A Message from the President
News from the State Chapters
Archaeological News from around the World
We should work together in the race to mine the solar system
Ancient extinction of giant Australian bird points to humans
Where are you and what are you up to
A Message from the President
As this is my inaugural address as President, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our out-going President (now Vice President) Lynley Wallace for her outstanding contribution to the association. I’d also like to thank our previous National Executive Committee (NEC) office bearers and welcome the new NEC members to their respective roles.
I would also like to thank all those members who attended the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in December at the Australian Archaeological Association Conference in Fremantle. Through the hard work of Lynley Wallis and after a long back and forth of legal review of the constitution, we were able to vote in much needed updates and changes to the constitution. These changes have ensured that we meet the legislation governing our organisation and has enabled us to strengthen some of our processes and procedures as we move forward. Changes to the constitution also ensure that we reflect more modern processes and well as ensuring we remain relevant to our membership and the industry which is much changed over the past 40 years.
The 2016/ 2017 NEC has met twice this year already and we are beginning to work on a number of new agenda items. Some of these initiatives are outlined below.
The NEC is offering to help the State Chapters subsidise Professional Development workshops. We encourage members to contact their state representatives if they are interested in delivering any relevant professional development topics.
AACAI NEC is also working with Australian National Committee for Archaeology Teaching and Learning (ANCATL), to look at one of our strategic priorities of professional development. ANCATL Profiling and Profession survey has identified skill gaps and the associations are working together to see how these skill gaps can be addressed.
The NEC also has a small working group who are currently in discussion with ICOMOS and AAA around Aboriginal Heritage Legislation principals. The combined associations working group is looking to put together a paper that would provide guidance on what Aboriginal Heritage legislation should aim to achieve. This document will collate the ideas that have been gleaned from the numerous reviews of Aboriginal Heritage Acts that all three associations have commented and submitted on. We will be seeking input from our members in the near future, so if this is a topic close to your heart please do send us feedback when we put the call out shortly!
I would like to thank Fennella Atkinson for her hard work on coordinating the AACAI Student Support Fund. AACAI donates $2000 annually to the fund and we solicit additional donations from our members. We would like to thank the following businesses who have donated to this years’ fund:
- Artefact Heritage Services,
- Comber Consultants,
- North Qld Cultural Heritage,
- Ochre Imprints,
- Thomson Cultural Heritage Management,
- Virtus heritage, and
- Wallis Heritage Consulting.
Student projects are currently being reviewed by the NEC and we will be able to announce the student recipients of the fund, in the next newsletter.
I am looking forward to a productive 2 years with the AACAI NEC, and I encourage any members who wish to help us achieve our strategic plan objectives to get in contact and assist with moving AACAI forward.
News from the State Chapters
NSW State Chapter
SA State Chapter
The South Australian State Chapter has met three times this year, and held one social event. Friends, allies and potential new members were invited to join AACAI members after the recent Chapter meeting at the Wheatsheaf Hotel on April 27th.
A matters of concern to SA members has been the recent, very rushed, changes to the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988. These mostly concern Section 62, which allow the Minister to delegate powers to a Traditional Owner group. We have been collaborating with the AAA State Representative and the South Australian Anthropological Society to gather information and keep members informed.
In order to provide members with professional training opportunities, we have negotiated with the Flinders University Graduate Program in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management to allow AACAI access to their regular Master Classes. AACAI members will also contribute classes which will be available to students.
For National Archaeology Week, treasurer Jordan Ralph is presenting a public lecture entitled “From Banksy to Barunga”, about contemporary graffiti in Jawoyn country.
The lecture is free and starts at 3.00 pm on Tuesday 17 May in the new Flinders University Tavern.
Dr. Alice Gorman
VIC State Chapter
WA State Chapter
AACAI WA members continue to advocate for heritage within the media, with recent articles focusing on the Burrup and Kimberley rock art, the duality of heritage protection regimes for built (Colonial) and Aboriginal heritage, the controversial Roe 8 development and the still present amendments to the AHA 1972. For those interested in the AHA amendments, the following link provides useful discussions from WA Hansard:
Archaeological News from around the World
CHANCE DISCOVERY OF LARGE AMOUNT OF ROMAN COINS
TOMARES, SPAIN — While carrying out routine work on water pipes, around 600 kilos of ancient bronze Roman coins where found inside 19 Roman amphoras. The coins are stamped with the inscriptions of emperors Maximian and Constantine, and they appeared not to have been in circulation as they show little evidence of wear and tear. It is thought they were intended pay the army or civil servants.
Ana Navarro, head of Seville’s Archeology Museum which is looking after the find, declined to give a precise estimate for the value of the haul, saying only that the coins were worth “certainly several million euros”.
DIET OR DIE
Adapt or die is the old maxim. It seems that modern humans may have chosen this route to survive the harsh climatic conditions as they attempted to react to severe temperature fluctuations. This could have led to modern humans gaining a significant advantage over Neanderthals to survive.
The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, investigates how diet varied between Neanderthal and Homo sapiens and whether dietary habits could have been a factor in the disappearance of the Neanderthal lineage some 40,000 years ago, soon after modern humans entered western Eurasia.
NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SKIES
BERLIN — To build its collection of ancient writings in the 19th century, the British Museum gathered crates of clay tablets by methods that would not be considered scientifically sound today; namely, buying artifacts that had been dug up around Babylon and Uruk without any archaeological context. Since the 1880s, scholars have been making sense of the astronomical concepts described on many of the tablets. And, according to science historian Mathieu Ossendrijver, it proves that the ancient Babylonians used a complex geometrical model that looks like a rudimentary form of integral calculus to calculate the path of Jupiter. Scientists previously thought this mathematical technique was invented in medieval Europe. The brown clay tablet, which could fit in the palm of your hand, is scrawled with hasty, highly abbreviated cuneiform characters it looks rather sloppy but it may rewrite the history of mathematics.
We should work together in the race to mine the solar system – IN FOCUS with Dr Alice Gorman
With interest in the prospect of mining the moon and asteroids gaining pace, it’s time to take a hard look at what’s really at stake.
From the time of the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, space has been regarded as the common heritage of humanity. This is reflected in the landmark United Nations Outer Space Treaty (OST) of 1967. Among other things, it affirms that all have a right to access space for peaceful and scientific purposes, and prohibits the sovereign appropriation of outer space.
The treaty was designed to provide principles to govern space in the geopolitical environment of the Cold War, when the main space actors were nations, not private corporations. Ironically, their motivation for developing space technology at the time was as much for military as for peaceful purposes.
Since those days, the nature of space activities has undergone a significant shift. Many space technologies initially derived from military programs are now at the heart of very substantial space businesses. Commercial interests are now a significant element in the future of space exploration and use.
And where there are commercial interests at stake, the financial “bottom line” becomes all-important. An increasing number of private entities believe there are considerable profits to be made in the rare metals and other valuable resources lying untouched in the moon and near-Earth asteroids.
A bold act, but is it legal?
The international treaties are based on a cooperative approach to the exploitation of space resources. Despite this, the major space-faring nations have thus far steered away from establishing an international management regime to coordinate any mining activities.
Now, as the technology that might enable such activities to eventually become a reality develops, private enterprise is pushing governments to pass national laws to promote it. In November 2015, US President Barack Obama signed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA) into law. This gives US companies the right to own – and sell – resources mined in space.
Some commentators argue that the Act is a flagrant violation of the letter and spirit of the OST.
The International Institute of Space Law is more circumspect. It says that, while the legal position is not entirely clear, the US law is not necessarily incompatible with international principles.
Such divergent opinions demonstrate that further clarity is necessary to avoid future conflicts.
Environmental impacts of off-world mining
While the focus is on the legalities, as well as who bears the costs of future space exploration and who has the right to profit from it, one critical area is being overlooked.
Asteroids might be “out of sight, out of mind” for the most part, but lunar mining is likely to arouse strong and widespread reactions. The moon is one of the most significant cultural influences that unites people across all times and places in human history.
Would the public support commercial space mining if excavation scars were visible through Earth-based telescopes? Such considerations might be a factor in the design and location of mining operations.
Terrestrial mining companies are generally required to comply with domestic legislation that protects heritage, community values and the environment. Apart from some general statements in the treaties, as yet no similar system is in place for space.
Space mining companies have barely considered that they might have to deal with the same kind of community opposition as mines on Earth, only this time at a global scale.
Diggers in space
Given that the US has enacted a law that purports to establish the right to mine and sell off-world resources, other nations may follow. Indeed, Luxembourg has recently announced it will also establish a legal framework to facilitate space mining.
In moving forward, we need to carefully consider the potential for a “tragedy of the commons” situation in relation to space resources, just as we are with the problem of increasing space debris. What this means is that each entity, acting in its own self-interest, risks destroying a resource for everyone.
What about Australia?
Australia has a huge amount of expertise in mining technology and operations, especially in remote locations. The Pilbara region of Western Australia, the heartland of the mining boom, resembles Mars enough to be called a Mars analogue landscape.
Australians are also active in developing space mining industries, as part of companies such as Deep Space Industries. Recent conferences in Sydney focusing on off-Earth mining attracted much interest.
It is clear that Australian expertise is relevant in the development of space-related capability. The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science is undertaking a review of our space laws to assess what is the most appropriate regulatory framework to promote such innovation into commercial benefit for the country.
The future of access to the solar system
What’s really at stake is the future of universal human access to space and the very way we view space.
A rash move at this point could tip the balance and erode the principle of the common heritage of humanity. We must avoid further entrenching the divisions between the space haves and have-nots.
While there may be considerable benefits to future generations should we find a way to safely and sustainably exploit space resources, there are also considerable risks. These need a very careful calibration.
Cool heads are required and the key will be international cooperation on a broad scale. This issue is too important and too complex to be undertaken by a small number of private enterprises. A clear international regime must be established to safeguard the interests of every stakeholder.
Ancient extinction of giant Australian bird points to humans
The first direct evidence that humans played a substantial role in the extinction of the huge, wondrous beasts inhabiting Australia some 50,000 years ago — in this case a 500-pound bird — has been discovered by a University of Colorado Boulder-led team.
An illustration of the giant, flightless bird known as Genyornis newtoni, surprised on her nest by a 1-ton predatory lizard named Megalania prisca in Australia roughly 50,000 years ago.
Illustration by Peter Trusler, Monash University
The flightless bird, known as Genyornis newtoni, was nearly 7 feet tall and appears to have lived in much of Australia prior to the establishment of humans on the continent 50,000 years ago, said CU-Boulder Professor Gifford Miller. The evidence consists of diagnostic burn patterns on Genyornis eggshell fragments that indicate humans were collecting and cooking its eggs, thereby reducing the birds reproductive success.
We consider this the first and only secure evidence that humans were directly preying on now-extinct Australian megafauna; said Miller, associate director of CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “We have documented these characteristically burned eggshells at more than 200 sites across the continent.
A paper on the subject appears online Jan. 29 in Nature Communications.
In analyzing unburned Genyornis eggshells from more than 2,000 localities across Australia, primarily from sand dunes where the ancient birds nested, several dating methods helped researchers determine that none were younger than about 45,000 years old. Burned eggshell fragments from more than 200 of those sites, some only partially blackened, suggest pieces were exposed to a wide range of temperatures, said Miller, a professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Geological Sciences.
Optically stimulated luminescence dating, a method used to determine when quartz grains enclosing the eggshells were last exposed to sunlight, limits the time range of burned Genyornis eggshell to between 54,000 and 44,000 years ago. Radiocarbon dating indicated the burnt eggshell was no younger than about 47,000 years old. The blackened fragments were likely burned in transient, human fires — presumably to cook the eggs — rather than in wildfires, he said.
Amino acids — the building blocks of proteins –decompose in a predictable fashion inside eggshells over time. In eggshell fragments burned at one end but not the other, there is a tell-tale “gradient” from total amino acid decomposition to minimal amino acid decomposition, he said. Such a gradient could only be produced by a localized heat source, likely an ember, and not from the sustained high heat produced regularly by wildfires on the continent both in the distant past and today.
Miller also said the researchers found many of the burnt Genyornis eggshell fragments in tight clusters less than 10 feet in diameter, with no other eggshell fragments nearby. Some individual fragments from the same clusters had heat gradient differences of nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, conditions virtually impossible to reproduce with natural wildfires there, he said.
“We can’t come up with a scenario that a wildfire could produce those tremendous gradients in heat,” Miller said. “We instead argue that the conditions are consistent with early humans harvesting Genyornis eggs, cooking them over fires, and then randomly discarding the eggshell fragments in and around their cooking fires.”
Another line of evidence for early human predation on Genyornis eggs is the presence of ancient, burned eggshells of emus — flightless birds weighing only about 100 pounds and which still exist in Australia today — in the sand dunes. Emu eggshells exhibiting burn patterns similar to Genyornis eggshells first appear on the landscape about 50,000 years ago, signaling they most likely were scorched after humans arrived in Australia, and are found fairly consistently to modern times, Miller said.
The Genyornis eggs are thought to have been roughly the size of a cantaloupe and weighed about 3.5 pounds, Miller said.
Genyornis roamed the Australian outback with an astonishing menagerie of other now-extinct megafauna that included a 1,000-pound kangaroo, a 2-ton wombat, a 25-foot-long-lizard, a 300-pound marsupial lion and a Volkswagen-sized tortoise. More than 85 percent of Australia’s mammals, birds and reptiles weighing over 100 pounds went extinct shortly after the arrival of the first humans.
The demise of the ancient megafauna in Australia (and on other continents, including North America) has been hotly debated for more than a century, swaying between human predation, climate change and a combination of both, said Miller. While some still hold fast to the climate change scenario — specifically the continental drying in Australia from about 60,000 to 40,000 years ago — neither the rate nor magnitude of that change was as severe as earlier climate shifts in Australia during the Pleistocene epoch, which lacked the punch required to knock off the megafauna, said Miller.
Miller and others suspect Australia’s first inhabitants traveled to the northern coast of the continent on rafts launched from Indonesian islands several hundred miles away. “We will never know the exact time window humans arrived on the continent,” he said. “But there is reliable evidence they were widely dispersed across the continent before 47,000 years ago.”
Evidence of Australia megafauna hunting is very difficult to find, in part because the megafauna there are so much older than New World megafauna and in part because fossil bones are easily destroyed by the chemistry of Australian soils, said Miller.
“In the Americas, early human predation on the giant animals in clear — stone spear heads are found embedded in mammoth bones, for example,” said Miller. “The lack of clear evidence regarding human predation on the Australia megafauna had, until now, been used to suggest no human-megafauna interactions occurred, despite evidence that most of the giant animals still roamed Australia when humans colonized the continent.”
Co-authors on the new study include Research Professor Scott Lehman, doctoral student Christopher Florian and researcher Stephen DeVogel of CU-Boulder; Research Fellow John Magee of the Australian National University; and researchers from seven other Australian institutions.
The study was funded in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Australian Research Council.
Re-published with permission CU News Centre, Jim Scott, CU-Boulder media relations, University of Colorado, Boulder
For a full list of events, please visit the AACAI website here: EVENTS
Where are you and what are you up to?
Project – Subsurface testing on a large sand body with possible early Holocene deposit at 1.7 m
Paul is working on Rancho Jamul Stone Artefact Assemblage
Rancho Jamul, California, United States of America
Artefact analysis and cataloguing
Annie is lucky enough to be on holiday in Canada!
Lead Chief Investigator Kimberley Visions: rock art provinces of northern Australia.
Barrow Island. Archaeology Project 3. Area:NW Australia
Currently I am mainly working on the geoarchaeological aspects (including the stratigraphy, sedimentology, micromorphology and chronology) of the 50,000 year old Boodie Cave site on Barrow Is. to provides the context for the archaeology.
The work on Barrow Island also feeds into an ongoing research interest in the submerged prehistoric archaeological landscape off Western Australia.
AACAI warmly welcomes and encourages contributions to this publication.
Please contact us here: https://aacai.com.au/contact-us/
The Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc. (AACAI) is an organisation for professionals working in all fields of contract and public archaeology. It aims to uphold and promote the discipline and to advance the welfare of members. AACAI has a Constitution, a Code of Ethics and a Consulting with Aboriginal Communities Policy Document. It is affiliated with the Australian Archaeological Association Inc and is a Foundation Member of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.