Tag Archives: Flinders University

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

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.

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.

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.


The Archaeology of Cable Ties: everyday icons

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

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In my last blog post I explain how my research process involves being reflexive and writing the anthropological ‘I’. This is for two principal reasons: firstly, because I’m an anthropologist and, secondly, because researchers are always ‘positioned’ in relation to their research. I note that the ‘archaeologist as researcher’ doesn’t appear in most of the archaeological literature I’ve read, and admit that I might not have read widely enough because I’m new to the discipline.

Since then I’ve realised I need to know more about archaeology in order to investigate the technological, social and political contexts of cable ties like an archaeologist. So I’ve read an historical overview of archaeology (Trigger 2014 [2006]) and learned about archaeological theories and debates (Hodder 2012). In the process I’ve discovered there is reflexivity in archaeology: you’ve just got to know where to look, and I found that my ‘anthropological research process’ fits most closely with ‘post-processual archaeology’ (for example see Burke, Lovell-Jones and Smith 1994; Hodder 1992; 2000; Hodder and Hutson 2012 [2003]; Smith 1995).

My background reading has included returning to my anthropological studies and readings on globalisation, multi-sited ethnographies and material culture (for example Appadurai 1988; 1996; Marcus 1995; Miller 1987; 1998; 2001). These have reminded me to: not privilege the role of production over the role of consumption (Miller 1987); investigate cable ties as ‘things to be followed’ (Marcus 1995); and think of them as ‘things in motion’ (Appadurai 1988; 1996).

I’m not familiar with archaeological approaches to contemporary material culture so I used last year’s ARCH3209 Modern Material Culture reading list as a resource. Readings that I’ve found useful include Rathje (1981:52), who argues that the ‘focus on the social context of technology … is the organizing principle of archaeology’, and Meltzer (1981) whose examination of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. provides some interesting clues on technological developments in aviation in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Other resources I’ve found helpful are Frederick and Clarke’s (2016) edited volume on contemporary archaeology and material culture in Australia, Gorman and Wallis’ (2015) collection of writings on everyday objects and some of the chapters in Tilley et al. (2006), especially Foster (2006), English (2006) and Miller (2006). I’ve also revisited the work of French Theorist Paul Virilio who:

… postulates that the transition from feudalism to capitalism was not an economic transformation but a military, spatial, political, and technological metamorphosis. Broadly speaking, where Marx wrote of the materialist conception of history, Virilio writes of the military conception of history.

(Armitage 2000)

Finally I’ve read archaeological investigations of cable ties and some of the technical literature dealing with cable tie manufacturing and engineering and industrial uses. The archaeological literature contains information on cable tie invention, historical details about cable ties and cable tie patents, types of cable ties and details of cable ties recorded during a Flinders archaeology field school at the Orroral Valley NASA Tracking Station in the Australian Capital Territory (Agutter 2011; Gorman 2011; 2016). In contrast the technical literature on cable ties includes catalogues which show what products are currently available in Australia (for example HellermannTyton 2011/2012; Wiremakers 2012/13) and provides information on industry standards through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) website Engineering360. These indicate the range of cable ties manufactured for specific purposes, and the specifications required for particular industrial and technological applications.

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Figure 1. Illustration from Maurus C. Logan’s 1962 patent. US Patent US3022557 (Gorman 2016:112)

Cable ties were invented in the late 1950s to prevent aircraft assembly workers’ from hand injuries when bundling and tying cables. The archaeological investigation of Orroral Valley NASA Tracking Station indicates cable tie use in these facilities was common and extensive. Somehow cable ties progressed from these specialised uses into being commonly used in everyday life. Two other 20th Century inventions may provide some clues as to how this happened. Historical work on shipping pallets (Hodes 2013/14; Vanderbilt 2012) and shipping containers (Levinson 2006) describe an exponential increase in shipping pallet use during World War Two, and a similar progression in shipping container use during the Vietnam war. The first maritime shipment of containers was in 1956 (Levinson 2006) not long before the first cable tie patent was submitted in 1958 and granted in 1962 (Gorman 2016:111; see Figure 1 above). Perhaps the Cold War and associated ‘Space Race’ were the military imperatives for the spread of cable ties from aircraft assembly, via aerospace installations and spacecraft, to the realm of everyday life. Or perhaps the Vietnam war was the catalyst for this trajectory. To consider cable tie development in terms of other technological innovations and social and political changes I intend to investigate their military uses more closely.

Agutter, R. 2012 An archaeology of cable ties. Unpublished report completed as part of the assessment for ARCH8404 Directed Study in Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide.

The Archaeology of Cable Ties: everyday icons

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

This semester I will be writing four blog posts for the Flinders Archaeology Blog. These posts are part of the course requirements of ARCH8404 Directed Study in Archaeology. This first post explains why I chose my topic and outlines the project aims and proposed outcomes.

Why Cable Ties: an anthropologist does archaeology
I’m an anthropologist and for most of the last five years I’ve worked in Aboriginal cultural heritage. On some projects I’ve been lucky enough to work with archaeologists and learn from them ‘in the field’. At first I wanted to know about the cultural materials that they identified and recorded, and then became more interested in the ideas, methods and analysis they used. Eventually I decided to study archaeology and at the beginning of last year I enrolled in the Graduate Diploma in Archaeology and Heritage Management.

Figure 1. Cable tie image courtesy of lossenderosstudio

Figure 1. Cable tie image courtesy of lossenderosstudio

Since starting the Grad Dip I’ve found most archaeological writing doesn’t give me a sense of who the archaeologists are, or why they have chosen particular topics to research. In books and peer reviewed journals the standard approach seems to include background research, methodology and results in detail, but the archaeologist as researcher is unlikely to appear in the text. This is quite different to the anthropological approach, which is more likely to be reflexive and include the researcher in the text as the anthropological ‘I’ (for example see Hume and Mulcock (2004) and Okely and Callaway (1992)). There are exceptions, such as Brown (2010; 2012) and Brown, Clarke and Frederick (2015), but overall it seems to me that anthropological ‘reflexivity’ is not a feature of archaeological writing, although I might not have read enough archaeological literature due to being new to the discipline. What I have noticed is that some archaeological blogs explicitly address the writer’s motivations and perspectives (for example see Dr Alice Gorman, Dr Shawn Graham, Homeless Archaeology at York University, Dr Colleen Morgan and Andrew Reinhard).

As a student anthropologist I learned that researchers are always ‘positioned’ in relation to their research. Kirsten Hastrup (1995:4), one of my favourite anthropologists, states that ‘There is no way of seeing from “nowhere in particular”’. So rather than approaching this project in a ‘neutral’ or ‘objective’ style, I am including the anthropological ‘I’ as an integral part of my research process.

This cable tie project started when I saw a presentation by Dr Alice Gorman about the Flinders archaeology field school at the Orroral Valley NASA Tracking Station in the Australian Capital Territory. It was several years before the start of my archaeological studies, so I was amazed to discover that that space archaeology is a thing and cable ties are a legitimate artefact study.

Alice foto frm fieldschool 1Figure 2. Cable tie recorded during the Orroral Valley field school showing tail and diameter of cable bundle. Image: Alice Gorman (Gorman 2016:108)

For anyone who is not familiar with them, cable ties are ‘one-piece, self-locking single use tape[s] with a ratchet in small open case at one end. Once the ratchet is engaged, the tie can only be pulled tighter’ (Gorman 2016:113). They are mainly made of nylon or types of plastic and some are made of metal.

I grew up making and fixing things with ‘number 8 wire’ and have also used cable ties since realising how useful they are. But I had never thought of them in a historical sense, or as items of material culture that could be investigated. I began to think about their trajectory from specialised aviation and aerospace applications to part of people’s everyday lives, including mine. I also began to consider their various purposes and specifications, from specialised aerospace and industrial uses to random everyday activities. I ended up asking Alice if she would be my directed study industry partner for a cable tie project. She was kind enough to agree and helped me work out the project aims and outcomes.

Project Aims and Outcomes

The aims of this directed study project are to:

  • Research contemporary and recent cable tie variations focusing on Australian suppliers and manufacturers.
  • Consider the development of cable ties in terms of other technological innovations and social and political changes.
  • Make a database of cable tie morphology and variation. The database will include contemporary & recent cable tie specifications, suppliers & manufacturers in Australia that will facilitate future research.

Directed study projects are required to have certain set outcomes, one of which is a 6,000-10,000 word article. For this project the outcomes are:

  • A publically accessible database of contemporary & recent cable tie specifications, suppliers & manufacturers in Australia
  • A 6-10,000 word Dig It article on the development of cable ties in the context of other technological innovations & social and political changes, contemporary material culture and the process of making the database. Each blog post will form part of the draft of the Dig It article.
  • An article for an international peer reviewed journal to be written with Alice

Reference List

Brown, S. 2010 Buggering Around in the Backyard: Creating Attachment to Place through Archaeology and Material Culture. Australian Archaeology 71: 74-78.

Brown, S. 2012 Toward an archaeology of the twentieth-century suburban backyard. Archaeology in Oceania 47(2): 99-106.

Brown, S., A. Clarke and U. Frederick (eds) 2015 Object Stories: Artifacts and Archaeologists. California: Left Coast Press. Retrieved several times between 1 and 19 April 2016 from http://reader.eblib.com.ezproxy.flinders.edu.au/%28S%28ugd5rpmn0okc1buqndhfs4m0%29%29/Reader.aspx?p=1912033&o=478&u=h3EsHs%2fgPLoqtJF7nZhiHw%3d%3d&t=1461052222&h=77716714D278F0BA04B764CCAE7FC835E09C543E&ut=1451&pg=1&r=img&c=-1&pat=n&cms=-1&sd=2

Gorman, A. 2016 Tracking Cable Ties: Contemporary Archaeology at a Nasa Satellite Tracking Station. In U.K. Frederick and A. Clarke (eds), That Was Then, This Is Now: Contemporary Archaeology and Material Cultures in Australia, pp.101-117. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Hastrup, K. 1995 A Passage to Anthropology: between experience and theory. London: Routledge.

Hume, L. and J. Mulcock (eds) 2004 Anthropologists in the Field: Cases in Participant Observation. New York; Columbia University Press.

Okely, J. and H. Callaway 1992 Anthropology and Autobiography. Routledge: New York.