Category Archives: Student Posts

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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.

Toodyay Cemeteries Come to an End

To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.
THOMAS CAMPBELL, Hallowed Ground

By Rebecca Doughty, Graduate Diploma of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management student

My final blog is written in memory of the courageous and adventurous explorers who founded the town of Toodyay and specifically the early settlers who have made it the town we see today. The burials of these prominent and key figures in the Toodyay cemeteries are testament to the social and economic status they enjoyed in life.

The phrase above suggests an easy life and a rich one, but the lives of these important men and women did not come easy and the only wealth they had to show was that which they made themselves.

Nardie Cemetery houses the descendants of the Chitty and Ferguson families, both of whom were prominent members of society during the settlement of Toodyay. Generations of family members are buried either here or in the Toodyay Cemetery and descendants still reside in the town today, committed to its upkeep and contributing to the community as their namesakes did long ago.

Katrine Cemetery contains a large component of the Sinclair family, with large family plots and generations of burials. The Sinclairs who reside in Toodyay today have carried on family occupations such as farming and teaching and work in cultural heritage for the Shire of Toodyay.

Culham Cemetery boasts the burials of early founders and settlers of the Phillip and Syred families. Both families contributed considerably to the early settlement of the township and outlying regions, such as Bejoording and Culham, setting up a church, schools and a smithy. Descendants of the families remain in the region, contributing to the community, as did  previous generations of their families.

Toodyay Cemetery protects and reveres the families of Butterly, Harper and Drummond, all early founders and settlers of the region. Again, descendants of these families remain in the region and continue to support the community. Drummond was one of the original explorers and Harper the Reverend of the Avon Valley. Each of them have streets and monuments in their honour.

So ends my affair with the Cemeteries of Toodyay. Whilst it has been interesting, enjoyable and at times sad, on completion of my report for the Cultural Heritage Officer to add to the historical record of the region, it will also bring  a sense of righteousness to allow these souls to rest in peace.

Nardie Cemetery, Dumbarton

Thank you for reading and I hope you have enjoyed the stroll through the cemeteries of Toodyay, WA.

Establishing Connections

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

At the initial March meeting with Helen Stone, the head of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (South Australia) (PSSA), details were discussed concerning the collection, as well as our mutual objectives for this project. Helen highlighted  a previous attempt at cataloguing the collection during the 1990s, but the associated records are yet to be located:  only photo catalogues have been found. This meeting also included a tour of the PSSA offices, including the two rooms in which the majority of the collection resides. One of the items that Helen showed me was highly significant: the veterinary case used by Sir Douglas Mawson.

This was made in London by the British pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome & Co. The kit consists of an assortment of medical supplies, including: aspirin, rhubarb compounds, chromatic chalk powder and opium, potassium iodine, tannin, and benzoic acid compound. Additionally, there are poisons, such as boric acid, lead and potassium permanganate.

As part of my future research analysis of this collection, I will be trying to find out whether or not this veterinary case did indeed go on Mawson’s expeditions to Antarctica. If this case did return from Antarctica it is a remarkable feat and would make it even more important. The details concerning how the veterinary case came into the PSA’s possession are yet to be determined.

Other important items Helen showed me were some books, one of which – the Bibliothece Pharmaceutico Medica­­ – is over 300 years old and was written by Swiss physician Johannes Jacobi Mangeti (or Jean Jacques Manget) in 1704 and published in Geneva, Switzerland by Chouet, G. De Tournes, Cramer, Perachon, Ritter, & S. De Tournes. This book is one of two volumes; this volume focusses on pharmaceutical remedies and plants used for medical purposes. Additional information concerning how any of the books became part of the collection is yet to be determined, but I am hoping to locate donor documents to assist with identifying this information.

On completion of the tour, Helen and I discussed the project at length and our respective hopes and aspirations for the outcome of the cataloguing project.  During this discussion, I outlined to Helen the necessary processes that I intended to undertake to ensure comprehensive work was conducted, including Excel-based data recording, high quality photography and tag labelling of each item. It was during this exchange that Helen and I discovered that her father, Dr Bob Stone, who also works at Flinders University, had previously tutored me in a couple of my undergraduate classes.

Prior to the meeting’s conclusion, Helen provided me with some literature on the PSSA and other relevant information, and advised that the PSSA branches in other states also have similar collections with little known in relation to their respective contents.

In cataloguing the maximum number of items possible within the constrained time-frame, I will also be aiming to ensure the work undertaken is thorough, with errors/issues minimised.