Tag Archives: Directed Study

Falling Dominos Lost Beyond the Floor

These dominos were found at the Oatlands Goal, under the floor boards in the Gaoler’s Bedroom. There were four dominos found altogether, from two different sets with two different dates. The first set is made from bone and ebony with red lines and black dots; there are three of these dominos and they date from 1700 to 1800.

During the 17th and 18th centuries dominos appeared in Europe and were originally made from animal bone, including ivory, which was quite expensive. The holes of the domino were drilled into the rectangles of animal bone and were then inlaid with pieces of ebony. Many domino sets were handmade during this time by French prisoners of war and also by sailors, who used whatever resources were on hand (Domino Play 2013). The interesting fact about the date of the first set of dominos from Oatlands is that the Gaol only opened in 1836. This means that the set may have been brought with a prisoner or by the Gaoler before the Gaol opened.


Dominos made from bone and ebony with a red line pattern, made from 1700 to 1800

The second set is made from bone, ebony with a brass pin; this single domino is dated from 1800-1855.  In the 19 – 20th centuries dominos were made from narrow pieces of bone that were glued together and fixed with a brass pin in the centre; these were called spinners. In 1855 Frenchman Charles Lepage invented plastic and dominos became much cheaper and quicker to produce (Domino Play 2013).

These two different types of domino may have belonged to the Grover family and/or the Pegus family. The Grover family lived in the Gaol from 1838 to 1840 and the Pegus family from 1841 to 1858.

A bone and ebony domino with a brass ‘spinner’ made from 1800-1855

A bone and ebony domino with a brass ‘spinner’ made from 1800-1855

What you see is (not always) what you get? A final reflection on the analysis of the stone artefacts from Gledswood Shelter 1

Who would have thought a box of artefacts from a remote shelter in northwest Queensland could contain such a complex story of the past 10,000 years?  Well at least it has proved to be a much more complex story than I could have imagined and I have only managed to scratch the surface as part of my directed study. The project has proven to be more demanding in time and effort than any other subject I have undertaken and still there is so much that seems incomplete and in need of further research. There is more than a thesis waiting in just one square of excavation from Gledswood Shelter 1 (GS1).

Part of my study involved age-depth modelling. This is the process of using the radiocarbon dates obtained from the spits throughout the excavation to understand the history of sedimentation at the site. Age-depth modelling is a science in its own right and what I learned from my study was that GS1 warrants a thorough modelling of its history of sedimentation using some of the modern techniques available, such as linear regression, splines and interpolation. This work alone would be enough for a directed study project.

I also learned that what you think you see is probably not what you can see. My tendency was to see trends in the spits in terms of artefacts numbers and to believe that these trends were real. However, once these numbers were correlated with time in the age depth model a very different picture emerged. What appeared to be a peak in artefact numbers was not, and what did not appear to be a peak in artefact numbers was.


Evidence of the use of stone axes such as the axe pictured is seen as small basalt fragments throughout the excavation at GS1

Once the trends were understood it was time to make sense of this through researching the available literature. A trend towards increased activity at the site seems to correlate with a wider trend that occurred across northern Australia during the mid to late Holocene, where populations moved into more marginal areas exploiting food sources not previously used, such as the toxic seeds of cycads. These changes were believed to be responses to rapid climatic changes that required innovations in the way people lived off and used the land, and the technologies available to them. There are many more questions to be answered in relation to these responses to change. For example, there are reports that some sites show evidence of responses to change in the mid Holocene, whilst others show evidence later in the Holocene, sometimes a couple of thousands of years apart. The site specific nature of these responses is a complex question and GS1 still has many questions to be explored.

Perhaps this project taught me more about research than it did about GS1. Sometimes, when I thought I saw clear evidence of a pattern, there was a tendency to search for evidence that would support it. However, this had the effect of excluding information that might challenge my hypotheses. When I became aware of this behaviour I could adjust my approach to research and sure enough the result would often be quite different to what I believed I was observing.

This directed study has been a great journey and I have learned more from this topic than any other. Thanks to Lynley Wallis my Industry Partner who has assisted me throughout my project.

Leaving Linear

So this is it everyone: my fourth and final blog post about the Linear Park at Highbury. Over the last four months I have learnt so much about a place that I never knew about, prior to this assignment, and I’ve also met some interesting people along the way.

Here’s a summary of what I found in the report:

Prior to colonisation the Kaurna people used the Highbury section of Linear Park in the colder months, because it gave them a better chance of shelter and protection from the weather. Here they could also trade with other groups, such as the Peramangk People, and use the rockshelters as a lookout for animals to hunt.

The impact of colonisation on the Kaurna People was similar to other areas within Australia, where the Indigenous People were forcibly removed from their Country.  This diaspora led to the development of places known as the Walkerville Mission and Ration Station and the Park being used as a travelling route.

The Torrens River also saw changes as a result of the European colonisation of the region. Prior to human interference the Torrens used to flood, with the last major flood occurring in 1931. That’s right, the River Torrens used to flood, not flow out to sea! This is a change that was brought about by Europeans.

Linear Park didn’t escape the impact of European colonisation either. It also saw many changes, with the development of an aqueduct and, in 1982, the construction of the Park itself, which was completed in 1997. That is why today, when you visit Linear Park, it is designed the way it is, with a trail to be used for recreational purposes.

So everything was altered and change occurred, as it inevitably does. But back to the question on whether the Linear Park and the rockshelters are significant—well, the answer is yes! The rockshelters and Park are significant to the Kaurna People and later to the European settlers of the region.

Frozen Charlotte listen to your mother!

These dolls are almost a symbol of archaeology—life and moments frozen in time and discovered under the ground.

Frozen Charlotte dolls, such as the one in the Oatlands gaol collection, were made of glazed porcelain and were also known as bathing dolls or penny dolls. Frozen Charlottes and Frozen Charlies (Charlotte’s male counterpart) were made from about 1850 until 1914. These dolls had immovable arms with clenched fists, painted hair styles and painted faces. They were usually made to be about 20 inches tall (50 cm), but could be much smaller and were painted in black, white and pink. Older versions of these dolls used a cheaper clay body, their age can be told by the identification of flecks in the porcelain (Darbyshire 1990:40.)

Frozen Charlottes were created as a representation of the poem ‘A Corpse Going to a Ball’ by Seba Smith.  Smith wrote the poem in 1843 after reading an article in the paper describing a young woman who had frozen to death on a sleigh ride on the way to a ball. The poem, which is also a song, warns young women to listen to their parents, not to concern themselves with fashion and to look after their health (Lord 1966:4.)

This Frozen Charlotte below was found under the floor boards in the Gaoler’s Bedroom of the Oatlands Gaol. Her hair style suggests that she was made in about 1890. Given this age range, this Frozen Charlotte may have belonged to the families of the superintendents who lived in the Gaol from 1878.

Frozen Charlotte found at Oatlands Gaol

Frozen Charlotte found at Oatlands Gaol

A Frozen Charlotte was also found at the new Adelaide Hospital site by Dr Keryn Walshe in March 2012. The doll on the right below is the doll that was found at the new Adelaide Hospital site and the doll on the left is an example of a Frozen Charlotte from a private collection. The doll found at the new Adelaide Hospital site is shorter than the one found at Oatlands.

Frozen Charlotte found at the new Adelaide Hospital site (image from Adelaidenow.com.au)

Frozen Charlotte found at the new Adelaide Hospital site (image from Adelaidenow.com.au)

Troublin’ Torrens

So it’s me again in my exploration of the significance of the Highbury section of Torrens Linear Park. What I have been up to in the last semester is a cross between finding information regarding the Torrens and pulling my hair out in search of information that doesn’t exist or is so difficult to find that it compares to a needle in a haystack. What I have found is interesting though. The Torrens Linear Park is the largest hills to coast Park in Australia and is often called ‘The Trail’, which I think gives it a debonair sound.

One of the issues that I have is that no one knows where it is. People who have lived in Adelaide their whole lives know nothing about it. This includes my housemates, librarians and friends who have no idea what I’m talking about when I refer to this place. So for those that don’t know what I’ve been talking about for the last couple of weeks or have only just read this blog post, this is for you. Highbury is located near Tea Tree Gully, a suburb in the northern regions of Adelaide. This is the area that I am looking at:

Highbury Linear Park

Highbury Linear Park

See that faded area and the yellow pin that says Highbury Linear Park? Well, that’s the area I’ve been talking about.

So what I have found in the last couple of months is information about the Kaurna people and Linear Park as a whole, or different sections that do not include Highbury, and general details about the Torrens River, but, again, nothing focused in the area I want.

Come back Tuesday for my fourth and final blog that will include a more positive and in-depth look at the information I have found about this park and its significance.