Tag Archives: Directed Study

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.


It is time for another update on my Directed Study about South Australia’s founding father. I was sitting here, in front of my computer, writing a section for my Directed Study about how George Fife Angas was perceived by his peers and by the public. While I was researching this I struck upon something that I found particularly interesting and as I need to write these blog posts I thought I would share it with you as well.

According to some documents I have been reading, Angas was not particularly liked by his Barossa constituents during his 16 years as mayor. He was respected for his abilities as a businessman and for his common sense when dealing with legislation and colony growth. But he was also seen as a man who thought he was above everyone else and only he knew the right way. His overly pious attitude and his reserved demeanour when dealing with people he did not know probably didn’t win him any friends in the public either. Along with this he also voraciously collected on even the smallest of debts, which might have been a bad habit he picked up after going broke just before he came to Adelaide. His unlikability is not the thing I found interesting, however, it was that as soon as he died this view of him disappeared almost immediately. All of the newspapers and the public seemed to shift from this mentality to one that is now known for him being the founding father and one of South Australia’s most generous men. It was not until quite some time later that an unbiased look at him and his history was completed and this still didn’t shift the way the majority of the public saw him.

So this got me thinking, of all the great men and women in history both here in Australia and around the world, how many of them have been coloured by the information and stories that were written after their deaths? There has probably been research done on this subject but to see this unfold within my Directed Study is interesting, for me at least.

The Odds of Archaeology

What do the National Trust, the leader of the Country Women’s Association and a D registered building having common ? According to my research, absolutely nothing! My role in creating an interpretative brief for the Wellington courthouse has seen me follow several individuals through history; such research has often highlighted the common differences in the goals and priorities of those involved—the odds of archaeology.

In a series of letters I discovered an exchange between the National Trust and the leader of the Country Women’s Association (Murray Bridge sector).  The Leader of the CWA, Jane Smith*, was rather passionate in her advocation for the Wellington Court. Several of her letters requested additional funding and attention from the Trust, however she was continuously met with apologies; the Trust was simply unable to facilitate such requests. Such an exchange provides an excellent example of the odds of archaeology and heritage management. While it was quite humorous to see that such formalities and niceties were lost over a period of several years, I was rather proud to see a single individual lobbying so passionately for something she believed in. To me the Wellington Courthouse is simply an assignment, to the National Trust it was a D registered building, but to Jane Smith it was a building of childhood memories and a crown jewel for Murray Bridge and South Australia alike.

The old Wellington Courthouse SA (source: http://www.wellingtoncourthouse.com.au/)

The old Wellington Courthouse SA (source: http://www.wellingtoncourthouse.com.au/

*For the sake of anonymity, names have been changed for the purposes of this post.

What’s an archaeologist to do with all this time?

With baited anticipation I present the second installment of the history of the Wellington Courthouse, my current Directed Study.  We’ll start with the things I have learnt. Modern day Wellington is nothing more than a little settlement on the banks of the River Murray. It was settled in approximately 1830, when Captain Charles Sturt reached the settlement in his whale boating, searching for answers to Australia’s inland sea.  Some years later, a man named John Morphett opened the area to colonial land development. By 1839, Wellington was one of the most important settlements along the Murray River.  The township was seen as an important stopover for travellers, farmers and eventually the Victorian gold rush. With such importance, Wellington decided it need a police station.  In 1841 they got their wish—the building was stationed on the banks of the river, namely the site of the present court house.  Additional buildings were sought, with the current courthouse itself being built in 1864.

Thus far, facts have been relatively easy to come by.  Stories, on the other hand, have been rather difficult to locate.  My brief is currently seeking more personalized stories rather than information.  This has posed a question: the Wellington Courthouse was built in 1864, that’s 149 years of history—1788 months or 7,748 weeks or even 54,385 days of history, to be exact.  How much of this can an archaeologist hope to recreate?  I have found articles on court proceedings, advertisements for new police officers, tenders for manual labour and complaints from little old people complaining about the drafts inside the courthouse.  Surely with so much history, there is more to be found.  How much of the Wellington Court house history is missing, lost, destroyed, forgotten or even hidden in a box underneath someone’s bed?  What’s an archaeologist to do with all this time?