In My View: The true end of Archaeology? by Donald Henson
Over the last six months the NEC has been busy with a number of initiatives. We have received $5000 in sponsorship for the student support fund. We would once again like to thank the following companies for their contributions:
The student support fund has been provided to 5 students who received a total of $1400 each, more about these students and their topics can be found in the article on the student support fund.
The NEC has also put together new guidelines for nomination of lifetime members, they are provided elsewhere in this newsletter. As our association is rapidly approaching its 40th year of existence, and it was felt by the NEC that those member who have contributed significant time and effort to our association should be recognised. As such prior to this financial year we announced seven new lifetime members. The NEC would like to congratulate these individuals as well as recognise them for the generous amount of time they have spent in various roles in service to our association, as well as their innovation and careful work in the field of consulting archaeology. Our newest lifetime members are:
You will now also find a new lifetime members list on our website. So if you have any suggestions for further lifetime members of the association do not hesitate to contact the NEC to let us know of any potential nominations.
AACAI are once again sponsoring conferences this year, firstly the National Archaeological Student Conference (NASC) that will be held at Melbourne University from the 1st to the 3rd of September. We are again sponsoring the Australian Archaeological Association (AAA) Conference also to be held in Melbourne this year in December. Again we will be running the Meet the Graduates event, so businesses don’t forget to book your stand and students don’t forget to register for this one. Our AGM will be at the Melbourne conference so please do come along and have your vote!
Don’t forget that at the end of this year we will be calling for a new National Executive Committee as the current committee has come to the end of its two year term. Do consider nominating yourself for a role and help our association grow and achieve over the next two years.
President, Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc
Since the last update, AACAI WA have held an inaugural quiz night. Attended by around 50 people, it was a resounding success. I would like to extend my gratitude and utmost appreciation to those members whose companies generously provided excellent prizes on the night.
AACAI WA have released their Position Statement; a way to outline how we want to go forward into the future. Accompanying this has been an information campaign, where members have been lining up meetings with Ministers of Parliament, heads of Government Departments, and mining industry bodies.
In partnership with BHP, AACAI WA members also undertook stone took workshop at Pt Hedland with Pilbara Aboriginal groups (see photo). This was aimed at assisting Pilbara survey participants and community members with understanding how to make stone tools, and use them to make clap sticks. Again a great success, and no blood shed!
(a) Length of membership;
(b) Type of membership (i.e. Full or Associate);
(c) Length of Service to the Association (either on the NEC, State Chapters or other Committees or roles);
(d) Contribution to the Archaeological Heritage Industry
We are not the first humans forced to deal with climate change. New research methods and technologies are able to shed light on climate patterns that took place thousands of years ago, giving us a new perspective on how cultures of the time coped with variable and changing environments and hopefully we can learn from these findings.
A new article in the February issue of Current Anthropology explores the dynamics of adaptation and resilience in the face of a diverse and varied environmental context, mostly regarding water. Integrating research carried out as part of an ongoing collaboration between the University of Cambridge and Banaras Hindu University, the article looks at how Indus populations in north-west India interacted with their environment, and considers how that environment changed during periods of climate change.
There is more it seems on climate change found in Africa . The early human techno-tradition, known as Howiesons Poort (HP), associated with Homo sapiens who lived in southern Africa about 66 000 to 59 000 years ago indicates that during this period of pronounced aridification they developed cultural innovations that allowed them to significantly enlarge the range of environments they occupied.
Read more here:
When did our corn become our corn?
Keeping on a “green” theme, let’s have a go at GM corn - it used to be all natural. Maize, or corn in North America, is an important food and fuel crop. The evolutionary history of such a staple is important and archaeological sites with well-preserved maize are incredibly rare. Some of the answers come from carbon dating ancient maize and other organic material from the El Gigante rock shelter in Honduras.
Read more here:
A Spatial Analytical Approach to Indigenous Fishtraps: Using High-Resolution UAS Photogrammetry and GIS in the Investigation of Kaiadilt Aboriginal Stone-Walled Intertidal Fishtraps, Gulf of Carpentaria
Anna Kreij, College of Arts, Society and Education, James Cook University, Cairns
Indigenous stone-walled intertidal fishtraps are a prominent feature of the intertidal coastal archaeological record across Australia. The role of fishtraps in food production, demarcation of land ownership and ceremonial landscapes has drawn the attention of many, yet the level of detail in documentation is highly varied and scholarly fishtrap knowledge is sparse. Through a critical review of previous approaches to fishtrap identification and recording, an inconsistence in archaeological practice is revealed across the literature. In Australia, scholars and industry practitioners have recorded fishtraps using unique descriptive terms rather than standardising to a common nomenclature, and diverse classificatory systems have emerged, where shape descriptions are most common. Distinguishing features based on shape characteristics is highly subjective, and presents the risk of misidentification, multiple recordings of one feature, and limits the opportunity of cross-site comparison. A broader understanding of fishtrap origin, function and age is further limited by varied recording techniques. Focusing on shape and size, fishtrap assessments generally neglect the three-dimensional aspect of the structures. Thus, comparative analysis is restricted by a lack of detail in recording, leaving contemporary authors attempting to answer the same fundamental questions as scholars before them.
With the aim to create a replicable, robust recording and analytical methodology to improve understandings of fishtraps, fishtrap placement, construction and function is assessed through high-resolution photogrammetric Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) documentation. The high accuracy data acquisition enables assessment of fishtrap location in the landscape, which controls function with current tidal conditions, and allows modelling of past sea-level scenarios in Geographic Information
Systems (GIS). The spatial analysis demonstrates the stone-walled intertidal fishtraps of Sweers Island in the South Wellesley Islands, Gulf of Carpentaria, to be operating most efficiently at present mean-sea level (PMSL) throughout the year. With reference to a local sea-level curve, the structures are likely to have been constructed within the last 2,000 years, as their working range precludes function during low-tide with sea-levels greater than PMSL. The empirical data contributes to broader theoretical discussion of Aboriginal Australian hunter-gatherer behaviour, including intensification in the mid-to-late Holocene, and presents the opportunity to consider the anthropogenic structures within a Niche Construction Theory (NCT) framework. The quantitative recording technique, analytical procedure and terminology developed here, provide an opportunity to improve recording methodologies of large-scale stone features, and standardise documentation of stone-walled intertidal fishtrap sites.
New members joined AACAI in 2016
Diana Cowie upgraded from Associate membership to Full Membership
Fenella Atkinson became a Full Member of AACAI
Welcome to you both!
Each Newsletter will feature a view - perhaps yours. Send us your view on any subject you think your colleagues will appreciate or is close to your heart.
- Donald Henson
Associate Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of York
Wow! The most magical words you can hear from a child. How do we get this wow factor? In my experience, archaeology is full of wow. It was Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1954 who wrote that archaeologists should spend less time digging up things and instead dig up people. What he meant by this was that although archaeology is concerned with studying the physical remains of the past, the real end of archaeology is to shake hands with past people. When I walk into a medieval church, although I have no personal religious convictions, I insist on placing my hand on the wall of the church. Why? Because there is for me an emotional and spiritual connection that I make through that physical fabric. I touch the same wall that someone else touched in the 13th century.
Learning for me is an intensely personal experience, and when I work with others, I want them to have their own personal engagement with the past. Archaeology can do this. History may provide us with named people and events, life stories we can engage with. But this will not be enough for all children. History too easily becomes a dry litany of dates and events. It is archaeology that tells us how they lived, that brings the colour into history. The physical past engages the senses and provokes a physical, bodily reaction that is better suited to some pupils.
In my work at Wakefield Museums in the 1980s-90s, I would repeatedly astonish teachers by enthusing pupils who were disinterested and switched off by classroom education. How? By simply giving the children a direct contact with the past; one that they could hold in their hands. The open mouthed, wide-eyed astonishment of a nine year-old holding a real leather Roman shoe is an image I treasure. The astonishment on the face of the teacher who saw their class trouble-maker engaged and focussed with learning is also very precious to me.
Archaeology is of course more than just an emotional trigger. We have to grapple with how to interpret our evidence. Any child that has argued about whether Father Christmas is real understands the importance of evidence. The idea that we all have different ideas about what something is, or what someone said, is so innate that we all understand problems of interpreting evidence. An engagement with archaeology can give a focus that ties these understandings to the past. One of the favourite artefacts from Sandal Castle I used with schools was a baby’s dummy made of bone from the 15th century. What was a baby’s dummy doing at the castle? Were women and children living there? Was it a local woman visiting the castle to pay her taxes to the lord of the manor? Who would have a bone dummy, a wealthy lady or a poor local farmer’s wife? What else would we look for to answer these questions?
Archaeology is wonderful for use in primary teaching because we have to use many other subjects to make sense of the past. We use maths for measuring and counting stone tools. We use geometry when we lay out our site grid on an excavation to plot where things are found. We use Pythagoras to lay out a square excavation trench using right angles. We use geography when we look at maps and aerial photos. Our dating methods rely on hard science like radio-active decay. We use English to write our reports and display panels, and computing for our bar charts of different pottery types found in the excavation etc. We are the ideal help-mate for historians in breaking down the subject boundaries and engaging with other subjects without losing site of the past. A more cross-curricular approach to teaching is nothing to fear for an archaeologist.
The past is not only interesting, it also fun and exciting. When we’ve got a child saying ‘wow!’, we’ve got them wanting to learn more. What else could a teacher ask for?
Council for British Archaeology