By Adrian Fenech, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology Student
I have started the floatation procedure that I described in my earlier post and it is proceeding reasonably quickly. I am still thinking about the defloccation procedure but I am unsure if I will have enough time to accommodate it.
Despite the mess of sugar water I am making in the archaeology labs, the floatation is going well because it has managed to float quite a few materials that will be picked out in the sorting stage. So far, the dominant floated materials have been charcoal and vegetation, the former would have been difficult to locate in sorting. This is because of the many other dark-coloured materials in the samples. The photos below show the resulting fractions produced by the floatation work.
Light fraction: material which floated
Heavy fraction: material that sank
The photos show the contrast in materials that the floatation produced. The light fraction consists primarily of charcoal with some vegetation and a few shells. The heavy fraction is dominated by shell with a considerable amount of stones and some faunal material (from a glance). I’ve only just begun the slow process of sorting through the heavy fractions; hopefully I’ll find some non-molluscan fauna!
I am considering the defloccation procedure because the sugar water is often black after its second floatation. After the materials have been rinsed off, they are still encrusted with a considerable amount of sediment. A test will have to be performed; two samples of materials, one with defloccation performed and one without will be sorted and the ease of sorting will be compared. This will be subjective, though because it will be difficult to get two samples that are equal in quantities of material types.
By Masters in Archaeology Student Claire Keating
Between the 24th June and the 20th July myself and fellow Masters of Archaeology student Amy Della-Sale accompanied Dr. Mick Morrison to the mining township of Weipa on western Cape York Peninsula to assist in the collection of archaeological data as part of a research project investigating the post-contact history of Aboriginal communities on western and central Cape York Peninsula. Our work this trip was at a place known to Anhatangaith Traditional Owners as Waypandan.
My thesis is part of this research program and sets out to understand the activities of the Moravian and Presbyterian missionaries who established two missions in the Weipa area between 1898 and 1963. It is the first of these missions at Waypandan which is the focus of my research. Having operated between 1898 and 1932 this place is of very high importance to the community and as such constitutes a poignant research question especially in terms of the activities of its European and Indigenous inhabitants. My aim is to re-evaluate survey data collected in 2008 in light of photographic and historical resources in order to understand with greater certainty the spatial layout of the mission compound itself.
Tidying up field plans at Waypandan
Data collection for my portion of this project consisted of my wandering solo around the mission laden with photo books, compass, measuring tapes, marker flags, a GPS unit and a drawing board becoming familiar with every fence post, building post, earth mound, artefact scatter, and stone line within a (roughly) hundred square metre area. However despite my solitude and feeling somewhat like a pack-horse I relished in the fascinating puzzle I saw unfolding before my eyes. What at first seemed to be a rather straight-forward research objective soon became not so. Programs of building relocation and rebuilding both during the mission’s lifetime and beyond have created an archaeological record which at once crosses several temporal periods.
Improvising in the field
In all, three weeks were spent mapping and evaluating the mission landscape of Waypanden which proved to be an extremely complex and at times challenging study area. Up on the mission there was much head scratching going on as I struggled to make sense of a fragmentary archaeological record and a photographic collection which began to pose more questions than answers; meanwhile down in the Aboriginal village Morrison was doing a fair bit of chin scratching as he and Della-Sale stumbled across more and more features that needed to be recorded.
In all seriousness though, at the close of this field season I came away with so much more than the archaeological data needed to complete my thesis. The experience of working and, for a time, living with the Indigenous community of Weipa was so enriching and warming that when I returned to the cold (literally) reality of Adelaide, I felt rather home-sick for the smells of the campfire, the sounds of the bush, the chattering children, and the stories of the old people. Though my time spent with the community was rather brief it has made me more determined than ever in my goal to one day work closely with Indigenous communities to help preserve their cultural heritage for benefit of future generations.
by Emily Shepard, Visiting Scholar
Hello, my name is Emily Shepard, and I am an archaeology master’s student from Portland State University in the United States. I am very excited to be at Flinders working with Dr. Mick Morrison on a really interesting topic – culturally modified trees (CMTs). This project focuses on ‘sugarbag’ trees: or CMTs that were scarred through wild honey (sugarbag) collection by Indigenous peoples living in the Weipa region of the northern Cape York Peninsula in Queensland.
A sugarbag scar on an Ironwood tree near Weipa
Although sugarbag collection was almost certainly a part of Indigenous lifeways for many thousands of years, prior archaeological and anthropological research by Dr. Morrison and Dr. Darlene McNaughton suggests that honey procurement strategies shifted substantially in the past century. These changes, which primarily relate to intensification of honey harvest, seem to have been influenced by access to new technology, such as larger axes. However, some of these changes may also reflect strategies of Indigenous peoples for engaging with new economic, social and political conditions arising from the arrival of missionaries. Hopefully, this project will both aid in developing methods for classifying these CMTs, and will shed light on aspects of life of Indigenous peoples living in the region that were left out of the historical record by missionaries.
I’m hoping this project will highlight the potential of data from CMTs to address a variety of interesting and important questions not only in Australia, but also in the United States and Canada. I’m travelling to Weipa with Mick and other students working on a project investigating the history of the mission early next month, and we hope to collect a lot of new information on sugarbag (and other) scarred trees found around the former mission settlement.
This research is funded by the East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute, which is made possible by the United States National Science Foundation and the Australian Academy of Science.