Raising a Mesolithic Logboat from Gamborg Fjord, Denmark

by Peter J. Ross (Flinders PhD candidate), Claus Skriver (Moesgaard Museum), and Peter Moe Astrup (Moesgaard Museum)

For the most part of June, we have been excavating an inundated, underwater, Mesolithic kitchen midden on Hjarnø Island in Jutland in collaboration with Moesgaard Museum (Aarhus, DK) and Flinders University’s ARC Discovery Project Deep History of Sea Country. A kitchen midden is a type of shell midden, distinctive in that 50% of its volume consists of shells or shell fragments, and the midden forms a continuous horizon exceeding 10 square meters. Since our return to Moesgaard Museum following the Hjarnø excavation, we have been sorting kitchen midden material, cleaning field equipment, and ensuring all of our work has been properly recorded. On 27 June 2017, we took time away from these duties to help recover a logboat from an underwater archaeological site on the island of Funan, immediately east of Jutland.

Off-roading our dive gear to the Ronæs Skov site. Photo: Peter Ross

The Ronæs Skov site, located in three meters of water in the Gamborg Fjord on the western side of Funen, is a sea-level transgressed site containing all of the archaeological signatures to indicate a hunter-gatherer settlement during the Late Ertebølle period (4,400 to 4,000 cal BC). It was discovered in the 1980s, and since then has been the subject of several excavations. Lots of fishing implements, woven purse fish traps, fish weirs, boat paddles, and other artefacts of both inshore and offshore fishing were recorded. Organic materials on underwater archaeological sites in Denmark are often preserved due to the anoxic conditions provided by gyttja, a type of mud formed from partially decayed peat. The Ronæs Skov site is slightly younger than the one we were excavating at Hjarnø and also features a shell midden, although it has not been excavated so we don’t know if it is a kitchen midden.

The logboat fragment in situ. Photo: Svenja Weise

A few weeks ago, a recreational SCUBA diver spotted fragments of a logboat on the site, recently revealed due to shifting sediments. Logboats were the earliest type of watercraft in Denmark, up to ten meters in length and usually made from the hollowed out trunks of lime trees. The Langeland Museum decided to recover the fragments in order to conserve them, and to prevent their possible loss. Otto Uldum from Langeland invited us to participate in this recovery because Moesgaard Museum is one of five museums responsible for managing the maritime cultural heritage in Denmark. Moesgaard staff have collaborated with Langeland Museum on other submerged archaeological projects over the past twelve years.

Archaeologists carry the first logboat fragment to shore. Photo: Peter Ross

Two weeks before our arrival, the logboat fragments were surveyed into the existing site plan, then covered with sand to protect them from damage. During our part of the project, two teams, each consisting of three divers, raised the logboat fragments. Two divers gently excavated the fragments, while the third diver used a video camera to fully document the process. The first team exposed the two largest fragments, each about 30cm x 40cm, arranged the fragments on fibercore panels for support and wrapped them with First Aid type roller bandages to prevent movement before placing them into plastic containers for safe transfer to the shore. The second team, consisting of your authors, finished recovering the smaller portions of the fragment using the same methods.

Conservators prepare the logboat fragments for transportation to Langeland Museum. Photo: Peter Ross

With the fragments on shore, the onsite conservator prepared the artefacts for transportation to Langeland Museum where they will be treated with polyethylene glycol to conserve the wood, and undergo further assessments related to species identification, radiocarbon dating, etc. The local media were interested in our work and reported the day’s events here (Danish only).

The British Library: where to begin?

The British Library, with its wide variety of valuable resources, is a very significant institution. When seated at your desk or sitting for a coffee, you are surrounded by other researchers from a range of disciplines. You really get the sense that you and those around you are trying to seek a greater understanding of the world. On a personal level, the time spent in this library really helps you to develop as an individual researcher. You will learn to read and decipher historical texts; your approach to written volumes and your choice of keywords will become strategically focused; and above all, you get a sense of excitement when stepping back in time and reading first-hand accounts relating to your field of study. Together, this is what makes visiting so worthwhile.

Located in Kings Cross, London, the British Library is one of the largest libraries in the world (Figure 1). It holds around 150 million items, including books, films, audio recordings, newspaper articles and websites. The library is also a legal repository for items published in Britain—meaning each year thousands of new publications are automatically added to the library’s stores. Considering that such a wealth of knowledge exists in a convenient location, the British library is a must-see for anyone carrying out British-related studies. Below is a brief description to help those who visit in the future.

Figure 1. The British Library. (K. Bennett 2017).

To access this treasure trove of resources you have to apply for a reading room access pass. You can preregister online or wait until you arrive at the library. The application itself is rather easy and less intimidating than you might expect. Upon entering the registration room, you are greeted by staff who ask you questions related to why you wish to have access to the reading rooms. Then, they ask to see two ‘official’ forms of identification as proof of address and proof of signature. A helpful hint, take note of what is ‘official’ and make sure you come prepared. Official forms of identification can be your passport, driver’s licence, gas bill, etc. They must be originals and cannot be photocopies. A driver’s licence (postal address) and a bank card (signature) are both fine to use.

As a researcher who travels from another country to visit, make sure you have prepared your official documents, otherwise your frequent flier miles might increase exponentially. It also helps to show some evidence of your studies. For example, a business card or a letter of course enrolment are equally as good. Once you have been signed off, you have your photo taken and given your own access card. This permits you to enter all of the reading rooms within the library.

Before entering the reading rooms, there are a couple of things that you need to do. Firstly, you need to search and request items you wish to view. The Library’s website has a very user-friendly searchable catalogue (https://www.bl.uk/) (Figure 2.). As long as you have your keywords in check, then it should be a fairly straightforward exercise. Once you have identified materials to view, you add them to your basket and then request them to be sent to a reading room. Some documents can be sent to different reading rooms, while others are limited to one room. For example, the East India Company Records are only accessible in the Asian and African Studies room. Depending on what you request, you may find yourself moving around the library. Bear in mind, you are limited to nine requests per day, but in reality that is plenty.

Figure 2. British Library website, catalogue search (Retrieved 5 July 2017, http://explore.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do?mode=Basic&vid=BLVU1&tab=local_tab&).

Secondly, if carrying notebooks, a laptop, camera, or other materials for note taking, you need to place these in a clear plastic bag. These plastic bags are provided free and are located near the cloakroom on the lower ground floor. If you are carrying a personal bag, you will need to check this in to the cloakroom because only clear bags are permitted in the reading rooms.

There are seven reading rooms for you to choose from (Figure 3). Depending on your subject matter, however, you will find yourself resident in one or two. As you enter the reading rooms, you need to show your reading room pass to security. After, you need to find a vacant desk and take note of the desk number. Once you set yourself up with your personal research materials, you then approach the collections desk and do three things. First, ask for the number of books you requested. Second, show them your reading pass. Last, quote the desk number where you are sitting. Also, a smile helps a lot! The staff will retrieve your book(s) and then you take them back to your desk.

Figure 3. Example of a reading room entrance. (K. Bennett 2017).

Be aware that the records you are looking through are original and delicate and some materials require extra support. In this case, you should use a pillow to help support these special items. Once you have finished using your resources, return them to the same place you collected them from. You then repeat these steps for the duration of your research.

Kurt Bennett is a PhD candidate in the Department of Archaeology, Flinders University. He is currently visiting the British Library to find archival materials relating to English East India Company ship construction.

Quantitative analysis of glass artifacts from marine environments using pXRF.

By Lily Rogers, Master of Maritime Archaeology student

This blog will explore a key issue relating to quantitative analysis of glass samples from marine contexts using pXRF. The purpose of quantitative analysis is to produce data relating to the exact relative quantities of major, minor and trace elements in glass samples (Shackley 2011:220). In relation to the analysis of historic glass, quantitative analysis is much more difficult than qualitative analysis and there are a range of factors that influence the accuracy of data produced (see Kaiser for an overview of these). These issues can be separated into two broad categories. The first relates to the limitations of the particular instrument used (this will not be discussed here) and the second relates to the condition of the glass samples themselves (Liu et al. 2012:2129).

Historic glass experiences surface alkali depletion due to weathering processes  and this will affect the accuracy of quantitative data (Kaiser and Shugar 2012). This is because pXRF is a surface analysis technique and processes such as weathering mean that tests on the surface of the glass are likely not to provide data that is representative of the bulk composition.  Liu et al. (2012), in their study of glass beads from archaeological sites across Xianjing, China, analysed the effects of unpolished surfaces in comparison to polished surfaces on pXRF analyses. Polishing involves removing a small portion of the weathered surface of the glass. Their study showed that analysis of weathered (unpolished) surfaces affected the accuracy of compositional data in terms of the quantities of all elements detected (Liu et al. 2012:2132). This study also showed that polishing a small area of the surface to remove the weathering increased the accuracy of the measurements.

Reference List

Liu, S. Q. H. Li, F. Gan, P. Zhang and J.W Lankton 2012 Silk road glass Xianjing, China: chemical compositional analysis and interpretation using a high-resolution portable XRF spectrometer. Journal of Archaeological Science 39:2128-2142.

Shackley S. 2011 X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (XRF) in Geoarchaeology. New York: Springer.



By Christine Adams, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management student

This is my final post on the Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests. During this directed study I have worked with Kylie Lower of Blackwood Heritage Consulting. I have learnt about the Nukunu community and the Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests, both of which I knew very little about before this project.  One of the project highlights was meeting members of the Nukunu community. Although, I did not visit Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests, through visiting Port Augusta I witnessed the Nukunu connection to Country and their culture. This experience, as well as the oral history interview and documentary sources, indicates their ongoing connection to Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests. Due to the presence of European sites, these forests are also likely to be significant to the descendants of European settlers and other members of the local community.

This project has also refreshed my memory of ArcGIS software. Regarding the research, it has surprised me that some information was relatively easy to find and yet some was very difficult to locate or couldn’t be found at all. I recently managed to find Lothar Brasse Architects’ conservation report, which provided further insights into the history of the forests and sites within the study area, and for environmental and geological information, Laut et al. 1977 was very useful. Also, a couple of PhD theses have been helpful for my research: Husmann 2004 and Krichauff 2014. It would be useful for future researchers to contact the South Australian Museum regarding relevant collections that they hold and to conduct archaeological surveys in the forests. The project has been very demanding but a worthwhile experience.


Husmann, J. 2004 Transplantations: a Comparative History of Afforestation in Nebraska and South Australia 1870s- 1940s. Unpublished history PhD thesis, Faculty of the Graduate College, The University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Krichauff, S. 2014 ‘Looking Back There was a Lot we Missed’: an Examination of how Settler Descendants from South Australia’s North-East Highland and Wirrabara Districts Know and Understand the Nineteenth-century Colonial Past. Unpublished PhD thesis, Faculty of Health, Arts and Design, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne.

Laut, P., P.C Heyligers, G. Keig, E Loffler, C Margules, R.M Scott and M.E. Sullivan 1977 Vol. 5 Environments of South Australia Province 5 Eastern Pastoral and Province 6 Flinders Ranges. Report for division of Land Use Research Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research organization Canberra, Australia.

Lothar Brasse Architects 2000 Bundaleer and Wirrabara Forest Reserves Conservation Plan. Unpublished report prepared for Forestry SA.

Introduction to PXRF Analysis of Glass Artefacts from the Marine Environment

By Lily Rogers, Master of Maritime Archaeology student

This semester I’ve been doing a Directed Study project as a part of my Masters in Maritime Archaeology.  I am doing my project at the Maritime Archaeology Department, based at the Western Australia Shipwreck Museum, and my person of contact is Assistant Curator Debra Shefi. My task is to produce a literature review on the potential for determining the provenance of glass from underwater shipwreck sites by determining its elemental composition using portable X-ray Fluorescence (pXRF) spectrometry. This is the first step in a larger project developed by Deb.

The development of pXRF technology is especially valuable in museum contexts as it allows for non-destructive analysis of artefacts. While this is one of the greatest benefits, it also poses one of the greatest problems for studying historic glass. This is because archaeological materials such as glass often have uneven surfaces, thicknesses and composition, as well as having undergone corrosion and leaching processes. pXRF is a surface sampling technique and the accuracy of the data it can produce is affected by all of these factors. The marine environment has an effect on the glass through corrosion (removing the surface of the glass) and leaching (removing chemical components of the glass). While there are many studies that deal with historic glass and pXRF in terrestrial contexts, a key aim of my literature review is to attempt to locate any research that deals with pXRF analysis on glass in the marine environment.

For more information on pXRF analysis of historic glass see:




Baby Killing

By Liam Blines, Diploma in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management Student

Cataloguing the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia South Australian branch collection has been a great learning opportunity for me. Each stage to date of this project has proved beneficial and, with limited prior cataloguing experience, this project has enabled me to test and develop the skills gained from my undergraduate degree. While yet to complete this project, I already feel a sense of pride due to my small contribution to the cultural heritage record.

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup

One item in particular caught my eye while removing and sorting objects from one of the initial storage boxes: a stopper-less glass bottle embossed with Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, as shown in the above photo. I am still unsure what exactly drew my attention to this bottle, but I found myself eager to research the bottle and its seemingly innocent ‘soothing syrup’ contents.

I was surprised by the volume of information available.  This ‘soothing syrup’ was a medicinal product created by Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow, a physician and nurse who had worked with children for nearly 30 years. In 1807, Mrs. Winslow created the soothing syrup to ease the restlessness of her children, particularly when her infant daughters were suffering from painful teething issues.

Mrs. Winslow later gave the syrup’s recipe to her son-in-law, Jeremiah Curtis, and his business partner, Benjamin A Perkins, druggists trading as Curtis & Perkins Co of Maine, USA. This company actively marketed Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup to North America and the British Commonwealth, placing highly maternal illustrations in recipe books, on trading cards and in calendars. 

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for Children Teething advertisement in 1885 (Canet and Castillo 2012:6-8)

The syrup’s formula consisted of morphine sulphate (related to heroin), aqua ammonia (a cleaning agent), sodium carbonate (a water softener) and spirits foeniculi (an alcohol specific to this syrup).  Initially, the soothing syrup contained 65mg of morphine per fluid ounce, but, following implementation of regulations in the early twentieth century, this amount was significantly reduced to 26mg in 1911 and finally totally removed from the formula in 1915.

In 1911, the American Medical Association published an article in its publication Nostrums and Quackery, in which they incriminated Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup by reporting it as a “baby killer”, based on claims the syrup was responsible for causing the deaths of young children.  Surprisingly, production continued, with the soothing syrup not withdrawn from sale in the UK until 1930.

Another unusual fact about this product is that a composition was written by the English composer Edward Elga in 1879 entitled ‘Mrs Winslow’s soothing syrup’!

Little did I know that such a plain looking bottle would have such a controversial history.


Canet J. and J. Castillo 2012 Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup. Anesthesiology 116:6-8.

Society of Historical Archaeology 2016 Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes: Medicinal/Chemical/Druggist Bottles. Retrieved 26 May 2017 from

Mapping and further research

By Christine Adams, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management student

As part of my Directed Study into Bundaleer and Wirrabara Forests, Kylie Lower of Blackwood Heritage Consulting and I created maps showing the locations of the Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests within the Nukunu Native Title Claim. The Native Title Claim is shown in orange and the forests in pink.

Bundaleer Forest map

Bundaleer Forest map


Wirrabarra map

Wirrabara Forest map

I have also been researching the general archaeological background of the Flinders Ranges, the archaeology of Nukunu lands, including the Bundaleer and Wirrabara Forests, the geology and vegetation of the region and historical information. Heritage register searches of the South Australian Museum database, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division (AARD) and South Australian Heritage Places Archives were also productive.

The Flinders Ranges has a long archaeological history, with the northern Flinders Ranges site of Warratyi dating to 50,000 years ago (Hamm et al. 2016:280). Although this site is further north than the area of my research, there are sites on Nukunu lands dating from 30,000 to 40,000 years ago (Walshe 2012:108-109; Walshe et al. 2001:7) and it is possible that there may be even older sites.

It has been easier to find historical information on Wirrabara Forest than on Bundaleer Forest but the reason for this is unclear, as they are both near towns. Due to technical problems I am yet to transcribe the oral history interview and only have my notes that I made at the time. Hopefully, it will be possible to transcribe this soon.


Hamm, G., P. Mitchell, L.J. Arnold, G.J Prideaux, D. Questiuax, N.A. Spooner, V.A. Levchenko, E.C. Foley, T.H. Worthy, B. Stephenson, V. Coulthard, C. Coulthard, S. Wilton and D. Johnston 2016 Cultural innovation and megafauna interaction in the early settlement of arid Australia. Nature 539 (7628):280-283.

Walshe, K., J. Prescott, F. Williams and M. Williams 2001 Preliminary investigation of Indigenous campsites in Late Quaternary dunes, Port Augusta, South Australia. Australian Archaeology 52:5-8.

Walshe, K. 2012 Port Augusta hearth site dated to 40,000 years. Australian Archaeology 74:106-110.