Tag Archives: Field methods

The Mallala Museum: Brilliant AND Creepy!

An old cart from the Mallala Museum.. Also slightly creepy manikin

On a fair Wednesday night, after a long day in the field, many of the students (myself included) of the Flinders University Archaeology Team were winding down at the local pub. What a start to the night! A few beers and some chatter. But this is not what this story is about, it is what came next; a trip to the Mallala Museum to discover the exhibition that the local historical society had put on to display the past of their town. It was apparent the locals of the area had a proud passion for their history as was obvious with the large amounts of items on show from the past of such a small township. Upon walking through the front doors we immediately found something our team had not been able to find in the field; a complete artefact from the Seven Stars Hotel: a desk. This is one of the only known items from the Hotel. Moving further through the building, we come across a room stocked with items from the First and Second World Wars. This town showed its pride in this room, with pictures and original clothing from the wars all displayed elegantly. Next was the back room, which showcased various larger items such as old cars and fuel pumps. Finally, we discovered the upstairs room, which contained various knick-knacks, and a doll which looked like it came straight from a horror movie (pictured below).

The Creepy Doll in the Mallala Museum

This doll caused distress among some, while others joyed at trying to cause more distress by getting people to look at it. It was then that many chose to leave the museum and as it got quieter, it became spookier. Thus concluded our tour of this fine museum which turned out to be quite educational and everyone learned something they did not know about the small town of Mallala. Now, back to the pub!

(Photos courtesy of Sam Deer, one of the not so distressed people)

Tennis court tent society at Mallala

“How was the tent?” was one of the first questions my husband asked me during my time at the Flinders Uni Mallala Field Methods Field School (ARCH 8801).  The question arose because of the minor dilemma I had suffered when deciding whether or not to lug my tent to Malalla from Sydney. The Archaeology Department kindly offered one of the Uni tents to aid my plight and, despite my immediate vision of a 2 man pup tent over used by successive generations of Uni students, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I would be comfortably housed in a brand new 3 man dome tent.  Excellent!  Dilemma over.

Our ‘Tennis Court tent society’ at Mallala  was a delightful conglomerate of shapes and sizes, all forming a temporary society consisting of strangers sleeping next to one another, separated by the merest of thin nylon walls.  One of the largest tents, occupied by gentleman Matt, was a suitably impressive family size tent, allowing the luxury of a full standing position (see picture 1). Gentleman Matt appeared quite proud of his comparatively king-like structure as seen by his Napoléonesque poise for the photo.

de Palais Matto

Next door to ‘de Palais Matto’ and previously lived in by Jessica, stood the saddest member of the Tennis Court tent society. A pup tent of dubious nature which had been ‘borrowed’ (see picture 2). Not only was this tent the smallest tent on the block but it failed its prime directive; to stay up and provide shelter. The disappointment is obvious on Jessica’s face.

So sad......

Jessica was able to abandon the premises within a couple of nights of our arrival thanks to the preparedness of Rhiannon. Thankfully, as picture 3 shows, a newer, roomier abode at the other end of the street put a smile on Jessica’s face.

But now much happier!

The Tennis Court tent society was not without its famous residents. Temporary refuge was sought by visiting ABC Radio journalist, Ann. Embracing the spirit of BYO ideology, Ann’s imported lodgings brought lightness and colour, as did her very presence, to the tennis court society (with the possible exception of her fashion choices in pull overs)(see picture 4).

Anna from the ABCRegretfully, the assigned word limit of this blog prevents me from further espousing my thoughts on the  Tennis Court tent society, but special mention must be made of Bob’s true blue, real man swag (picture 5) and, of course, I must assure you that my lodgings, courtesy of Flinders, were extremely comfortable. However this doesn’t stop me from pondering an upgrade next time round. Where did you get your tent from Mick?

Bob, who was my most delightful next door neighbor
Mark obviously didn't want to be photographed with his tent

Di's, like de Palais Matto was also at the high end of the street and just as wonderful

Fashions in the Field

Strutting their stuff on the ‘Red Dust Carpet’ at Redbanks for the April 2012 Field Methods Field School were archaeology students, staff and helpers. Little did anyone realise that as a first time Arch student I was rating the dress sense of my more seasoned colleagues for ‘Fashions in the Field’ Awards. Unlike the red carpets of Paris and Milan, my points were awarded for being practical, safe, dustproof, sun-smart, bite- proof, as well as imaginative and stylish. Participants needed to follow the basic clothing requirements in the course handbook: long sleeve shirt, long pants, wide brim hat, sturdy shoes.

This season’s trends were Akubra style hats and check shirts worn with various shades of khaki; the new black! Those familiar with Munsell Soil Colour Charts know that khaki is dirt camouflage colour. Popular hair styles were short, no nonsense cuts and practical ponytails. But who dared to be different?

Bonnet of distinction – Heather, with her chic beige linen, and Rhiannon, with her embroidered little black Archaeology Society bucket hat, were strong contenders, but the winner was Jess looking a treat in floppy black hat accessorised with green peg!

Artistic Accessories – Bob, with his green anticancer gloves, Matt, with his burnt orange Egyptian scarf, and Viki, with mauve polished nail, were eye catching. Britt, with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, lost points when her precious metal interfered with readings on Julie’s and Rob’s matching WW1 era compasses.  But accessory princess was Amanda, who matched her blue & white bandanna with her nail decal on perfect acrylic nails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovely Locks – Antoinette, with her short, glossy, stylish cut, and Mick, with his ‘no more tears no more tangles’ upstyle pony, looked the part and were practical, but they were outshone by Clare’s wash and wear dreadlocks resplendent with beads and threads!

The overall winner of Fashion in the Field 2012  was Sam, for her delightfully stylish and personalised outfits. The tie-dyed T-shirts, embroidered Nepalese pants, fly-netted hats and arm adornments prove that archaeologists can match function with fashion when in the field.

Lights, Cameras… Artefact!

By Danielle Wilkinson (MMA student)

Technologies are constantly evolving to assist in gathering, representing and sharing data. Photography is one area with constant developments, where new advances enable increased accuracy, simpler use, and quicker results. Artefact photography has retained basic principles over time, but there have been great advancements in its application and potential in archaeology.

Artefact photography has the potential to be a very informative and scientific resource for archaeologists. Photographs can be used as a technique for recording and to track changes the artefact has undergone over time. They also provide a way to keep a ‘back-up’ record of the artefact in case of loss or damage. Most importantly, digital photographs can be shared very easily for wide and fast dissemination. But, it is important to remember that an artefact photograph can be useless if the appropriate principles are not followed. The success or failure of a photo rests on a number of different variables, and every photograph requires considerable thought and preparation. It is not as easy as a click of a button!

Background and Lighting

Background and lighting should be re-considered before every shot as different arrangements may be necessary depending on the size and shape, material, and colour of the artefact.

The usual backgrounds used are: black velvet, which prevents shadows and reflections but cannot be used for dark objects; white (such as paper), although shadows are very visible so must be used with correct lighting; glass, used against an illuminated white surface to reduce shadows; and matte (sacking or canvass), which reduces contrast and hides shadows.

The most important aspects of lighting is to reduce the amount of shadow and highlight features. Tungsten lights are most common as they are cheap and convenient. Fluorescent lights are ideal only for black and white work due to colour distortion. Flash is vey difficult to handle, with an intense localized light that is impossible to predict. Natural light can create less shadow, especially in overcast conditions, but again is limited to black and white due to colour distortion. As you can see, lighting and background arrangements can depend on each other, and vary depending on the artefact.

Scale and Identification

From: http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/record/web/scale.html

IFRAO Scale (Image: http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/record/web/scale.html)

Usually a one-centimetre scale is used. When the photograph is taken, the widest plane of the artefact will be seen in profile view. If the scale is not level with this plane then the measurements of the scale to the artefact will be distorted. Hence, the scale should be raised to coincide with the outline of the object. It may be necessary to use multiple scales if a specific feature is also being photographed, or multiple photos should be taken. The scale should be placed near the frame of the photo without touching the artefact, so that it can be cropped out later on. Identification is handled with the inclusion of the artefact registration number tag, which is also placed near the frame.

Westerwald ware jug from the Batavia – notice scale placed in plane of outline, identification tag near frame, and black background to contrast (Image: Green (2004) Figure 12.5)

Camera

Advances from the ‘old school’ conventional cameras are phenomenal. Digital cameras are becoming cheaper and much easier to use. Instant review on LCD screens allow the photographer to adjust settings and re-take photographs, and saving onto a memory card enables easy transfer to a computer. Computer software is another major development, essentially making a ‘digital darkroom’ where the photo can be adjusted in a number of ways.

Without getting technical, there are basics that any archaeologist should be aware of. The first is that there are different kinds of cameras and lenses that are appropriate for different shots. The camera most commonly used in archaeology is the 35mm, single-lens reflex (SLR) camera with interchangeable lenses. Lenses range in angle, length and zoom, but the most useful for artefact photography is a general purpose 35-105mm macro zoom lens, which can also be used in expedition photography, as well as the Macro telephoto of 100 or 200mm focal length, for accurate and detailed object photographs.

Aperture, Shutter Speed and Focus

Aperture and shutter speed settings may be unfamiliar to anyone new to artefact photography (they certainly were for me!). Aperture, or f-stop, controls the ‘depth of field’ – how much depth remains in focus. This is done by altering the size of the hole controlling the amount of light passing through the lens. The depth in focus is increased by reducing the f-stop number (if it helps, imagine the diameter as a fraction with the diameter divided by the f-stop number [d/f] i.e. ½ for a larger hole and larger depth, or ¼ for a smaller hole and smaller depth). This setting is important when photographing an object with a varying depth, as the whole artefact should be kept in focus. Shutter speed has a combined effect as it controls the length of time that the chip (or, originally film) is exposed to light, controlling the darkness of the picture. If the aperture is adjusted, the lightness of the photograph will be affected, hence the shutter speed also needs adjusting.

Lastly is the focus. When adjusting focus, it is important to watch the detail and profile. The outline of the artefact should appear sharp, as if the object is hovering. Focus is not something to be done quickly, and it may take some adjusting of the f-stop to get it right. Always review the photograph and check the focus before moving on. It could also be suggested to take multiple photos at different f-stops and shutter-speeds so that they can be compared.

Saving

All archaeologists know that it is important to catalogue and store data correctly and in an efficient manner, and it is no different with photographs. The photos should be labeled with the registration number of the artefact, and with any other necessary details such as the site name and date. A computer database is the best system for storing, but photos should at least be saved on a disk or external hard drive, which are economical and can be very large – in fact, most students I know own a hard drive of at least one terabyte, just for movies and music!

Artefact photography has a large potential for the sharing of information. With new technologies, it is becoming an easier, quicker, and more accurate method for recording and as a resource. With more accurate photographs there is less of a need to handle the actual artefacts, and archaeologists far removed from its location are not disadvantaged or restricted by access. Future developments are difficult to predict – perhaps three-dimensional technology will become more accessible, and 3D images will be taken of artefacts to recreate their complete shape. What about projected holograms? For now, archaeologists should take advantage of photography and use it to their advantage. It is simple to learn and, as long as you follow the principles, anyone can do artefact photography.

References:

Green, J. “Artefact Photography” in (2004) Maritime Archaeology: A Technical Handbook. 2nd Edition, pp.325-345.

Dorrell, P. G. “Principles of Object Photography” in (1994) Photography in archaeology and conservation. 2nd Edition, pp.254-176.

Bowens, A. (ed.) “Photography” in (2008) Underwater Archaeology: The NAS Guide to Principles and Practice. 2nd Edition, Wiley–Blackwell, London, pp.71-82.