It’s been a while since I came to Australia and there’s not been alot of posts, but I’m back (if the digital realm conforms to spatial metaphors). I arrived in Sydney about four months ago and stayed there for 4 days. I didn’t like Sydney that much, the Opera House and harbour were nice but generally it is quite a bland, generic western city (apparently one of the reasons it was used in the Matrix). Being more of a countryside person this may be to be expected but I did quite like Melbourne which I visited recently and shall be returning to soon. The one particular thing I noticed about Sydney (unlike most modern European cities) was the lack of churches. Possibly it was just the lack of older buildings, churches being the most obvious representations of this. Oh yes and Sydney introduced me to the Australian phenomenon of hideously annoying pedestrian crossing sirens. These are only my immediate impressions as I rapidly departed for Albury, a country city (sic), on the banks of the River Murray.
I’ve been working on a bypass section of the Hume Highway which connects Sydney to Melbourne. A walkover survey was previously conducted for the collection and recording of Indigenous artefacts. In this area of New South Wales the huge majority of these are made of quartz and consist of knapped cores and flakes with a few blades of chert and the occasional pieces of hammerstone. The areas identified are referred to as ‘Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Sites’. An anthropological survey, with local elders, was also undertaken which sought ‘Aboriginal Cultural Sites’ which, I understand, are known from social memory and were avoided by the highway expansion.
The Aboriginal cultural heritage sites were generally found on spurs of land jutting into the floodplain of small creeks, all on post-contact cleared farmland used for grazing. We dug 1m² squares at 15m intervals along 5m offset staggered transects down to Pleistocene clay deposits which mark the beginning of local human habitation. This was done by professional archaeologists and an equal number of Aboriginal cultural representatives, reps, who ‘have an interest in the heritage of the area’. The test pits were dug by hand in bulk, initally, with all the excavated material sieved with water and the artefacts found kept, given a basic analysis and counted. The pits with larger than average, amounts of quartz flakes, cores and debitage, for that site, were enlarged 1m² at a time and in spits determined by the depth of the underlying clays, these were referred to as ‘open areas’. The length of time spent increasing the sizes of open areas was not dependent on declining numbers of artefacts but on the time allocated to each site.
This project finished last week, and to be honest I was rather glad. Everyone I worked with was friendly, but the lack of features was disappointing especially after the novelty of digging metre square holes in fields wore off. I did learn more about stone artefacts which previously I knew little about and my sections, previously ok, have have improved to an almost ridiculous degree. I may come back with some gripes about the methodology later but am currently travelling about Tasmania in a campervan and it’s dinner time. The next post should not be so long in the writing, thanks loyal readers!