Tag Archives: Historical Archaeology

“Know Your Enemy”

During World War Two, in the Pacific Theatre, the Japanese forces had occupied many of the Pacific Islands. The Japanese fortified these islands in a variety of ways to defend them from the attacking American Forces, one of which was to use and/or construct caves for highly strategic military purposes and as protective shelters for both the Japanese forces, and the civilian population of these islands.

For my directed study, I’ve been tasked with identifying the use of the caves (i.e.fortified positions, machine gun emplacements, storage, etc.) on the island of Saipan, in the Northern Mariana Islands, by collating historical and archival data to extract as many locations for cave sites on the island as possible.

Before researching into Saipan’s caves, I’ve decided to look at “Know Your Enemy!”, a declassified US Military report on the Japanese Military Caves on Peleliu. This report complies the information gained after the extensive study and analysis of the cave system found on Peleliu, Palau.

Know your enemy

Peleliu was the site of Operation Stalemate II, which had occurred after the Americans gained control of Saipan, Guam and Tinian, and before the Volcano and Ryūkyū Islands campaign (Iwo Jima and Okinawa). As such, some of the techniques to defend the island came from what had been learnt when previous islands were taken. This potentially means that how the Japanese used the caves on Peleliu would be similar to, or an improvement on how the caves were used on Saipan.

The following are some extracts from the report that I believe could help me  for the Saipan research:

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Differences between the Army and Navy:

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In relation to I, L, and T shaped caves:

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And, something to chill the spine:

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Things Found Under the Floor Boards

I have started my Graduate Diploma in Archaeology this year and as part of my study I am completing a Directed Study in Archaeology. I am very excited about this project, as I am able to research a project that has been of interest to me since I discovered a wonderful set of artefacts in Oatlands, Tasmania, in January 2012.

The artefacts are toys that were discovered under the floor boards in a Gaoler’s Residence in the Oatlands Gaol, Tasmania. There are many different toys, including handcrafted wooden animals, dolls’ clothing, doll’s house pieces, marbles and a wooden whistle.

I am working at the moment on finding out what each toy is and hopefully their ages. I then hope to connect the toys to the children who lived in the residence, starting from the Gaol’s construction in 1836 all the way to 1930.

After the research is complete I hope to travel back to Tasmania and conduct a community project at the Oatlands Gaol museum for the people of Oatlands. I want to bring the toys to the community and communicate with them the significance of the artefacts and how they connect to the history of Oatlands and the people who once lived there.

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Camel – maybe from a Noah’s Ark toy set

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One of the rooms where some of the artefacts were found under the floor boards.

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The Oatlands Gaol where the artefacts were found

A Series of Small Walls

A lone dumpy stands on site.

A lone dumpy stands on site.

On the Monday of February 4th, a small group of novice archaeologists packed into a small bus and proceeded to the old lighthouse of Port MacDonnell to begin, for most, our first taste of field archaeology. The 11 archaeologists were divided into two groups of four, and a group of three. Of these, two groups were to commence a baseline/offset survey, and the other group was tasked with conducting a dumpy survey of the sight. I was a part of that dumpy team.

None of us knew what this consisted of.

The dumpy team quickly learnt the difficulty of conducting a dumpy survey on the edge of a cliff, along with a developing hatred of dense vegetation. Oh, and the local fly’s which bit and stung while resisting copious amounts of AeroGuard. The wind constantly barraged the 3 metre ranging pole, making readings difficult to get exact; but no amount of foul play from nature would stop us from producing that map. One particular issue, however, did not come from nature but the irritating lack of straight lines when recording the walls. Baffling us, it became clear after double checking our measurements that perhaps they just weren’t made straight and parallel.

In all, for our first field experience we could not have predicted a tougher way to learn; but this made us strong. At the end of the day, the dumpy team was working in perfect unison to create a rather nice, if a bit unfinished, map showing a cliff, dense vegetation and a series of small walls.

The Lighthouse That Was Hardly There…

On the morning of Sunday the 3rd of February, 11 Flinders archaeology students got onto a mini bus, bright eyed and bushy tailed. After 8 hours on said mini bus, with slightly dimmer eyes and flatter tails, we arrived at Port MacDonnell, where we would be staying for the next week for the historical archaeology field school.

Cataloging artefacts by a remaining wall of the old Port MacDonnell lighthouse

Cataloging artefacts by a remaining wall of the old Port MacDonnell lighthouse

The following day, bushy tailed once more, we headed to the site of the old Port MacDonnell lighthouse. From the bus I could see a picture perfect lighthouse in the distance, the inviting white and red striped building was practically begging for us to explore it. Confusion hit as we drove straight past the red and white wonder.  Continuing down the road we pulled into what appeared to be an empty seaside lookout point. Following a path, I was directed to a sign that told me I was standing at the site of the old lighthouse—there was even a plaque that showed the lighthouse floor plan, but all I saw was shrubbery.

Upon getting off the boardwalk and into the shrubbery, the stone walls left over from the lighthouse came into sight, as well as the masses of glass artefacts that were surrounding them. It became clear very quickly why the lighthouse was rebuilt further inland, as the remaining wall of the lighthouse was hanging off the edge of the cliff.

The lighthouse wall hangs off the edge of the cliff - safety first!

The lighthouse wall hangs off the edge of the cliff – safety first!

After spending three hot days collecting data (with a beautiful view might I add) I definitely learnt at least one thing…

Make sure you put sunscreen on the back of your hands.

From cellar to cold store

At the beginning of my directed study, I centred my focus on the historical building that is Boord house – a sturdy, sandstone structure consisting of a thatched roof, 2 rooms, and a cellar below. Aside from the surrounding, evidently non-native fruit trees, it hadn’t occurred to me until later to extend my focus on the two storage sheds that are attached to the house.

At first glance, it would seem like a couple of huge storage sheds, and a piddly little hut attached to them, but these buildings were part of a different complex a few decades ago – one involving fruit and fruit processing. Now this may seem like a mundane fact, but horticulture was actually a very big business in Tea Tree Gully, and provided a means of stability for the settlement. With fertile ground, and proximity to the River Torrens, it was the perfect place for garden, orchards, nurseries, and vineyards.

Alexander Boord was known for his beautiful garden and orchards, but he was also a vigneron who apparently had unconventional methods of maintaining his plants and making wine. Apparently, he would smash grapes against a wooden grating, and he did not use a wine press of a grape mill for fermentation. Regardless, he made a variety of red and white wines (though I couldn’t find anything regarding the quality!). Rusted farming implements have been recovered, and have been placed on the southern end of the complex for display – these supposedly belonged to Boord. Following his death, his property maintained a long history of owners who were gardeners, and orchardists, according to state land title records.

Technological progress accompanied the passing years. These sheds are an example of cold storage which used ammonia to help preservation which was pumped through a system of pipes. In fact, these pipes and their accompanying pump are still intact, but are not in use. The system itself would be a fascinating subject for research.

It appears that the cellar of Boord’s house was used for packing. Fruit would be rolled down the shaft leading to cellar, and into great boxes that would be shipped all over Australia. Indeed, past visitors have claimed that stencil plates were present in the house, but are now kept in the Highercombe Museum. These plates were used to label crates, some of which would be shipped interstate!

Today, the complex is used as a horticultural depot for the City of Tea Tree Gully; however, the development of the horticulture industry is illustrated by the combination of Boord House, and the two cold store sheds. I wouldn’t have otherwise managed to reach this if I hadn’t broadened by scope from the little thatched house. It truly shows the significant progress made from smashing grapes against a grate to make wine, to packing fruits for interstate.

-Antoinette Hennessy, blogpost 3