Author Archives: mickmorrison

The Medieval Adventures of an Archaeology Student in Ireland: Part 1

By Carly Strapps

Recently I travelled to Ireland and undertook three weeks of archaeological fieldwork training with the Irish Archaeological Field School. This opportunity presented itself when I was looking to visit friends in Ireland during my annual leave. With just a little bit of internet research, I discovered that a training excavation just happened to be running in the same town that I was visiting and at the same time that I would be there. It was perfect!

The Irish Archaeological Field School (IAFS) run a research and training excavation at Black Friary, Co. Meath, Ireland. The program has a strong focus on both teaching and community involvement, and is called the Blackfriary Community Archaeology Project. Black Friary is a 13th century, late medieval Dominican Friary. The site is situated outside the town walls of Trim – an Anglo-Norman medieval town. Students come from all over the world to work at this site. Not only is it a great way of gaining site-based experience on a real archaeological excavation, but it also has a strong focus on teaching methods and is university-accredited.

View of Trim, Co. Meath, from Trim Castle.

As I had only began my Graduate Diploma in Archaeology and Heritage Management with Flinders University this year, the training at Black Friary seemed like a fantastic opportunity.The IAFS offer three different courses for students, being An Introduction to Field Archaeology, Advanced Methods in Field Archaeology, and Introduction to Bioarchaeology and Osteoarchaeology. I had no previous experience in archaeological fieldwork and three weeks to spare, so I signed myself up for the two-week beginners course with one-week in bioarchaeology and osteoarchaeology.

Knowing that I was going to be working outdoors during an Irish summer as opposed to the summers I am used to in South Australia, I packed my gumboots and wet weather gear and off I went!

First Day on Site

I had a little trouble first locating the site, as it’s on a paddock and tucked behind a SuperValu supermarket. But when I finally found some grubby looking folk with trowels in their hands I knew I was in the right spot. I met up with the other students also starting on this date and we commenced our induction and tour.

The first thing I noticed about the site was that it was enormous. Twelve cuttings had been opened, and there were approximately fifty different students, supervisors and staff members working on various different tasks around the site. The second thing I noticed were all the sheep. They were under trees, around the features, in the cuttings. They were everywhere! Obviously both the sheep and team had become quite accustomed to each other’s presence. As I was soon to discover, they also liked to poo in the cuttings overnight. As you can imagine it was a nice surprise for us to remove each morning!

Partial view of the Black Friary site, sheep included!

Partial view of the Black Friary site, sheep included!

Continuing our tour we learnt that the IAFS had been excavating at the Black Friary site since 2010, making this year it’s fifth season. Two surveys were carried out prior to the excavation commencing, a geophysical survey and a topographical survey (informing the placement of the cuttings). There were no upstanding remains of the friary buildings above the ground, and only a few pieces of collapsed masonry could be seen. So far the cuttings had uncovered parts of the church, cloister, buildings and numerous burials.

Once the tour was done and we were handed our new gloves and trowels, it was finally time for us to begin!

Work begins!

For further information on the Irish Archaeological Field School visit:

The Flinders Archaeology Blog: one year on

Hello everyone,

As one of the blog admins I thought it might be time to give readers a brief snapshot of how things are going with the blog and also to seek some ideas and inspiration for its ongoing improvement in 2012.

In summary, things have been going extremely well with the blog since we redeveloped it in 2011. We have a steady stream of new posts – on average around two per week –  that  represent  the broad range of activities that our students and staff are involved in. We have on average around 1500 hits per month and around 50-70 hits per day, most of which come from search engine traffic. The most interesting statistics though are for the top  posts for the last 12 months and I’m pleased to report our ‘top 5 for 2011-2012′:

  1. Alex Kilpa’s The Magnetometer and its use in Underwater Archaeology with 488 views.
  2. Kyle Lent’s The Methodology of Dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) with 440 views
  3. Dennis Wilson’s Side Scan Sonar: The Key to Underwater Survey with 405 views
  4. Dennis Wilson’s The Survivor’s Guide to Practicum: One Man’s Journey to Maritime Fieldwork Enlightenment with 352 views
  5. Danielle Wilkinson’s Lights Cameras…Artefact! with 349 views.

So well done to all of you for writing such great posts! There are a couple of strong themes here. First maritime students clearly rock when it comes to writing blog posts as they  made up 9 of the 10 top posts for the year. Second, most of the top 20 posts had one thing in common: they provided tips, guides, or overviews of particular topics or methods that might be helpful to others. That is, rather than writing opinion pieces or posts about what they had done, they wrote to try to help others. Maybe there is something in that for those of you writing over the coming year?

I’ve added a screen grab of the top 20 posts for the year below.

Our top posts for 2011-12

Another important number that I think is worth mentioning here are our subscriber statistics. Last I looked, there were 559 people who are subscribed to our blog! That’s quite a readership and shows just how much interest there is in what we do here in the Archaeology Department. It also illustrates why it is important to make sure you write as well as you can when posting here: who knows who’s reading your work?

So where are we headed in 2012? Well, we do have a few ideas. For example, we think that there is quite a lot of design work we can do to improve the blog: archaeologists take fantastic pictures and so we would like to be able to use more of those around the site; the overall layout is a little dry, so we’ll be updating to make it more visually appealing; we also want more social media integration to make it easier for people to share our great content through Facebook and Twitter. We’re also toying with the idea of installing Buddypress so that we can build more of a community around the blog (see what they do with Buddypress at CUNY for example).

What I want to know from our users and our readers is this: what do you think we should do? What features are missing? What kinds of posts do you want to see? What don’t you like? Leave a comment below or drop me an email at [email protected]. They’ll all be taken on board as we develop the site from here forward.

Thanks once again, particularly to our bloggers for all of your hard work and energy and congratulations again to Alex, Kyle, Dennis and Danielle and all of the other top 20 bloggers for the year!

Mick Morrison

Community based research at the Marranggung burial ground, Tailem Bend

By Michael Diplock, Associate Lecturer in Archaeology

On the 11 & 12 June this year a small group of students & staff from the Archaeology Department at Flinders were treated to a special weekend alongside the majestic (& very healthy looking) Murray River at Maranggung near Tailem Bend. We had been invited to share some of our survey and geophysics skills in a joint project involving members of Karpinyeri  Inc, Assoc. from Tailem Bend SA.

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Inside the British Museum…

This is guest post by Oliver Spiers, Trainee Curator- British Museum who graduated from our program early in 2011. You can read Olly’s thesis here [pdf].

Having recently completed a Masters in Cultural Heritage Management at Flinders there comes a point where you finally submit, take a sigh of relief and then think ‘what the hell am I going to do now?’ I was lucky enough to come across a traineeship at the British Museum called the Future Curators project.

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Welcome to the new Flinders Archaeology Blog!

Welcome everyone!

Many of you will be aware that for the past few years the Flinders University Archaeology Department has maintained a small blog. Late last year, we decided to move it to a new home here at  Although we’ve imported all of our old content, we’ve significantly changed the look and feel of the blog and it will be operated a little differently. In this post, we want to outline the purpose of the new site, highlight some of its key features and take some time to encourage you all to to think about how you might be able to contribute.

We have developed this site as an information hub for existing and potential students, community members, industry partners and others who have an interest in our activities. We hope that it will be of particular value to existing students who want to build their own online portfolio of work and for distance students who want to become more involved in the archaeology community at Flinders. Industry and community partners are also very important to us and so we hope that the new blog will allow you to find out more about our activities and to promote the projects and opportunities that you or  your organisation is involved in.

Your feedback and input is also very important to us. Commenting is entirely open and we welcome ideas or suggestions about particular articles or the site in general. You can contact us directly through our contact form, or you can share you thoughts and provide feedback using our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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