Tag Archives: Indigenous Archaeology

Making sense of the Winchelsea Stone Artefact Collection (part 1)

Directed Study in Archaeology- Working with the SANTS- Winchelsea Collection

By Sam Hedditch, Graduate Student

This is the first of my four blog posts for the semester.  I will first explain briefly my study and what it entails.

Recently, Flinders University was given temporary custody of a collection of apparently random stone artefacts from the South Australian Native Title Services Corporation. Very little is known of their origins, save for the fact that they were delivered to SANTS from the Wathaurong Aboriginal Community in North Geelong from Winchelsea, Victoria  and that the labels on the stones suggest that they were recovered from areas throughout South Australia. The recording of these artefacts was begun by the ARCH 8517 stone artefacts class in 2010 and is yet to be completed.

There are a range of objectives that I hope to achieve in my study:

  • Analyse and document the artefacts and present the information as  part of a database and report.
  • Take photos and illustrations of a range of artefacts to complement the database and report.
  • Conduct archival research to interpret the original intention of the artefacts’ collection.
  • Arrange all of this data to return to SANTS to provide greater information about them and perhaps inform their repatriation.

As a student quite new to lithics and archaeology in general, I am finding that this study is a great challenge. There are well over a hundred artefacts in the collection and they span from Port Macdonnel to The Coongie Lake near Innamincka in northern South Australia.  There are many resources to consult in order to understand the archaeological background of the areas that the artefacts come from. Hopefully this type of research will develop a greater understanding of where the artefacts fit in to a bigger picture.

There is lots of lithic analysis to be done, those who pop into the archaeology labs may find me there looking relatively bewildered as I measure and interpret these beautiful artefacts.  At this stage my analysis is preliminary and I am consulting with Dr Alice Gorman as to whether I am recording appropriately.  Once I am on the right track I’m sure that the other hundred and thirty three artefacts won’t take quite so long to record, will they?

Flexibility, Fieldwork and Flinders Graduate Study

If you’ve read the current (July) edition of Engage: The Magazine of the Graduate Programs in Archaeology, Cultural Heritage Management and Maritime Archaeology, you’ll have seen the article on ‘Where does a Graduate Degree Take You?’.  In it, some of our graduated students discuss where they’re working now, what they’ve learnt since leaving university (including what topics proved to be most useful to them and why.  This part makes Alice very happy), and how their degree experience prepared them to work in the heritage industry (if you haven’t seen Engage yet, then make sure you read it at our website http://www.flinders.edu.au/ehl/archaeology/archaeology-digital-library/graduate-program-bulletins.cfm.  It contains all this and more).

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The Archaeology of Honey Collection

by Emily Shepard, Visiting Scholar

Hello, my name is Emily Shepard, and I am an archaeology master’s student from Portland State University in the United States. I am very excited to be at Flinders working with Dr. Mick Morrison on a really interesting topic – culturally modified trees (CMTs). This project focuses on ‘sugarbag’ trees: or CMTs that were scarred through wild honey (sugarbag) collection by Indigenous peoples living in the Weipa region of the northern Cape York Peninsula in Queensland.

A sugarbag scar on an Ironwood tree near Weipa

Although sugarbag collection was almost certainly a part of Indigenous lifeways for many thousands of years, prior archaeological and anthropological research by Dr. Morrison and Dr. Darlene McNaughton suggests that honey procurement strategies shifted substantially in the past century. These changes, which primarily relate to intensification of honey harvest, seem to have been influenced by access to new technology, such as larger axes. However, some of these changes may also reflect strategies of Indigenous peoples for engaging with new economic, social and political conditions arising from the arrival of missionaries. Hopefully, this project will both aid in developing methods for classifying these CMTs, and will shed light on aspects of life of Indigenous peoples living in the region that were left out of the historical record by missionaries.

I’m hoping this project will highlight the potential of data from CMTs to address a variety of interesting and important questions not only in Australia, but also in the United States and Canada. I’m travelling to Weipa with Mick and other students working on a project investigating the history of the mission early next month, and we hope to collect a lot of new information on sugarbag (and other) scarred trees found around the former mission settlement.

This research is funded by the East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute, which is made possible by the United States National Science Foundation and the Australian Academy of Science.

Printing the Ngaut Ngaut Interpretive Brochure

Finally, the Ngaut Ngaut brochures have been printed. This was not an easy task. I had originally planned to get the brochures printed by a professional printing company. However, after making some phone calls, it became clear that using a printing company would be more work that originally expected. I was worried that the colours of the brochure would turn out different to how they looked when printed out on my home printer. Also, there was a worry that the specific folding specifications of a printing company would require the columns to be set in a very specific way. As the printing companies intended to charge for every adjustment made to the original file (once I submitted it to them), I was reluctant to go with a printing company at all.

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Directed Study: SANTS Artefact Collection – Background and Repatriation

A couple of weeks ago I presented on this topic at Alice’s presentation afternoon. I pretty much stuck to what my methods had been as opposed to my results. Anyway, this semester is finishing and this is my last blog post for this topic.

My report was written with a focus on previous archaeological, anthropological and environmental studies in relation to the ten different locations of the SANTs Collection. Unfortunately there seems to be a dearth of such prior work within South Australia related to these locations. This is the case particularly in terms of environmental studies and to a lesser extent anthropologically.

South Australia seems to have a progressive repatriation system in place where a small collection such as this SANT Collections can be researched for the purpose of repatriation. Such research can be long and complicated (especially for larger collections) but it is only the first step in the repatriation process.

With the information identified within this report, particularly that of the Indigenous communities identified and repatriation options identified, communication should definitively be initiated with the Antakirinja, Kokatha, Andyamathanha and Bunganditj peoples. It is more difficult for the artefacts sourced from the South Australian Desert and Coongie Lakes, but perhaps communication should be organised with the Coongie Lakes Visitor Centre and/or the Wadlata Outback Interpretative Centre for these locations.

South Australian Museum Archives Visit – Ngaut Ngaut Interpretive Project

In mid-September I visited the South Australian Museum Archives to locate images that were to be used on the interpretive signage at Ngaut Ngaut. This aspect of the project was also approved by the Mannum Aboriginal Community Association Inc. (MACAI). Dr Amy Roberts had given me some ideas as to what to look for and I had a list of index numbers that corresponded to relevant archive collections. Throughout the process of content creation Amy had found a few images that she wanted to use on the signs. The problem was that these copies had very low resolutions. My archives visit was aimed at finding the original images and organising high-quality 600 dpi copies of the photographs and field book sketches.

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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.

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