Author Archives: tlally33

The South Australian Archaeology Database Now Complete

Apologies to all who have been following my Directed Study blog posts and have realised I’m yet to write my fourth and final blog. Due to working on a dig here in the UK in a remote area, very limited access to the internet and a busy working schedule I have finally gotten around to completing the South Australian Archaeology Database and report.

The database project started way back in March, with the aim of creating a user-friendly and publicly available database of Indigenous archaeological sites located along the South Australian coastline. After several trips to the South Australian State Library, and hours spent looking through journals online, the archival research phase of the project uncovered 347 archaeological sites. The sites were found across the Adelaide Plains, Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula, west coast, Nullarbor Plain and Kangaroo Island.


Figure 1 – Example from Database

Once the database had been compiled and edited to a professional standard, the next phase of the project was to create a spatial distribution map in ESRI ArcGIS 10.1©.


Figure 2 – Spatial Distribution Map of Sites

As the database and map were both being constructed, general patterns started to emerge in the data, which formed the basis for the analysis of the data. The aim of the analysis was to determine how South Australian Indigenous archaeology fit into the continental narratives of prehistoric Australia, and what the current gaps in the archaeological record of the region were.

Using ArcMap and ArcCatalog software, site distribution patterns, proximity analyses in relation to site distances from the coast and water courses, environmental context investigations and colonisation model conformity based on dated sites were undertaken and revealed some intriguing and useful information on the archaeology of South Australia.

From the results, it could be seen that some site types were only found in certain geographic regions, while others, such as stone artefact scatters, were found in great numbers across the entire study area. Large proportions of sites were found to be within short distances of both the coast and of fresh water courses. Many sites were also located in protected areas of current-day land zones.


Figure 3 – Site types per geographic region


Figure 4 – Site frequencies and distances from coast

Only 12 of a possible 347 sites provided reliable dates, from which some minimal conclusions could be drawn as to how the study area fits into colonisation patterns, and more dates would need to be determined in order to make definitive concluding statements. The results disagreed with both Bowdler and Horton that settlement was along coastal areas before moving into central Australia, but conformed closely to Veth et al’s (2011) colonisation model of simultaneous settlement of all habitats through information exchange.


Figure 5 – Dated sites from project in chronological order

The database stands to be a key addition to the current archaeological record for South Australian archaeology as it has pulled together all the accessible publications available for the state into one, easy to use database. There were a large number of restricted survey reports and journal articles that would have helped to create a more complete database for South Australia, but this project has constructed a sound foundation to build upon.

From Coast to Coast, And All The Sites In Between


Figure 1 – Site locations across study area

After weeks of scanning survey reports for sites, and hours spent with my head in books reading up on archaeological sites in my project study area, my database is now complete. From my research, the Nullarbor Plain, West Coast, Eyre Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula, Adelaide Plains and Kangaroo Island contain a total of 347 sites that lie within 50km of South Australia’s coastline. My aim now is to extract as much information about the sites in the area and begin to analyse the distribution of these sites. My main objective is to determine why sites appear where they do, where there are gaps in the record and why sites don’t appear in some geographical areas. Some basic data has already been gathered and is shown below:


Now that I have gathered all the locational data for the sites, I have been able to display them on a map to see the spread of archaeological sites across the region. From the maps below, you can see that there is no real trend in how sites are distributed across each region. Kangaroo Island appears to have an even spread of sites, both along the coast and inland, while the Nullarbor and Adelaide Plains sites are predominantly found inland. Sites on the Eyre Peninsula and west coast are almost entirely found on the coast or very close to it, while the distribution of sites on the Yorke Peninsula is mostly on the coast, but with many of them further inland.


Figure 2 – Distribution of sites on Kangaroo Island


Figure 3 – Distribution of sites across Nullarbor Plain

It is very basic observations such as these that will help me to conduct more in-depth analyses about site distributions. It may be the case that areas with sites predominantly along the coast are made up of only midden and fish trap sites, which would lure me to investigate whether landform types are having something to do with the lack of inland sites. These answers will hopefully be answered for my fourth and final blog post in a few weeks.

What’s Out West (And Now A Little Bit South) #2

study area

New project study area (source: Google Maps)

Since my last post the wheels have started turning and my directed study has started to gather some momentum. My aim for this project is now not only to create a publicly accessible database on coastal Indigenous sites in South Australia, and produce a subsequent map, but to then use the data collected as a predictive model to analyse where sites can be found and why they might appear there. Another aim is to establish where there are gaps in this sort of knowledge in South Australia, and determine where more extensive work could be carried out in the future.

After a few more meetings with Mick Morrison to discuss necessary information on sites for the database, and countless hours spent in the State Library fossicking through survey reports and sometimes quite old pamphlets, my database appears to be complete. In total, I came across 327 documented sites from Kangaroo Island (now included in the study area), the Adelaide Plains, Yorke and Eyre Peninsula’s, the West Coast and the Nullarbor Plain. The fields of data chosen to include in the database were based on Ulm and Reid’s (2000) ‘Index of Dates from Archaeological Sites in Queensland’, which basically did what I am currently doing, but for the whole of Queensland. This survey is where the idea behind my current research project has come from.


Excerpt from database

Another key component of this project is the map, which is created from the data collected. The idea here is to create a basic map in ArcGIS with the site locations included and overly this on a basic map of South Australia with several environmental, hydrological and geological layers to help in my eventual analysis of why sites are where. One of the problems I have run into with the map at the moment is the fact that only very few of the 327 sites, have provided locational data that can be transferred accurately to a GIS. Some of the grid references that were provided on certain sites do not fit accurately with a GIS as can be seen in the map I have begun creating below:


The yellow points represent sites that should be on the Nullarbor Plain

There have been some success stories, particularly with the Yorke Peninsula sites and locational data. One survey report on the area contained a map of the region with previous archaeological surveys drawn in. After mapping the sites mentioned in the survey, the resulting map correlated very well with areas that had been surveyed previously, proving that the co-ordinates collected at the time were very accurate.


Previous survey studies (source: Wood & Westell 1998)


Mapped sites

By my next post I intend to have my database published to a professional standard and can start critically analysing the data present. I am also aiming to have my map completed with all 327 sites included, which will assist in the analysis of the archaeology of Indigenous coastal sites in South Australia.

What’s Out West

Hi guys, my name is Tom Lally, long time reader but first time blogger. As some of you may be aware, the Directed Study topic, as part of the Grad-Dip in Archaeology here at Flinders is often undertaken by many of us Post-Grads. It gives us the chance to work with industry partners and undertake an in-depth research project into an area of CHM or archaeology.

For this semester I have chosen to assist Flinders’ own Mick Morrison, as well as a number of other collaborators, to develop a database that simplifies the results of published archaeological research on Indigenous heritage places in South Australia. The aim is to make the database publicly accessible and easily understandable so that members of the public, as well as Indigenous communities, can more easily access this information.

The study area for the project is the coastline from Adelaide’s CBD to the Western Australia-South Australia border, with a 50km inclusion zone of inland sites.


Figure 1 – Study area of project (source: Google Maps)

The project is basically split into three components: the database of known/published sites in the area; a map of site locations; and finally an analysis of the archaeology in the area, which will form the basis for my report at the end of the project.

When I first started conducting research on archaeology in this large area, I was turning up very few results, leading me to believe that there were either no known sites across this massive area, or more probably, that none had been made publicly accessible. It turns out that it was more of the latter, with some more in-depth research leading me to a handful of site surveys of the Yorke Peninsula, Lower Eyre Peninsula, the Eyre Peninsula as a whole and the Nullarbor Plain. After reading these surveys I am now aware of around 300 known sites in the study area!

The variety of sites present in the area includes fish traps, artefact scatters, middens, rockshelters, rockholes, a former Mission site, burials and stone artefact quarries.

By my next post I aim to have a completed database so I can start to piece together a detailed record of archaeology in the area and begin making a map of these to see if there are any emerging patterns in site locations.