As part of my directed study, I will be working with the Flinders University Archaeology Department to examine the historic artefact collection PHR02, which has been kept in the archaeology lab for the past eight years.
For the past few years this collection has been regarded a complete mystery. No documents accompanied the box of artefacts and there was no information available in recent archaeology department records. Staff members could not remember what PHR02 meant, where it was from or who excavated the site. My task is to discover where this box of artefacts came from, who excavated it, catalogue and photograph the collection and assess whether this box is significant enough to be kept at Flinders, or if it should be deaccessioned in order to free up some space.
My first task was daunting. Where do I start? How do I find out where this box came from? I started with the obvious, staff, past students, archaeology records such as the photographic database, the collection log, equipment loan log. This led nowhere! At the same time I started sorting the collection, relabelling each individual artefact and recording diagnostic features as I went. The only information I was able to draw out of the artefacts was that they were excavated in 2002. My first break came when a past student put me into contact with the tech officer that was at Flinders in 2002. I contacted him and he gave me the information I needed.
PHR02 Stands for Polish Hill River 2002. This area was the subject of Katrina Stankowski’s 2003 Masters Thesis. Polish Hill River was a rural Polish community which settled in South Australia in the mid 1850s. Stankowski’s (2003) study aimed to assess whether a minority European culture living in Anglo-Saxon Colonial South Australia could be distinguished by the material remains. If so, what types of material remains could be used to determine Polish ethnicity?
I’m really excited to be assessing an artefact collection. I am a bit stressed about writing the report, but as long as I stay on top of things, I should be fine. Good luck to all the DS students this semester!
Well, nearly there! This semester has been a challenge! I have also had severe technical difficulties which is the reason for my lack of blogs.
Anyway…Fern Avenue has certainly been interesting!
After searching through 13 boxes of excavated materials I was a bit disappointed to see that the condition of most of the artefacts wasn’t great. It was also from a few different time periods and not all related to the site! (Like the little car!)
Originally dug by Jody Steele and Tim Owen who organised it as a public archaeology dig, the contents of the boxes were definitely varied. There are pieces missing from the collection, there are a variety of different labels and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of plan to what was collected. There are a few bits of plastic that some Year 3 children excitedly bagged!
Although it appears to be a bit of a mish-mashed collection, it will be very interesting to assess its significance and hopefully be able to repatriate some or all to the Unley Museum or the Community Gardens.
Like everyone else with a directed study this semester, I’ve realised how much there is to do! It’ll be a challenge but worth it in the end!
My project is based around the Fern Avenue collection that is sitting up in the Arch Lab – all 13 boxes of it! The Fern Avenue Community Gardens Archaeology Project was a small-scale community archaeology project coordinated by Jody Steele and Tim Owen (former Flinders Arch students) and the Unley Museum. The site was a demolished historical jam factory on Fern Avenue, Fullarton, and was discovered during a pre-disturbance survey and artefact collection. This resulted in an abundance of material from a total of ten trenches across the site.
Working in conjunction with the Unley Museum the aim of my project is to sort through the material from the excavations (which includes a lot of rusty bits and pieces, ceramic, glass and a few other bits and bobs) and assess their state of preservation and significance. At the end of the project the Unley Museum will choose a number of artefacts to be repatriated for their permanent collection and I will have to provide a recommendation for the long-term storage/preservation of the remainder of the material.
It will be a long project but I am looking forward to working with the Unley Museum and it will be good practice for my thesis next year!
Toy spear throwers are deliberate in their design as they are meant to form part of the education of children. They give them the opportunity to practice spear throwing with games such as malu, a game where spears are thrown at moving pieces of bark. They are an important development process where the boys can improvise and make their own, or their father will make their sons miniature spears and a spear thrower, pre-initiation. They will continue to use this set until 12 to 16 years, when initiation has begun.
In the Rawlinson Range, Western Australia, decoration of spear throwers happens only after initiation, becoming more elaborate as knowledge increases.
Missions did encourage the manufacture of wood carvings, particularly of weaponry, for trade purposes. At Groote Eyelandt, the Northern Territory, Norman Tindale notice variations of form with a bigger body for decorative purposes and less handle space.
The completion of this project has bought with it a wave of relief, but also some apprehension as to whether or not my research has been thorough enough. Like all projects more time and better resources are given limitations. Yet, at the same time the opportunity for further and more specialist research is usually always an option.
Suggestions for further research include;
-Special analysis of the domestic faunal remains in order to establish meat cuts and possibly status;
-Further analysis of selected artefacts could produce manufacturing dates and therefore contribute to possible depositional processes on the site;
-The location of the external rubbish dump in the car park of the police station would yield more artefacts and a greater understanding of domestic life in early 20th century Mitcham.
With relief and apprehension also comes a sense of pride in knowing I have completed a 57 page artefact analysis report, something I have never attempted before. With the written report complete, my poster printed and presentation prepared the only thing left to do is build up enough courage to deliver my presentation ‘with out any hitches’. Presentations are a common element to any archaeology topic. This presentation, however, is unlike any I have given before. This is simply because I am presenting new data and applying theories to a site which has not yet been reported on. I will also be presenting in front of industry partners and non-classmates, also something I have not done before.
Over all this project has provided me with an insight into the complexities of artefact analysis, and further developed an understanding of the impact excavation and artefact reports have on the future of sites.