Directed Study in Archaeology- Working with the SANTS- Winchelsea Collection
By Sam Hedditch, Graduate Student
This is the first of my four blog posts for the semester. I will first explain briefly my study and what it entails.
Recently, Flinders University was given temporary custody of a collection of apparently random stone artefacts from the South Australian Native Title Services Corporation. Very little is known of their origins, save for the fact that they were delivered to SANTS from the Wathaurong Aboriginal Community in North Geelong from Winchelsea, Victoria and that the labels on the stones suggest that they were recovered from areas throughout South Australia. The recording of these artefacts was begun by the ARCH 8517 stone artefacts class in 2010 and is yet to be completed.
There are a range of objectives that I hope to achieve in my study:
- Analyse and document the artefacts and present the information as part of a database and report.
- Take photos and illustrations of a range of artefacts to complement the database and report.
- Conduct archival research to interpret the original intention of the artefacts’ collection.
- Arrange all of this data to return to SANTS to provide greater information about them and perhaps inform their repatriation.
As a student quite new to lithics and archaeology in general, I am finding that this study is a great challenge. There are well over a hundred artefacts in the collection and they span from Port Macdonnel to The Coongie Lake near Innamincka in northern South Australia. There are many resources to consult in order to understand the archaeological background of the areas that the artefacts come from. Hopefully this type of research will develop a greater understanding of where the artefacts fit in to a bigger picture.
There is lots of lithic analysis to be done, those who pop into the archaeology labs may find me there looking relatively bewildered as I measure and interpret these beautiful artefacts. At this stage my analysis is preliminary and I am consulting with Dr Alice Gorman as to whether I am recording appropriately. Once I am on the right track I’m sure that the other hundred and thirty three artefacts won’t take quite so long to record, will they?
by Gwynneth Pohl, student
Like many people hitting their 30s, I have long had a desire to find not just a ‘job’, but a career, something I would enjoy participating in, whilst at the same time giving back to the community. Also, like many people, I was fascinated by pirates as a child. Not just pirates, but anything underwater, particularly if it was related to archaeology – the myth of Atlantis, sunken cities, tragic tales of shipwrecks, and adventurous stories of discovery. Unlike most other people, however, this fascination has continued on into my adulthood, and affected the direction my tertiary studies have taken. I began my university career with Egyptian archaeology, but not being satisfied with that, tried my hand at what is termed ‘Public History’, which essentially teaches how to present history to the public (perhaps a better term would be ‘Historical Public Relations’). I found I was not diplomatic enough for such a career, and it was suggested to me that perhaps maritime archaeology would suit my interests better. I believe that person was right. Through my studies in the Master of Maritime Archaeology at Flinders University, South Australia, I have discovered that my fascination lies in the artefacts themselves; more specifically, in the conservation of these artefacts.
A couple of weeks ago I presented on this topic at Alice’s presentation afternoon. I pretty much stuck to what my methods had been as opposed to my results. Anyway, this semester is finishing and this is my last blog post for this topic.
My report was written with a focus on previous archaeological, anthropological and environmental studies in relation to the ten different locations of the SANTs Collection. Unfortunately there seems to be a dearth of such prior work within South Australia related to these locations. This is the case particularly in terms of environmental studies and to a lesser extent anthropologically.
South Australia seems to have a progressive repatriation system in place where a small collection such as this SANT Collections can be researched for the purpose of repatriation. Such research can be long and complicated (especially for larger collections) but it is only the first step in the repatriation process.
With the information identified within this report, particularly that of the Indigenous communities identified and repatriation options identified, communication should definitively be initiated with the Antakirinja, Kokatha, Andyamathanha and Bunganditj peoples. It is more difficult for the artefacts sourced from the South Australian Desert and Coongie Lakes, but perhaps communication should be organised with the Coongie Lakes Visitor Centre and/or the Wadlata Outback Interpretative Centre for these locations.
Hi guys. My directed study on this SANTS Collection has been focused quite a lot on repatriation and what options might be possible. To look into this I’ve done a bit of research into the situation of cultural material repatriation in Australia broadly and more specifically at South Australia. This is opposed to the repatriation of human remains which seems to have considerably more literature and attention. I have found Rachel Lenehan’s 1995 thesis on this topic of cultural material repatriation to be very helpful and interesting. I have considered an updated version (taking in the last 15 years) to be a possible thesis opportunity for myself.
I have included a short history on archaeology in Australia and its connection with indigenous communities and the paradigm shift towards community participation and a respect for other people’s cultural property. This history includes issues that have been raised for and against repatriation. As for the SANTS Collection, there are a few options available.
In my background research on cultural material repatriation I have looked at certain institutions and how they have behaved over time in particular repatriation instances. In particular I have looked at the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council (TALC) versus La Trobe, The Australian Museum and the South Australian Museum.
As you may remember my directed studies project is an assessment of the preservation and significance of the artefact collection PHR02. The most difficult part of this project has been developing a criteria in which to assess the preservation of the artefacts and the significance of the collection. Something I had to keep in mind while developing this criteria was the fact that the rest of the collection has been deaccessioned. With this in mind I felt conflicted, how can one assess the significance of a collection when the majority of it has been deaccessioned for some time? Is there any point in assessing this part of the collection without its context? I have decided to press on, judging solely on the preservation of the artefacts. The majority of the artefacts are iron materials, from the local blacksmith’s quarters, they were not originally assessed and included in the 2003 study because they are standard materials that are available to anyone and do not display ethnic characteristics.
So now I have to develop criteria to evaluate the preservation of these materials, where to start??!! Schiffer and Gumerman (1977) suggest that firstly, one must specify the type of significance they are dealing with: scientific, historical, ethnic, public, monetary or legal. Then the fit between the criteria and the resources must be evaluated. The overall judgement will be based on a weighting of the types of significance that have been considered. According to the definitions provided in Schiffer and Gumerman (1977) this collection is of scientific significance. With this in mind, I have to assess the preservation of the artefacts and its potential for future research. So to do this I am devising a checklist criteria which I will use to measure the preservation of each individual artefact in my collection. This criteria will rate the level of corrosion, form, function, etc. My checklist needs to be refined, my initial checklist was I think inadequate, so I am in the process of revising it, hopefully the new edition will give me a better understanding of the current state of preservation of these artefacts, and help me determine whether they are significant enough to keep at Flinders.