Tag Archives: Indigenous Archaeology

Directed Study: Best Practice in Documenting and Managing Song-lines

My directed study is researching and determining the ideal practice when documenting and managing Indigenous Song-lines. This pilot project is being undertaken with guidance from the Aboriginal Heritage Branch, of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division, of the Department of Premier’s Cabinet, in conjunction with the Viliwarinha Yura Aboriginal Corporation, with a focus on Kuyani Song-lines, mainly located on Yappala Station, just outside Hawker, South Australia. The purpose of this work is to research the context of, and methodologies used in the management of, song-lines and their associated material components, in Australian cultural heritage management, and to create effective formats that can be used on various budgets and time scales.

This work actually began half way through last year (2009), and since this time the project has consisted of several meetings, planning the logistics of field trips to Hawker, and four actual field trips. During these trips, the team focused on documenting only one particular Kuyani song-line, because, in fact, many “run through” Yappala Station. The documenting consisted of electronically recording the song-line in both Kuyani and English, and then plotting different components of the story on maps, using GPS points recorded from various sites within the song-line. Artefact scatters and other Indigenous heritage sites, within the song-line, have also been recorded. It was amazing how dense these related artefact scatters were. According to the Aboriginal Heritage Branch, one of the stone tool scatters, that was recorded, was the most dense scatter recorded in South Australia! Some very dense stone hearth sites have also been recorded.

Geochemical characterisation of Aboriginal Australian ochre

The presenter in the Department of Archaeology’s regular seminar series yesterday was Dr Rachel Popelka-Filcoff, whose research at Flinders is funded by an AINSE fellowship.   The abstract of her fascinating talk is below.

Geochemical Elemental Characterization of Aboriginal Australian Ochre for Determination of Archaeological Use and Exchange

Although some of the Aboriginal Australian cultural implications of ochre are known, very little is understood about the procurement and trade of the mineral pigment in the archaeological record.  Given the prominence of ochre in the landscape and in Aboriginal Australian artifacts and artworks, the fundamental chemistry, mineralogy and physical characteristics of ochre must be fully understood in order to yield significant archaeological and ethnographic conclusions about its role in pre-historic technology and trade. The key to identifying geochemical variations between samples lies not in their mainstream bulk characterization, but rather in their trace element composition. Instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA), along with multivariate statistical analysis, provides the ideal method for this complex archaeological material. This presentation describes the establishment of a geochemical ‘fingerprinting’ method by comparator NAA that can be used to identify the geographical and geological origin of Australian ochre minerals, potentially including those present on Aboriginal artifacts and objects.  Data from NAA from both the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) and k0-NAA from the OPAL facility, ANSTO will be used to construct a comprehensive elemental, mineralogical and spectroscopic database for the known major and minor ochre source sites, along with ethnographic and archaeological data. In addition, future studies include analyses by PIXE (particle induced X-ray emission) at ANSTO.  This combined database will provide a foundation for archaeological inquiries including geochemical analysis for elucidating trade routes and technical aspects of ancient and contemporary pigment treatment and uses. 

Wilgie Mia ochre mine in WA (image courtesy of John Robinson)



The Archaeology of Australian Stone Artefacts – knapping session

In the opening class of ARCH8517 The Archaeology of Australian Stone Artefacts, we were fortunate enough to have Eirik Thorsgaard, from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon, and a PhD student at Flinders, demonstrate the principles of knapping.  Everyone stood around (in goggles of course!), spellbound as Eirik reduced cores into bifaces and other retouched artefact types.

Continue reading

‘Love songs and dedications’

As my directed study is almost finished, I thought it worth my while, and of course yours, to publicly acknowledge the people who help and influenced my major project.

Beginning of course with The Ngadjuri Walpa Juri Land and Heritage Association, whom, without their support, I would never have been able to undertake such an interesting project. Vincent Branson, chairperson of Ngadjuri heritage, who has encouraged me throughout and who has had to put up with an endless series of emails, signatures, meetings, fact checking, phone calls, reassurance, etc during the course of the project. My supervisor Emily Jateff, who has shown an enormous amount of patience, and Dr Amy Roberts for her initial help and input. All the people who assisted me with collections, Helen Hopper and Ali Abdullah-Highfold of the South Australian Museum Archive, Suzy Russell at the State Library of South Australia, Mountford-Sheard collection, Laura Winslow at the State Records Office Aboriginal Access Team and Lyn Coad at the native title services of South Australia. Of course Rob Williams who offered supervision whilst I was searching the archives and my uncle Wayne Rosser for the use of his computer and editorial help. All the people who commented on my posts, it gave my posts so much purpose and was incredibly rewarding.

Furthermore, I think these acknowledgments of thanks should also be extended to the old man himself, Barney Warrior, whose past actions have profoundly influenced the lives of the present Ngadjuri people, and indeed many others…..

More than just an autograph

One of the most time-consuming aspects of my directed study has been the endless need for letters signed by my industry partner, both supporting my research and authorising my access to archival material. Whilst this process is time-consuming for both myself and undoubtedly for my industry partner alike, it is inherently important and part and parcel of any research, such as mine. So far these letters have granted me permission to view and survey material that has been stored in such places as, the Tindale collection in the South Australian Museum Archives, The Mountford – Sheard Collection housed in the State Library and Collections held in The State Archives and Native Title Services. The reasons for permissions and support lie in the nature of material I have been consulting with and the subject matter I am being exposed to. Continue reading

Final DS contribution

It has been an interesting semester and it is a little sad to be at the end of my directed study (or at least the end of this stage of the study).
I delivered my presentation in person to industry partner representatives early this morning in Tweed Heads. It was exciting to get positive feedback on how the report will progress their current agenda.
Trying to ensure my presentation was available for the Presentation Day last week in Adelaide had been such a saga (and I still do not know if it arrived and was in a format that could be used), it was nice to face an audience and interact with them today.

Working back with NSW DECCW for the last 3 months has been a rewarding and challenging experience. When I worked there last (19 months ago) I was employed as an archaeologist. This time my position is as the Aboriginal Heritage Planning Officer. I am enjoying the shift in focus of this position away from the scientific aspects of Aboriginal heritage management towards cultural significance of the values. I work in the Environmental Protection and Regulation Group and find it reassuring that input into the process of accessing potential impacts and management options is diligent in ensuring it is informed by Aboriginal knowledge holders of the Country in which the values occur.

Grampians- Gariwerd Directed Study

Well it’s over. Presentations were completed yesterday, and it’s time to hand up the final report. All I can think to share with you all this week is this…

When you are focusing on a site, turn around and enjoy the landscape. The significance of the sites that archaeologists investigate is also tied up in the surrounding environment, not in just that particular location.

And … Always sort out permits before your start your research.

Finally, I just wanted to thank the Traditional Owners. Gariwerd is a vibrant landscape that is just starting to show the extent of its use in prehistoric times and I would encourage anyone who gains permission to study and investigate it more.

Also, large amounts of thanks to: Emily Jateff (you are amazing), Dr. Michael Westaway, Dr. Heather Burke, and Dr. Alice Gorman from Flinders University. Mike Stevens and Suzy Skurrie from Parks Victoria (Grampians- Gariwerd). The team at AAV, and also the amazing staff from Collections at the British Museum and The Australian National Museum.