Tag Archives: Fieldwork

Mt. Dutton Bay Maritime Archaeology Field School: one student’s experience

By Pete Colvin

Each year Flinders University runs a maritime archaeology field school as a part of its commitment to student skills development. This year was no exception: from the 31st January to 12th February 2011, an intensive period of field work was conducted in the Mount Dutton Bay region. In previous visits made to this area Mount Dutton Bay was known to have significant historic and maritime cultural heritage potential. It was from these previous visits that the 2011 field school developed, its aim was to conduct further survey and excavation work on the historic shipwreck Caprice and to further develop and understand the maritime cultural landscape of the area.

Mt. Dutton Bay Maritime Archaeology Field School students and staff, 2011

Continue reading

Executive summary of my directed study project

I have just concluded my directed study project which was focused on researching a new methodology for the indirect detection of unmarked burial sites using ground penetrating radar. Being responsible for researching and writing up a larger sized project, and drawing on various sources for literature including interstate collections has been a valuable learning experience. However the most rewarding experience has been the opportunity to be involved in undertaking research with important implications for locating the burial location of a significant Indigenous historical figure.

Continue reading

ARCH8307 “Introductory Archaeological Geophysics” 2010

Thank you to all of my intrepid students who finish up their ARCH8307 “Introductory Archaeological Geophysics” topic this afternoon by presenting the data they have collected from the historic Meadows Wesleyan cemetery in the Adelaide Hills. The students, split in two groups entitled “The A Team” and “The Sextons”, collected, processed and interpreted ground penetrating radar, electromagnetic induction and magnetometer data to try to locate the foundations of the former church and some of the more than 50 unmarked burials know the exist within this cemetery. Students also were fortunate to be able to assist Flinders PhD candidate Martin Wimmer by searching for an air raid shelter in Souter Park, Goodwood. The investigations are still a bit inconclusive, but our preliminary interpretation is that a feature did exist on this site however any material used for it’s construction has now been removed.

Continue reading

To continue my Pilbara blog

It is hot….for those who have read my previous blog and noted my brag about the luxurious life we live in while at the mine, well I take it all back. We have had on average throughout October temperatures of 36-38 degrees. I live in dread of what the temperatures will be like by February. To make matters worse, next week I am off to a mine near Marble Bar – noted for its record of 161 days straight where the temperature did not drop below 37.8 degrees.

While there, we will be undertaking a survey in quite steep hills so I am hoping that I get the opportunity to record a rock shelter, something I have not yet done. Through this job, I have gained quite a bit of experience with recording artefact scatters, quarries, reduction areas, gringing patches and scarred trees, I have come a long way since I started 4 months ago with no Indigenous archaeology experience. I have also gained significant experience writing CHM reports, mapping, site recording, using a GPS, surveying and 4 Wheel Driving.

When considering this type of job for a career I would suggest the following as essential requirements: sense of humor, able to work as part of a team, adaptability, good physical fitness and above all the ability to work under pressure. If anyone is interested, there are HEAPS of jobs here in WA, send out your resumes and cold canvas.

Indigenous Archaeology Test Excavation, NSW

Indigenous Archaeology Test Excavation, NSW


The first week of May saw me in the field for OzArk once more, this time directing the excavation of an Indigenous site in Central Western NSW. The site is a farm paddock situated on the northern edge of town, previously used for potato growing and stock grazing. The property is subject to a rural residential sub-division proposal and had been identified as an Open Site with Potential Archaeological Deposit (PAD) several years ago. Surface artefact scatters within potato furrows had suggested that sub-surface deposits existed at the location and the excavation was designed to determine the extent of the deposit and the integrity of any associated archaeological features.


The excavation methodology was as follows:

1.            Mechanical (backhoe) excavation of between eleven and fourteen 1 m x 1 m test pits, at 20 cm spits;

2.            On site wet sieving of all excavated deposits; and

3.            Post-excavation artefact analysis.

As director, I had arranged all staffing, accommodation and plant hire prior to the excavation. On site, I directed the laying out of the site (under the supervision of Dr Jodie Benton, Principal Archaeologist), briefed all staff, monitored both excavation and sieving processes, and recorded site / pit information on recording forms, stratigraphic drawings and with a digital camera. Following the excavation, my key tasks were report writing, preliminary contact with the local Land Council, and (in conjunction with Ben Churcher) artefact analysis.


Geomorphological evidence from the pits demonstrated that ploughing had disturbed the entire A Horizon. Cultural material was excavated from the A Horizon of most pits, however most were broken flakes / flaked pieces, with a small quantity of non-Indigenous glass / ceramic material, reflecting the disturbed nature of the site. Minimal cultural material was recovered from the B Horizon. No evidence of archaeological features was present at the site and the distribution of artefacts suggested that the original assemblage had been spread over the entire paddock as a result of ploughing.

Lessons learnt

1.            Plant. A test excavation involving any type of plant (in this case back hoe / water truck / bob cat) will have a better chance of success if you have done your homework beforehand. In this case, confirming that the water truck had correct hose connections, appropriate hose lengths, adequate pressure and volume and a pre-deployment water supply meant that there were no delays due to incorrect fittings, inadequate pressure, or the need to re-fill during the day. Likewise, confirming that the backhoe had the correct kind of mud bucket and that the operator understood the exact nature of the holes we needed meant that he was prepared to start work immediately (in fact he produced excellent pits!).

2.            Photography. The job of directing an excavation involves regular / continual monitoring of the various activities being conducted on site. Becoming TOO involved with monitoring, however, can lead you to either forget to, or run out of time to, record and photograph the operation adequately. I made the mistake of focussing too much on monitoring for the first morning and consequently I did not photograph the back hoe excavating any pits. Such a photograph would have been useful come report writing time; this only occurred to me about an hour after the back hoe had finished and left the site! (I did get a photo of the bob cat backfilling the pits though!) The lesson learnt here, then, is to make sure every task conducted on site is photographed, for example:

            a.            Setting up / laying out pits;

            b.            Excavation (whether mechanically or by hand);

            c.            Filling buckets;

            d.            Sieving; and

            e.            Artefact cleaning and recording.

3.            Paperwork. Ensure that all administrative paperwork is filled in before work commences. OH&S is particularly important here (if you haven’t done the paperwork and things go wrong, you have dramas!). Probably the other really important piece of paperwork is some kind of Indigenous community participation form indicating who participated, in what ways, and what their views on the project are. This is helpful when writing the report as all of that information needs to be written up. It also helps to establish that the correct community participation procedures have been followed.