Tag Archives: Archaeology

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.

A New Perspective

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

I enrolled in the Directed Studies subject coordinated by Associate Professor Heather Burke, who will assist me throughout the project’s duration. On reviewing the available Industry Partner study opportunities, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (SA Branch) (PSSA) provided the opportunity to analyse a collection consisting of a wide variety of 19thPSA building and 20th century pharmaceutical products and paraphernalia. I had not previously considered that an institution such as a pharmaceutical society would own such an extensive collection, which changed my perspective in relation to the scope of collection-holders.

The aim of the pharmaceutical project is to catalogue a significant selection of the PSSA’s collection and then produce a report on the catalogued items, ultimately drawing conclusions about their significance from the recorded data.

A nPSA building 2ew topic area personally, the PSSA project will be the most extensive ongoing cultural heritage archaeological volunteer work I have been involved in to date and will provide a great opportunity for skills and knowledge development.

Cultural heritage in the forests

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

I am currently undertaking a Directed Study in Archaeology as part of my Graduate Diploma of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management. My industry partner is Kylie Lower of Blackwood Heritage Consulting. The project is to perform a desktop study of the Wirrabara and Bundaleer Forests in the southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia, which were burnt during a recent bushfire. A desktop study means researching a site through journal articles and other materials, including websites and books. This project will also involve conducting oral history interviews with one of the local Indigenous groups– the Nukunu—and using ArcGIS software to map the forests.

My first task is to write a cultural and environmental background for the area. Besides the area now covered by the Bundaleer and Wirrabara Forests, the Nukunu also inhabit other areas, including Port Pirie, Mount Remarkable and Port Augusta. The Bundaleer Forest was the first forest planted in Australia in 1875. The Wirrabara Forest was planted shortly after in 1877. The planting of the Wirrabara Forest was on the White family’s land, which they had inhabited since 1844. Not surprisingly, its original name was White’s Forest. These plantations were used for logging. Known historic sites in Bundaleer Forest include the cottage of the first nurseryman, William Curnow, the conservator’s hut and the first forestry office.

Curnow's Cottage, Bundaleer Forest

Curnow’s Cottage, Bundaleer Forest, courtesy of Forestry SA

As loggers’ families lived near the Wirrabara forest, the first provisional school was established there in 1881. This building was also used for church services and became the community’s centre. I look forward to learning more about these places.


Forestry South Australia n.d. Wirrabara Forest Visitor Information. Accessed 17 Mar 2017 from .

Sizer, H. 1974 Yet Still They Live: Wirrabara’s Story. Location unknown: Lutheran Publishing House.


Commissioner: An Undiscovered Shipwreck

By Cameron Mackay, Graduate Diploma in Maritime Archaeology student

Over the last few months I have been busy working and developing my methodology, which I have shared with you, and have managed to generate my results for Heritage Victoria. So obviously this will be my last blog post.

I have decided to use this blog to discuss one more vessel.

Introducing Commissioner: an early torpedo boat that was built for war to protect Australia.

captureA torpedo boat is a small vessel that is designed for speed and to carry ordnance into battle to be deployed before retreating. Australia had a very limited arsenal of torpedo boats, especially in Victoria.

Commissioner was built in 1878 and was  one of the first torpedo boats capable of firing a Whitehead torpedo in Australia. The Whitehead torpedo was one of the first self-propelled torpedoes. Some of the activities that Commissioner took part in were night patrols and dealing with pirates. The vessel eventually sunk in 1914 while being towed from Melbourne to Sydney for a refit, due to extensive use having left the vessel in poor shape.

This ship forms one of my top 20 because of its historic nature and social connection to Australia through its role of protection. The vessel was also rare in design, with only five other torpedo boats having existed in Victoria. The report of its sinking also suggests that the vessel may still be somewhat intact if discovered, which would provide insight into its construction style.

I would like to thank Heritage Victoria for the opportunity that was provided to me. Special thanks go to everyone in the Maritime department who guided me through the development of significance and answered all my inquiries around the database.

Some of the skills I have taken from my time with Heritage Victoria include developing my database work, writing skills, organisation of data and research skills.

The ‘Last Post’ on the Archaeology of Cable Ties: everyday icons

by Aylza Donald, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology and Heritage Management student

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This is the last of four blog posts I have written as part of my Directed Study project on cable ties. In this post I’m summarising my project and identifying some things I wish I had been able to investigate further.

This is my contextualisation of cable tie invention, development and spread, there are other ways to do it, but this one is mine.

When I came to write this last blog post I kept thinking about the US Marine Corps Creed which begins ‘This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine’. I’ve turned the saying around a bit so it encapsulates the process of my research. There ARE other ways of approaching and investigating cable ties, but this one is mine. The saying might have got into my head because I have spent so much time investigating cable ties in relation to military conflict, but I suspect it also has to do with my approach to events and processes, as well as my reading across disciplines, including military and technical histories, Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) and material culture studies, anthropology, archaeology and the work of French Theorist Paul Virilio, who ‘writes of the military conception of history’ (Armitage 2000:np). I chose to focus on military contexts and the contexts of ‘Globalisation’, ‘Supermodernity or ‘Hypermodernity’ and ‘Hyperconsumerism’. This led me down some very interesting avenues of research, so much so that it has been hard to choose what to include in the project paper and what to leave out.

I picked three innovations which influenced the invention of cable ties and were shaped by military priorities during World War Two. The development of the aviation gas turbine or ‘jet’ engine directly contributed to what cable tie inventor Maurus C. Logan saw on his visit to a Boeing plant in 1956, which is when he identified the need for his invention. The capacity to manufacture cable ties was directly related to the development and refinement of nylon material and injection moulding technology during the war.

The Ilyushin IL-28 (Beagle) Tactical Strike Medium Bomber was the first Soviet jet powered bomber and entered service in 1949: Image and information courtesy of the Military Factory http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=552

The Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle Tactical Strike Medium Bomber was the first Soviet jet powered bomber which entered service in 1949: Image and information courtesy of the Military Factory http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=552

The ‘Cold War’, and Korean and Vietnam Wars heralded a worldwide jet aircraft design and building phase. Increasing numbers of both military and civilian jet engine aircraft were manufactured because their

low weight-to-power ratio of gas turbines and their increasingly powerful thrust made them the unrivaled prime-mover choice for all post-World War II fighters and bombers and for commercial … aviation.

(Smil 2010:96)

It is not possible to guess which aircraft Logan saw being built when he visited the Boeing assembly plant in 1956 but it is fairly likely it was a jet engine aircraft. Logan timed his invention brilliantly. More and more jet aircraft were being built, using technology which meant more and more cabling was required in each aircraft. The significance of this timing should not be underestimated. Had he come up with the idea in the 1930s it may not have been successful. Without WW2 the development of aviation jet engines would still have occurred, but would have taken longer.

Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker Inflight Refueling Special Purpose Aircraft which first entered service in 1956: Image courtesy of the Military Factory http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=53

Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker Inflight Refueling Special Purpose Aircraft which first entered service in 1956: Image and information courtesy of the Military Factory http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=53

The Cold War went hand in hand with the ‘Space Race’. The USA were beaten to the jump to get the first orbiting satellite into space when the Soviets launched the ‘Sputnik’ in 1957 (Cowan 1997:266). The USA poured money into research and development to try to catch up and surpass the Soviet space program. So not only were more aircraft with more cables built, but more missiles, satellites and spacecraft were designed and manufactured, along with more launch pads and satellite tracking stations, all of which used extensive and complex cabling. So Logan’s invention ‘caught the wave’ of both intensive jet aircraft manufacture and aerospace applications. This close association with military and aerospace applications also contributed to cable ties being subject to particular standards and military specifications.

Blue Streak British medium-range ballistic missile diagram: Image courtesy of Royal Air Force Spadeadam http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafspadeadam/gallery/historyinpictures.cfm?start=25&viewmedia=12

Diagram of the Blue Streak British medium-range ballistic missile designed during the 1950s:
Image courtesy of Royal Air Force Spadeadam http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafspadeadam/gallery/historyinpictures.cfm?start=25&viewmedia=12

The advent of ‘globalisation’, ‘supermodernity or ‘hypermodernity’ and ‘hyperconsumerism’ drove changes in cable tie manufacture, distribution and consumption. Essentially, more and more cable ties are being produced and consumed and in increasing varieties. At the same time changes in the automotive, electrical, personal computing and home theatre arenas have resulted in an ever-increasing number of ‘things’ connected with cables becoming part of the domestic sphere. There are ‘cable management’ requirements in homes and offices, as well as myriads of other uses. This proliferation is a hallmark of contemporary material culture and is related to ‘the incredibly rapid rate of technological change, which produces a situation where there is a great deal of variation in the uptake of different forms of technology’ (Harrison and Schofield 2010: 178).

My cable tie database research demonstrated the vast extent of cable tie manufacture and consumption. Reviewing company websites selected on particular criteria led to a series of ‘unknown unknowns’. I had fairly strict criteria for companies to be included in my research but I found the numbers and types of cable ties they stocked could vary from fairly basic and manageable to over a thousand items per company. I restricted the information I included, because to include details of all the kinds of cable ties would take a lifetime, possibly longer.

There are lots of unanswered questions that I wish I had time to fit into this project. I wonder how aircraft wiring and cabling was managed in World War Two, and what cable management techniques the Soviet Union used during the Cold War and Space Race. I’m still curious about the crossover from specialised aerospace to everyday life. Although it pretty much coincides with globalisation, the move into the domestic sphere must have started gradually and it would be worth investigating the minutia of that process. I started this project because I wanted to know more about cable ties. The more I have learned about them, the more I realise I don’t know. I submitted a cable ties poster to the WAC8 Conference with my industry partner for this project, Dr Alice Gorman, so I am happy that the end of this project is not the end of my cable tie research.

Victoria’s Most Wanted

By Cameron Mackay, Graduate Diploma in Maritime Archaeology

As stated previously, I am creating a list of Victoria’s top 20 undiscovered shipwrecks. This is the second instalment of my four-part blog series. In the previous instalment I addressed significance and the role it plays within archaeology and cultural heritage.

This time I shall focus on the main aims of the project and how significance values have been used in developing the list. The intention of the list is to direct the limited resources of both Heritage Victoria and interested community groups, such as the Maritime Archaeology Association of Victoria ( MAAV), to research the sites that have potential to contribute most to the understanding of Victoria’s maritime heritage.

The MAAV is an active group of divers, historians and archaeologists who research, survey and promote maritime history and archaeology. It is hoped that producing a list of the State’s “Most Wanted” wrecks will provide a focus for community engagement with Victoria’s most significant shipwrecks.

Since my previous post I have modified my methodology. Instead of including the requirement that all sites in the list meet at least one significance criterion, I have increased the number of criteria that need to be met to a minimum of six. This has enabled me to quickly reduce the total number of sites being examined from 450 to 60 of the most potentially significant sites. This approach has also allowed me to continue to work within the project’s tight time frame.

From this first, fairly coarse, ranking system I have attempted to develop a more nuanced ranking within each defined significance criterion. The intention of the ranking is to filter the remaining 60 sites in the most objective way. My method has been to identify a number of subcategories under each of the main significance headings and assign each a value of between one and five, based on defined definitions addressing each value, thus providing a possible maximum score of 105 overall from the seven significance categories. The final score is multiplied by a factor of 0.9524 to reduce the score to a percentage (value out of 100). When it comes to examining the 60 sites this value of 100 will assist in providing an overall ranking and a degree of separation between wrecks to create a list of the top 20.

It is important to note that, while my method attempts to provide an objective measure of significance by assigning values to subcategories within each significance criterion, the value assigned to each will still ultimately depend on the person assessing the information available for each wreck.

It’s also important to note that, for a list of the top 20 most wanted wrecks, significance will not be the only factor that needs to be considered. Other factors will also need to be taken into account to generate the final “Most Wanted” list. Some of these are:

  • Mystery;
  • Environment; and
  • External Interest.

Mystery is a factor that should be considered, as there will be more public interest in a ship that may have been carrying gold or that mysteriously disappeared, or that we know little about. The environment is another factor: a vessel that is recorded as being buried under large amounts of sediments or existing in a high energy environment will be more difficult to record than one that sits in a low energy environment. Finally, external interest from other parties should be considered in case research is already being focused on certain wrecks, or an industry has formed in relation to the shipwreck that may increase its importance or the interest that is generated around it. An example is the Curlip shipwreck. The Curlip has had a cruise industry built in memory of the ship, in addition to a replica vessel, Curlip II, due to the importance it had in the local area.


The Paddle Steamer Curlip II at sunset on the Snowy River. http://www.abc.net.au/local/videos/2008/11/28/2431977.htm accessed 8/9/16

If the site was discovered it could possibly generate interest and media, while also providing support for the Curlip II; this means that the importance of the site could be increased.




The Archaeology of Cable Ties: everyday icons

by Aylza Donald, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology and Heritage Management student

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This is the third of four blog posts I am writing for my directed study course this semester. In my first post I wrote about my approach to this project. In my second blog post I discussed some of the reading I was doing, while figuring out how to place cable tie development in a technological, social and political context. This blog post is about some of my data collection challenges and the strategies I’m using to address them. It’s also about my efforts to understand how standards and specifications operate for cable ties, as there is more than one kind of organisation involved in this, and more than one type of classification.

One of the aims of this project is to research contemporary and recent cable tie variations, with Australia as a case study. Another aim is to make a database of cable tie morphology and variation, including specifications, suppliers and manufacturers in Australia. The database will provide a sample of the types of cable ties currently in use and facilitate future research. It will also supplement data from the Flinders archaeology field school at the Orroral Valley NASA Tracking Station, which documents types of cable ties used in this installation between 1965 and 1985 (Gorman 2016:103).

Before starting this project I knew there were many kinds of cable ties in automotive suppliers, marine chandleries and hardware shops. I was prepared to select a range of companies making and /or selling a variety of cable ties to demonstrate what is currently available in Australia. I was aware that documenting all manufacturers and suppliers and all available cable ties would not be possible in one semester: or even in one year. My intention was to categorise some of the key features of the cable ties stocked by the companies I selected, and enter them into a database along with the company details.

Some preliminary investigations into the range of cable ties online, including retail and wholesale suppliers, made me realise I would only be able document a small proportion of what was available. For everyday items that are seemingly so simple, cable ties are actually quite diverse. While it is tempting to think of them as all being the same, they are actually made in different sizes, colours and materials as well as to particular specifications, features, standards and classifications. Further online investigations into companies making and/or selling cable ties in Australia revealed far more businesses than I had imagined, selling more kinds of cable ties than I ever thought possible. On the one hand, this means making strict criteria for my database so I’m not swamped with more data than I can deal with. On the other hand, just having such a huge range is a kind of data in itself. Other contemporary material culture items such as shipping containers have become more standardised in terms of size and shape since the first commercial shipment in the late 1950s (Levinson 2006). Cable ties, which were invented about the same time as the first container shipment, have proliferated into every colour and size imaginable, with variations in materials, types, designs and features.

I carried out a targeted online search to identify companies for my database. In amongst the names of companies making and /or selling cable ties, I found some unexpected results, such as; putting cable ties on bicycle helmets to keep magpies away, stopping people from opening your suitcase when you are travelling, and a stunning cable tie ring (see Figure 1 below). The appearance of the cable tie ring, which can be made in ‘sterling silver, 9ct yellow, white or rose gold or platinum’, reinforced my idea that cable ties are examples of everyday material culture which have iconic status. There is something symbolic about being able to wear a platinum ring modelled on such a humble object.

Figure 1: Cable tie ring - Image courtesy of RPM Jewellery - Australian Made Custom Designs (http://www.rpmjewellery.com.au/shop/home.php)

Figure 1: Cable tie ring – Image courtesy of RPM Jewellery – Australian Made Custom Designs (http://www.rpmjewellery.com.au/shop/home.php)

As well as coming to grips with the database, I’ve been investigating cable tie specifications and standards. ‘All cable ties are not created equal’ and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), a US based organisation sets technical standards for many products, including cable ties. There are also military specifications and standards for cable ties such as the Aerospace Standard SAE-AS23190C (SAE 2015) set by SAE International, a worldwide association of engineers and technical experts. Other cable tie standards are also available from an independent global safety company called Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL). Some overseas countries have specific standards for cable ties in electrical installations but I have not been able to find any equivalent Australian standards. The Australian and New Zealand Installation and safety requirements for photovoltaic (PV) arrays AS/NZS5033:2014 (Standards Australia 2014), and Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules) AS/NZS3000:2007 (Standards Australia 2007), are not free to download, so I haven’t been able to see if they deal specifically with cable ties. I have noticed some companies in my database use the UL standards to indicate the quality of their cable ties, perhaps because it is a global company.

Selecting data for the database has been a challenge. To limit the number of companies I have used fairly strict inclusion criteria. I have also decided to summarise some key details about the cable ties being made and/or sold, and chosen specific cable tie characteristics to focus on. Learning about the different standards and specifications has made choosing these characteristics much easier. I’m categorising the cable ties based on whether or not they meet the requirements of named standards and specifications and identifying which standards and or specifications are being met. Even though marshalling this information sometimes feels like herding cats, I think it is capturing a sample of current cable tie use in Australia which can contribute to future research.


SAE International 2015 SAE Standard AS23190C: Wiring, Positioning, and Support Accessories. SAE International Publications, Warrendale, PA.

Standards Australia 2007 Australian Standard AS/NZS 3000:2007: Electrical installations (known as the Australian/New Zealand Wiring Rules). Standards Australia, Sydney.

Standards Australia 2014 Australian Standard AS/NZS5033 2014: Australian and New Zealand Installation and safety requirements for photovoltaic (PV) arrays. Standards Australia, Sydney.