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ASHA NEWS

Compiled by Gordon Grimwade

Gordon was another of the bursary recipients for the conference last month. You can read his thoughts on the conference below.

 

Any conference that can produce fascinating papers on brothels, stone walls, buffalo shooters, Vanuatu and perpetrators of domestic violence has met its goals. The 2019 ASHA conference at Port Macquarie again provided opportunities for historical archaeologists to exchange ideas and knowledge while interweaving it with invaluable networking over culturally appropriate beverages.

As usual the field trips stimulated ongoing discussion. Many of us would love to welcome seeing Innes House made more accessible and interpreted to the level of its significance. Several tour participants who later saw the model of Innes House in the Port Macquarie Museum remarked on the complexity of this icon of opulence, ego, technology and money.

The three minute presentations proved popular even though, according to well informed sources, a couple at least were artfully cobbled together only the day before. Once again the diversity of topics was little short of amazing. Only at an ASHA conference could Qantas, an artist’s studio, a bung jar and a wire fence tensioner demonstrate any commonality.

A quarter of the presenters of the traditional papers were students. I’m not sure if the committee did it intentionally but virtually every session followed the 1:3 ratio. ASHA conferences are a great opportunity for students to highlight their projects and to get feedback on their work.

Several excellent papers were of archaeological interest while others were almost pure history in their content. In some ways that is hardly surprising as we are historical archaeologists but it makes me wonder if we should be looking at a combined conference with the Professional Historians Association at some stage as they have overlapping interests.

Finally, my congratulations and thanks to the organizing committee and the local volunteers, including Mitch and the ladies who manned the registration and book sales desk.

Compiled by Greg Hil

The 2019 ASHA conference bursary recipients have provided us with a short report on their experience of the conference. We start with words from Greg Hil.

This year’s ASHA conference at Port Macquarie was, as many others will undoubtedly agree, a well-executed affair along a beautiful section of Australian coast.

The venue, the Glasshouse, was built atop the archaeological remains of a nineteenth-century penal settlement and thus embodied-well this year’s theme of ‘Colonial Futures’. That is, the ways in which Australasia’s colonial past continues to manifest itself both in the archaeological record and our lives today.

Starting things off was an acknowledgement of the region’s deep human past through a much-enjoyed Welcome to Country by Uncle Bill of the Birpai LALC. Over the two days of talks, uninitiated attendees were given a detailed account of Port Macquarie’s rich colonial history by local archaeologists and speakers. A personal highlight was Crystal Phillips’ overview of the port’s historical cemetery (1824-1886), which was well worth a visit.

Further afield, presenters covered topics that ranged from dry stone walls in South Australia (John Pickard), to the slums of Melbourne and Buenos Aires (Pamela Ricardi), and juvenile convicts of Point Puer, Tasmania (Caitlin D’Gluyas).

Drinks, as well as good food and conversation, were enjoyed by many at local pubs and restaurants in the afterhours of each day’s sessions. Georgia Roberts’ thought-provoking introduction of the Australian archaeological skills passport was no-doubt included in more than a few of those discussions.

The conference dinner at Zebu Waterfront Restaurant had good attendance and was an enjoyable ending to my first ASHA conference experience.

The three best paper/poster prizes were well-deserved, and were each personal favourites, including Nadia Bajzelj’s fascinating paper on Melbourne’s brothels (best paper), Charlotte Feakin’s masterful overview of the buffalo shooting industry of Northern Territory (best student paper; I had no idea that once existed in Australia!), and an informative poster on colonial shipwrecks off the coast of Sydney by Connor McBrian, Milly Bendell, and Benjamin Wharton (best poster).

I am already looking forward to next year’s conference in Melbourne, which, marking the 50th anniversary of ASHA, should be a ripper!

 
Compiled by Penny Crook

The 2019 ASHA Conference was held in Port Macquarie, in Birpai Country on the NSW mid-north coast, 13–16 October. It was a busy few days with site tours, workshops and two days of papers discussing current issues in local and global historical archaeological research and heritage management.

In his Keynote address Richard Shing, Director of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, provided a detailed introduction to the fascinating history and archaeology of Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu from its roots in Lapita culture 3,000 years ago to colonial contact and invasion from 17th to 20th centuries, and its development since Independence in 1980.

The successive occupations of the British and French in the late-19th century, and the American forces in World War II, have left a legacy of demographic change, dispossession of traditional land and disruption to local customs. It also produced a complex landscape of colonial-era buildings that overlie pre-colonial sites.

The oldest surviving colonial structure, the 1853 stone house built by missionaries Reverend John and Charlotte Geddie on Aneityum Island, preserved pre-colonial strata along with extraordinary archaeological evidence of culture contact. At the threshold of the study John Geddie interred spirit stones to remind local Aneityumese that they were stepping over their customary beliefs to hear the word of God.

Amidst the challenges of cultural site management in the Pacific, with development pressure and the impact of tourism, there is for some a unique displeasure in preserving of decaying buildings of an oppressive rule. As Richard noted, the atrocities of the colonial era remain in living memory and the narrative of this era is often simplified to one of ‘cruel masters and benign slaves’. Archaeology provides a way to mediate this history.

As Director of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, Richard has overseen the collaboration between archaeologists and local Islanders who have excavated many sites spanning Lapita to colonial eras. A dedication to community outreach, events, publications and skill-building has seen young Ni-Vanuatu school children work on excavations and go on to pursue careers in archaeology.

It was a privilege to conference goers that we could hear this account first hand. ASHA is grateful to Richard for making the time in his busy schedule to share his knowledge with us. Thanks also to James Flexner and the University of Sydney for assisting with travel arrangements.

The Keynote address was proudly sponsored by GML Heritage.

Further Reading

Flexner, James L. 2013. Mission archaeology in Vanuatu: Preliminary findings, problems, and prospects. Australasian Historical Archaeology 31: 14.

Zubrzycka, Adele, Martin J. Jones, Stuart Bedford, James L. Flexner, Matthew Spriggs, and Richard Shing. 2018. Misi Gete’s mission house: archaeological investigations of the oldest surviving colonial building in the New Hebrides. Australasian Historical Archaeology 36: 38.

‘Keynote Presenter, Richard Shing during his presentation in the Glasshouse Studio and post presentation with the 2019 Conference organising committee. Left to right: Bronwyn Woff, Jane Rooke, Anita Yousif, Richard Shing, Nick Pitt and Caiti D’Gluyas’.


Written by Catherine Tucker and Bronwyn Woff

In August and September ASHA hosted two workshops in Melbourne that were a great success!

The workshops were a beginners guide to historic artefact identification, and conservation basics for archaeologists.

Both events were fully booked with 40 attendees, and waiting lists for extra places.

Dr Christine Williamson, Bronwyn Woff and Holly Jones-Amin presented respectively on ceramic artefacts, glass bottle basics and in-field conservation first aid.

We would like to thank Heritage Victoria and their staff for the use of the Artefact Centre and the archaeological collections as well as their assistance in helping with the events.

If you would like to suggest or help organise ASHA events in your region, contact events@asha.org.au


 
Written by Megan Liddicoat | Policy Offer | Climate Change Division Energy, Environment and Climate Change | Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

Victoria Unearthed: updated with more data and better usability.

Victoria Unearthed is an easy to use interactive map which brings together environmental and historical information. It has been developed by the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning (DELWP) and Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) to help users investigate potential and existing contamination of land and groundwater.

The historical business information in Victoria Unearthed includes over half a million historical business records dating back to the 1890s, digitised for the first time as part of this project. These come from Sands and McDougall directories (Victoria’s original 'phone books') and can provide clues on where past business activity may have resulted in legacy contamination. The information included in Victoria Unearthed is derived from directories published around every 10 years between 1896 and 1974 and involves only information listed in the trades and business directories – not the residential sections.

The environmental information in Victoria Unearthed includes several EPA datasets: sites with EPA licences, sites on EPA’s Priority Sites Register (locations with known environmental issues), groundwater restrictions, planning overlays of potential or identified contamination (environmental audit overlays), and the location of past and present landfills.

For specialist users, all this data is also being made available in spatial formats through DataVic or Spatial Datamart.

You can find out more about Victoria Unearthed at www.environment.vic.gov.au/victoria-unearthed and access the map via mapshare.vic.gov.au/victoriaunearthed

Compiled by Stephanie Moore

ASHA's Inaugural Trivia Night - May 2019

The team at ASHA HQ decided to try something a little different for National Archaeology Week this year, by testing our member's knowledge of their field.

With assistance from the Big Dig Archaeology Education Centre, ASHA hosted a classic 'Pub Quiz' style trivia night for our Sydney contingent.

Content for the evening was provided by dedicated ASHA member, Jayden van Beek, who worked hard to ensure a variety of questions sure to stump even the most accomplished archaeologists.

Hosted by the talented David Ellis, the trivia night saw a good turn out, with four teams competing for glory.


Questions started with a focus on international archaeology and a Time Team themed "Who Am I?", followed by a devilish Australian Archaeology round which kept the teams on their toes. Finishing up with a general knowledge round, the teams were fairly well matched throughout the competition, although one clear winner stood out.

1st Place was awarded to "Glitch in the Matrix", a team that screamed ahead on bonus points after snapping up both the 'Who Am I?' and 'Where Am I?'questions.

Taking home the coveted wooden spoon prize, a stunning bag of plastic dinosaurs, were youngsters "I'm Smartacus".

Those in attendance unanimously agreed that the event would be held for National Archaeology Week in 2020, with the hope that this would become an annual event, where consultants and academics alike could compete for bragging rights.

If you were unable to attend this year's quiz, we encourage you to keep an eye out for details next year.

If you are interested in getting involved in ASHA in Sydney, please join us for 'Archaeology in the Pub' on Thursday July 25th from 5.30pm, at the Shakespeare Hotel in Surry Hills.

If you would like further details of this, or other ASHA events, please contact events@asha.org.au

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Each year, the National Trust of Australia (Queensland) awards outstanding projects and people that demonstrate excellence in the protection, conservation and celebration of Queensland’s environmental, built and cultural heritage.

Heritage awards

The National Trust annual Queensland Heritage Awards are a prestigious acknowledgment of the quality of heritage work that is carried out across the State. The Awards seek to showcase the entrants and promote best practice, encourage innovation and collaboration, and celebrate the diversity of heritage places in Queensland.

For more information or to nominate go to https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/heritage-awards-qld/

Pamela Kottaras, EMM Consulting Pty Ltd

When you hear the words ‘cultural landscapes’ what comes to mind?

This is what comes to my mind most readily


Perhaps because this is what I first thought of as a landscape. When you think of landscape artists – John Constable, Fredrick McCubbin, Sidney Nolan, Condrad Martins and of course Fred Williams (landscape with a goose, sapling forest), you might think of trees and hills, with maybe a person, maybe not. Then there’s Daisy Helen Tjupantarri Ward, Dorothy Napandardi and a long, long list of Aboriginal artists who paint the landscape in the tradition that non-Aboriginal people recognise, but who also paint landscapes that are coded, with meaning that must be explained to the uninitiated. Non-Aboriginal Australians are becoming more familiar with works like those created in styles that are more akin to the traditions of the artists’ homeland.

In this first picture we have gently rolling hills, like waving lengths of fabric; a dead tree in the foreground, hills in the background and in between incised gullies and creek beds. In the middle distance a shed, and in the clump of trees is probably a house. This little group of structures was made with human hands. The trees surrounding the house were probably planted 60 years ago, as were the windbreaks. They are cultural.

The trees in the foreground and middle distance are, or were, native. Dieback. But more native trees can be seen in the distance in the gully. Even a long time ago, when this area was covered in open woodland – dominated by Eucalypts and Angophora, with a forb and grass under-storey and was ‘natural’, it was cultural.

In the foreground the stone outcrop is silcrete. Behind me, in the silcrete, there are grinding grooves. Somewhere in this photograph, there is probably an archaeological site – maybe within the clump of trees before the newer house was built and maybe closer to a creek. If you look hard enough, you can see these things.

Then there’s the invisible - the hills in the distance may have been formed by a sleeping girl, or a pair of friends hiding from a kestrel – the intangible. It isn’t the result of the millions of years of geological activity and erosion that we believe has formed this continent.


Photo 2 is the same stump but capturing the horizon to the west, although the view is north. The landform in the distance is important to the Aboriginal people of the region. It’s a natural landform and its significance is intangible. I’m not at liberty to say what it is, but that isn’t important for this piece. These landscapes are easy to distinguish for heritage consultants and many others besides. They might not see the value in them, but they can see them.


But what about this? Clearly, it’s a track. But in the 1880s to the early twentieth century it was a road that carried heavy bullock-drawn vehicles from a town to an industrial area and back again. It’s on private property but if you could walk it, it would take you from the industrial area, to a newer alignment of that same road, but that has not been used for many years. The newer road is sealed with bitumen and crowded by tall eucalypts and small ferns, but it is recognisable as a road. The kind of road that I’d want to walk down to see where it takes me. I could look at an old street directory or an old aerial photograph, but its not nearly as satisfying if you like walking and looking.

These old roads form a small network that was used not only by the people that worked their little mine lease, but by people who lived there to work their little mine lease.


Finally,is this little piece of land. A jumble of rocks, some dead blackberry patches, and what I’m assured is a quince tree. Documentary research and local knowledge tell us that this little patch of land was a camp site. In fact, more like a residence, that was a camp site for people looking to make their fortune in mining and to feed their families and eventually to put a proper roof over their heads.

There is a more house-like structure nearby, in fact a house (or part of one), which is easier to spot. But other areas just look like field clearance at a glance until you look more closely. Then you can see structure, or tracks lined with stones, or artefacts – ceramic, tin cans, glass. Or stone artefacts made of silcrete and chert.

There is information here that is valuable. For what? Research? What kind of research? I don’t know – spatial analysis of itinerant camps? Or permanent camps that people lived in with their husbands, their wives and their children? Their cow and maybe a vehicle?

This landscape is one of a small handful in the local area, all there for the same reason, and with little topsoil to hold much deposit. It might not deliver much in terms of archaeological contexts but I’m sure that if we look at it as a horizontal landscape, we might be able to learn some things.

The good news about this area is that it won’t be destroyed. But it will be closed off for another 30 years. We’ve been lucky enough to have a client who understands why there is a certain group of people who see value in these rocks on the ground. I’ve managed to convince them that all these little living spaces and the routes between them are worthy of recording with topographic survey and photographically. Some of the bits and pieces are so scattered, it’s difficult to tell what they could have been. If at the very least, the plans are made available to other researches who can compare them to other such sites and make some sense of how and why the countryside was used the way it was. How did the woman and her husband and their three, four, five children live here?

What I hope to do is convince more clients to record sites that are not going to be destroyed, that might not even reach the threshold for significance on their own, to record and lodge to make the data available to other researchers. And that way maybe they won’t become forgotten landscapes.

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Richard Morrison, ASHA ACT Representative

This very successful event was held on the morning of 4 May 2019 within the Canberra and Region Heritage Festival. It was the second such symposium partnered with the Canberra Archaeological Society (CAS) - a body established in 1963 (prior to ASHA) to provide a forum for academics, students and members of the public on all types of archaeology. It conducts archaeological projects and monthly lectures.

The Symposium, ‘Contemporary archaeology: How archaeology is practised today’ was held at the prestigious National Museum of Australia with 5 eminent speakers, including one who Skyped-in, and was jointly organised by Richard Morrison of ASHA and Dr Iain Johnston of CAS. The Symposium flyer is available here.

It was advertised in numerous places and was attended by more than 60 people (we had 100 Eventbrite registrations) including the ACT’s Minister for Environment and Heritage, archaeology and heritage students, academics, and a broad cross section of the public.

We opened with a traditional Welcome to Country undertaken by Paul House, a Ngambri man, including a short didgeridoo presentation with some audience participation on clapping sticks.

The symposium introduction presented information on historical archaeology, ASHA and and CAS.

Three speakers, including Emeritus Professor Richard Wright AM (who came out from retirement in Sydney to speak), illustrated their important work in historical archaeology.

Dr Michael Pearson AO discussed the work, including his own, of Australian archaeologists across Antarctica in the context of activity by all nations.He highlighted the issue of a lack of ongoing and current involvement of archaeologists in Mawson’s Hut conservation.

Emeritus Professor Richard Wright AM spoke on his important and sensitive work under difficult circumstances in providing archaeological evidence war crimes trials related to various European conflicts. His paper provided confronting and compelling insights into terrible crimes and the pursuit of those responsible. He also reflected on his more recent key role in identifying 250 Australian soldiers buried in mass graves from WWI at Fromelles, France.

Dr Alice Gorman spoke on her current research into Apollo 11 heritage found at Tranquillity Base on the Moon. In particular, she focussed on the conceptual significance of shadows which have been used both by scientists, to investigate the Moon’s topography and geomorphology, and conspiracy theorists, to attempt to disprove that Apollo 11 ever went to the Moon.Dr Gorman gave her paper (from Adelaide, via Skype) on Space Archaeology and, in so doing, met the Heritage Festival’s theme of Space.

Dave Johnston, Indigenous heritage and archaeological consultant, presented and discussed a video illustrating the story of a positive collaboration between farmers and the Indigenous community concerning an ochre quarry in the Canberra region as shared heritage.

Dr Iain Johnston spoke on his Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies project returning Indigenous cultural heritage. He focussed on an aspect of this project related to an important rock art site at Kakadu and it’s recording through usual techniques and oral histories from the descendants of the creators still connected to the site. This illuminated the most recent repainting, in possibly, a very ancient process of traditional renewal - the site has been dated to about 25,000 years ago.

A Q&A panel concluded the Symposium.

The audience definitely seemed to appreciate the interesting and varied topics, in comments explicitly referring to the astonishing scope and diversity now covered in the broad field of archaeology, including historical archaeology.

The President of CAS, Dr Duncan Wright, congratulated (on behalf of CAS) Iain Johnston and myself ‘for an extremely successful ‘Contemporary Archaeology’ symposium. This included a remarkable array of fascinating presentations - archaeology of mass burials/ war crimes, space archaeology, archaeology of Antarctica, local ACT archaeology, also rock art and repatriation. It was attended by 60+ members of the public (including Senator (sic) Mick Gentleman) and Richard and Iain should be congratulated for how smoothly this went, not to mention their sparkling MCing!’

As an initiative of ASHA to promote historical archaeology and hopefully encourage new memberships in the regions, this was an undoubted success.

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Compiled by Blog Editor

The next ASHA Sydney reading group will be held on Thursday evening, 14 March.

However, for the first time you can attend online via Zoom Meeting. This will be particularly useful for ASHA members who live outside of Sydney but who want to join in the conversation.

The topic will be the articles in most recent volume of the ASHA journal - Australasian Historical Archaeology. Current members can download copies of all the articles in the journal via the ASHA website.

Location and Time:

GML Heritage

Level 6, 372 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills

6:00-7:30pm, Thursday 14th March 2019

Alternately - you can attend online via Zoom. The link will be sent out to remote attendees who RSVP.

Thank you to GML Heritage for providing the venue.

RSVP

Please let us know you’re coming, by emailing events@asha.org.au by 4pm on Thursday 14th March for catering purposes. Please let us know whether you are coming in person or would like a link to the online Zoom meeting.