asha

Western Australia

Compiled by Shane Burke

Sites to Visit

Bathers Bay Whaling Station

Jack McIlroy excavated the site in 1984, unearthing tryworks (cauldrons for boiling down whales' blubber) and house remains from the whaling station that operated from 1837. The nearby whalers' tunnel through Arthur Head dates to the same period, making the Bathers Bay precinct an important historical archaeological precinct. The City of Fremantle recently installed replica tryworks and information boards, but the remains are about 1.5 metres below the present ground's surface.

Walk to the site through the whalers' tunnel at the west end of High Street Fremantle. See references regarding the site's excavation below.

Maritime Museum of Western Australia

Without question the best maritime themed museum in Australia. Located in two buildings (the Shipwreck Galleries south end of Cliff Street Fremantle and the Maritime Museum at Victoria Quay Fremantle), the museum contains displays about the 1629 Batavia - with the restored section of the ship's hull an absolute must see - and 1852 Eglinton wrecks amongst others. One needs a day at least to properly absorb the museum's rich data. Visit the Museum's website for more details.

Peel Town/Clarence

Peel Town is an 1829-1830 site associated with Western Australia's first European settlement group. The work is presently occurring and is open to volunteers. Contact Dr Shane Burke at sburke3@nd.edu.au for details. See references regarding the site's excavation below.

Pioneer Park

Recent work at the corner of Market and Phillimore Streets Fremantle exposed a cobble floor, a well and structural remains associated with the block's residential uses between the 1830s and 1910s. The City of Fremantle has allocated funds for permanent display of the features. See http://www2.freofocus.com/consultation/text/pioneerparkherit.cfm for proposed plans.

Regional and site publications

Burke, Shane. 2007a, The archaeology of ‘Clarence' - a settlers' camp from the 1829-30 Peel Association at Henderson. Journal of the Royal Western Australia Historical Society volume 13 pp. 145-163.

Burke Shane 2007b, Fences, furrows, ditches and Settlement Policy: rapid landscape change in the Swan River Colony.  History Australia, volume 4, number 1 pp. 3.1-3.15.

Franklin, D. and L. Freedman. 2005, A bioarchaeological investigation of a multiple burial associated with the Batavia mutiny of 1629. Records of the Western Australian Museum volume 23 pp. 77 - 90.

Gibbs, Martin. 2005, The Archaeology of Subsistence on the Frontier: Faunal Analysis of the Cheyne Beach Whaling Station. Australasian Historical Archaeology volume 23 pp. 115 - 122.

Harrison, Rodney. 2002 Australia's Iron Age: Aboriginal post-contact metal artefacts from Old Lamboo station, southeast Kimberley, WA. Australasian Historical Archaeology volume 20 pp. 67 - 76.

McIlroy, Jack. 1986, Bathers Bay Whaling Station, Fremantle, Western Australia. Australian Historical Archaeology volume 4, pp. 43 - 87.

Nayton, Gaye. 1992, Applying Frontier Theory to a Western Australian Site: The Problem of Chronological Control. Australasian Historical Archaeology volume 10 pp. 75 - 86.

Paterson, A. G. 2006, Towards a Historical Archaeology of Western Australia's Northwest, Australasian Historical Archaeology volume 24, pp. 91 - 103.

Current Legislation


The Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990 has provision for the protection of European historic period archaeological sites, while the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 protects Indigenous sites including those dated to the historic period. The acts can be found at www.austlii.edu.au and www.slp.wa.gov.au.

Get Involved

Archaeology Society of Western Australia

The Archaeology Society of Western Australia has field trips, film nights and excavation opportunities that include topics on historical archaeology. Contact the society at archsocwa@hotmail.com  for membership details.

Peel town excavations and accessioning

The Peel town excavations occur once every three or four weeks, with artefact accessioning (cleaning, recording, photographing and storage) at similar intervals at the University of Notre Dame Fremantle. Contact Shane Burke at sburke3@sburke.nd.edu.au about how to get involved.