end in themselves but a means to one.


Why Art?

By Tegan Burton, Grad Dip in Archaeology

In considering aspects of ‘connecting Indigenous youth to culture through rock art recording and conservation’ one of the questions that arises is ‘why art?’.  Is rock art, as I have presumed, more applicable to ‘connecting to culture’ than other types of archaeological sites?

Adam Goodes, Andyamathanha man and 2014 Australian of the Year, opened a recent episode of Australian Story by saying ‘It means a lot to Aboriginal people that we’re part of the world’s oldest unbroken tradition of art’ (Australian Story: Set in Stone 2014).

There is a plethora of references asserting the significance of art to Aboriginal culture. This time I stepped away from what has become my regular reference library over the last year – rock art and archaeology texts and journal articles – to track down comments from contemporary Indigenous people.

Richard Walley, in his role as Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board in the early 1990s, said that ‘Art has always been integral to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lives, as an expression of our spiritual connection with the land and sea, and as a ceremonial and educational tool of lore and Dreaming’ (in Miller 2013). In an Awaye! lecture on Radio National Lydia Miller, current Executive Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board, explained that Aboriginal art is an important aspect of cultural expression and both individual and collective identity, which is connected to language, culture, heritage, land and sea and law (Miller 2013).

Ken Upton, a senior Darug man, described cave art and engravings as ‘an historical record, as I can look at hand stencils and they are the stencils of the old ones, the ancient ones’ and ‘a record of Dreamtime stories and the laws’ (Upton 1990:6).

Rock art provides a strong link between traditional and contemporary Aboriginal life and customs (Clottes 2002; Lambert 2007; Rosenfeld 1988). Of the continuing tradition of creating art, Warlpiri woman and Yuendumu artist Judy Napangardi Watson says, ‘Painting makes me in touch with my ancestors’ (Genocchio 2008:92), and Micky Durrug Garrawurra, a Yolngu man painting at Ramingining, says ‘I am the painting, and I am in the story that I tell there. It is my land. It is my story’ (Genocchio 2008:121).

Ken Upton takes the younger generation to visit rock art sites and talk about the stories behind them (Upton 1990). Philip ‘Pussycat’ Gudthaykudthay, highly exhibited artist currently based at Bula’bula Arts in Ramingining, explains that he continues to make art in order to share Aboriginal culture and stories not just with the world, but also with the young people whose lives are impoverished by the loss of tradition (Genocchio 2008:6). There is continual transition between the past and the now. This is ‘connecting to culture’.

Accessibility serves as another assertion as to why rock art is particularly applicable to ‘connecting to culture’. The simple visual accessibility of rock art is demonstrated by the suite of coffee-table style books with a focus on Aboriginal rock art (e.g. Brandl 1973; Chaloupka 1993; Coles and Hunter 2010; Donaldson 2010; McCarthy 1979; Roberts and Parker 2003). Further, it’s not just a photographic or illustrative record in books but also a tangible reality, the richness and complexity of human history and cultural tradition expressed visually in the landscape (Flood 1990, Tacon & Chippindale 1998). No wonder being an archaeologist with an interest in rock art can be so exciting!

Not all sites are publicly accessible, however, and for those that are there might be a walk or a scramble required to get there. But once you’ve arrived at a rock surface with engravings or a shelter with art, there it is right in front of you. There’s no need for excavations or lab analyses before an initial recording and preliminary assessment can be made.

Steven Trezise is the son of Percy Trezise, pilot and Quinkan rock art enthusiast, and now works as an interpretive guide at Jowalbinna, near Laura, Queensland. He summed up the accessibility of rock art nicely when he said ‘that’s what’s so exciting about it, the stone age is not some time in the past that’s not visible. It’s actually visible. There’s the images, there’s the tangible link of the hunter-gatherer past’ (Australian Story: Set in Stone 2014).

Without a similar level of deliberation about other aspects of archaeology, I still can’t say that art is necessarily MORE applicable to ‘connecting to culture’ than the diversity of other features, such as campsites, middens, quarries, grinding grooves, fish traps, stone arrangements, or the overall landscape in which they sit (Flood 1990). In the meantime, it IS irrefutable that art has a significant role to play.


Australian Story: Set in Stone 2014, television program, ABC 1, Sydney, 31 March.

Brandl, E. J. 1973 Australian Aboriginal Paintings in Western and Central Arnhem Land. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

Chaloupka, G. 1993 Journey in Time: The 50,000-year Story of the Australian Aboriginal Rock Art of Arnhem Land. Sydney: Reed New Holland.

Clottes, J. 2002 World Rock Art. Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute.

Coles, R. and R. Hunter 2010 The Ochre Warriors: Peramangk Culture and Rock Art in the Mount Lofty Ranges. Stepney: Axiom Australia.

Donaldson, M. 2010 Burrup Rock Art: Ancient Aboriginal Rock Art of Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago. Mount Lawley: Wildrocks Publications.

Flood, J. 1990 The Riches of Ancient Australia. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

Genocchio, B. 2008 Dollar Dreaming: Inside the Aboriginal Art World. Prahran: Hardie Grant Books.

Lambert, D. 2007 Introduction to Rock Art Conservation. Hurstville: Department of Environment and Climate Change.

McCarthy, F. D. 1979 Australian Aboriginal Rock Art , 4th edition. Sydney: The Australian Museum.

Miller, L. 2013 Art Connects and Creates our Culture into the 21st century. Awaye! lecture, Radio National, Australia, 28 December.

Roberts, D. A. and A. Parker. 2003 Ancient Ochres: The Aboriginal Rock Paintings of Mount Borradaile. Marleston: J. B. Books.

Rosenfeld, A. 1988 Rock Art Conservation in Australia. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

Tacon, P. S. C. and Chippindale, C. 1998 An archaeology of rock-art through informed methods and formal methods. In Chippindale, C. and P. S. C. Tacon (eds) The Archaeology of Rock-Art, pp.1-10. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Upton, K. 1990. A Darug discussion: Oral history. In: G. Hendriksen (ed.), The Pemulwuy Dilemma: The Voice of Koori Art in the Sydney Region, pp6-8. Emu Plains: Penrith Regional Art Gallery.

What is beneath Adelaide’s car parks?

My name is Tom Georgonicas; I am currently undertaking a graduate diploma in archaeology and heritage management. As part of my degree I am working on a directed study that aims to investigate the archaeological potential (if any) that could be found under the ground level car parks of the city of Adelaide. For the purpose of this study, the study area is bound between North Terrace, South Terrace, East Terrace and West Terrace. The study is only focussing on ground level open car parks, not multi–storey car parks.

My aims for the directed study are to:

  • Map a current map of ground level car parks in the city of Adelaide on to the 1842 Kingston map and the 1880 Smith survey of Adelaide.
  • Identify the most likely sites with surviving archaeological potential on both maps and see if they overlap.
  • Research what kind of development took place on these sites. Have they interfered with any potential archaeological deposits?
  • Create a scale of archaeological potential for the sites based on my research.

Needless to say, the research is quiet immense and has required hours upon hours of research. To make things simpler I have decided to use Google Earth’s image overlay function, which has allowed me to overlay both the Kingston map and the Smith survey over a satellite image of Adelaide. Results so far have been surprising and promising, with the historical maps revealing structures that no longer remain.

Here is an example of how I am approaching the study.

Below is a satellite image of the south-west corner of Adelaide (corner of West Tce and South Tce)

SW corner of Adelaide

SW corner of Adelaide

Now after adding the Kingston map via image overlay.

SW corner of Adelaide, with Kingston Map.

SW corner of Adelaide, with Kingston Map.

Here are the results after the image overlay function. Lots 626 and 696 reveal that one point, there were structures.

SW corner of Adelaide with the Smith survey over lay.

SW corner of Adelaide with the Smith survey over lay.

The Smith survey is more detailed, going as far as naming some businesses, churches and buildings. I should also note that the image overlay function is only being used as a guide. The real results will be obtained by historical research.

You can access these maps by the State Library of South Australia by clicking the following links online.

1842 Kingston Map

1880 Smith survey