Tag Archives: Directed Study

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?

An analysis of the stone artefacts from Gledswood Shelter 1 – update 3

After sorting through, describing and categorising 936 artefacts I can definitely say that my skills in identifying and describing artefacts have improved. With more than 800 of the artefacts comprising flakes and broken flakes, each one had to be studied to identify the features that would enable me to determine how it had been made. Most of these flakes were made of quartz and, owing to the intrinsic properties of that raw material, determining the reduction process proved challenging at times.

After identifying the types, artefacts were then categorised by raw material type, counted and weighed.  The total numbers and weight of artefacts from each spit were volumetrically adjusted to account for differences in the amount of sediment removed from each spit. The results are shown in the graphs below. The graphs show total weight of artefacts in grams per kilogram and total count of artefacts per kilogram. Viewing both graphs shows clearly that, when a large artefact substantially affects the weight—such as in Spit 16 which includes a pestle—the artefact count is not affected and we are not misled by the results.

Artefact Numbers
Artefact Weight

The next phase of the project is to interpret the graphs and other recorded data, which will require consideration of several factors. Firstly, sediment deposition in the shelter is not consistent through time, so the spits do not represent equal periods of time. For example, Spits 20 to 16 represent almost 5000 years of time, meaning the bottom 20% of the excavation represents 50% of the time line. What appears in the graphs as a peaks in artefact counts and weights for the lowest two spits may actually be non-existent when the timeframe of deposition is considered relative to the other spits.

Even when volumetrically adjusted, artefact weights for each spit also need to be carefully considered, as it cannot be assumed that a high weight represents a greater level of activity in the shelter. For example, Spit 16 shows the greatest weight of artefacts for all spits; however, one of the artefacts it contains—a pestle—weighs more than 400g. In contrast, Spit 6 includes 130 flakes that only weigh 174g. The pestle may have only been used once, whilst the flakes may have been used multiple times. So in this case a lower weight could represent greater activity at the site on the basis of the artefact types found.

DSC_0011 A stone used for grinding found in Spit 16

Patterns that need to be explained also include changes in time through the raw materials present. In the lower spits (i.e Spits 20 to16) flakes are equally likely to be made of both quartz and quartzite. After this there is a gradual change, with an increase in quartz flakes and a reduction in the number of quartzite flakes. This change reaches a peak in Spit 6, with a ratio of 97:3 of quartz to quartzite flakes. Trying to determine what might have caused people to change their preferred raw material is one of the things I am exploring.

Selection of Quartz Flakes A selection of quartz flakes from Spit 6

Further afield there are different changes seen in the assemblages of other shelters in northwest Queensland that are not seen in Square B0 at GS1. For example, some shelters have shown changes in raw materials used at a specific time, and increases in the use and presence of grinding stones. These changes have not been seen in Square B0.

Once I’ve explored the patterns seen in  Square B0 I’ll then consider this in relation to the results from the excavation of the adjacent squares in GS1, other shelters on the Middle Park Station, and other shelters in the northwest Queensland region. This will help to understand whether the patterns observed are specific to the Square B0 assemblage, the GS1 shelter, the Middle Park Station area or whether they are part of a wider sequence of changes occurring in Queensland and beyond at the time.

What’s an Archaeology ?

Once upon a time, there was a little archaeologist who aspired to be the greatest of them all! That little archaeologist, who grew up to be me, thought he would be the first person in the world to discover the lost city of Atlantis. Fast-forward 16 years and I am currently undertaking my graduate diploma of archaeology at Flinders University. As a graduate student I have been able to undertake the important process of a directed study. I have been tasked with forming an interpretative brief for the Wellington Courthouse in Murray Bridge. Hardly the opportunity to discover Atlantis, but an exciting opportunity nonetheless and my very first taste of archaeology!

Built in 1864, the Wellington Courthouse has a long and important history in the area of Murray Bridge. My interpretive brief will consist of an historical summary of the site, from the days before it was built to today and from the people who worked, lived and played with the site. The site has recently been sold by the National Trust to a private owner. Currently, the owners (who will remain anonymous), are planning to re-establish the site as a tourist hotspot. Intentions for the site currently revolve around a restaurant, bed and breakfast and a museum of the site for the wider community. My directed  study will give the necessary information required to interpret the site, making it excellent and profitable!

I look forward to the adventure ahead, the highs and the lows. More importantly I hope to prove to myself that I am an archaeologist and capable of more than just digging a hole.

The Wellington Courthouse

Torrens Tour

A couple of weeks ago I told everyone that I would continue on with my discussion about my directed study looking at Highbury’s Torrens Linear Park. I also mentioned that I would include information regarding the tour of the park that I had with my industry partner, Lea Crosby. So here goes.

I met Lea around 9am and we made our way to Highbury’s Torrens Linear Park, a park I had never been to, where we commenced our tour of the site and discussed significant features of the park. The very first feature and the location where we began our tour was this tree (pictured below) which is quantum to the local Kaurna people.

Highbury Torrens Linear Park

After noting this feature we then continued walking through the park looking at the flora and fauna on the way. We also, luckily, met Mick Medic, a horticulturalist, who explained the local fauna and flora to us, as well as giving us a tour of Boord House (below).

Taken a the site of the tree (on the right you can see the tree)

Taken at the site of the tree (on the right you can see the tree)

Boort House

Boord House

Lea and I then continued our tour by taking another path to view the rockshelters, where we discussed their significance to the local Indigenous population.

rockshelters #2

After inspecting the rockshelters we then strolled along another path back to the tree and went our separate ways.

The tour of Highbury’s Torrens Linear Park gave me an impression of the overall site and provided me with information regarding the local flora and fauna that could  possibly have been used by the Indigenous population prior to European settlement.

By Nicole Monk