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Thinking of purchasing a book but not sure whether it’s going to be worth the purchase price? Check here first to see if it’s been reviewed in Australian Archaeology! All of the book reviews from recent volumes, listed alphabetically by book title, compiled in one place to make it easy for you to find what you’re looking for.
Abandonments of Settlements and Regions: Ethnoarchaeological and Archaeological Approaches edited by C.M. Cameron and S.A. Tomka (reviewed by Peter Veth).
Aboriginal Economy and Society: Australia at the Threshold of Colonisation by Ian Keen (reviewed by Peter Veth).
A Companion to Archaeology edited by John Bintliff (reviewed by Bruno David).
A Companion to Rock Art edited by Jo McDonald and Peter Veth (reviewed by Ken Mulvaney).
A Companion to Social Archaeology edited by Lynn Meskell and Robert W. Preucel (reviewed by Alistair Paterson).
A Critical Exploration of Frameworks for Assessing the Significance of New Zealand’s Historic Heritageby Sara Donaghey (reviewed by Jane Lennon).
Adventures in Fugawiland: A Computer Simulation in Archaeology, Second Edition by T. Douglas Price and Anne Birgette Gebauer (reviewed by Katrina MacDonald).
Aesthetics and Rock Art III Symposium: Proceedings of the XV USIPP World Congress edited by Thomas Heyd and John Clegg (reviewed by June Ross).
A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse Legacies of the Cold War edited by John Schofield and Wayne Cocroft (reviewed by Iain Stuart).
African Civilisations – Pre-Colonial Cities and States in Tropical Africa: An Archaeological Perspectiveby Graham Coonah (reviewed by Zoe Wakelin-King).
After Caption Cook: The Archaeology of the Recent Indigenous Past in Australia edited by Rodney Harrison and Christine Williamson (reviewed by Judy Birmingham).
After Modernity: Archaeological Approaches to the Contemporary Past by Rodney Harrison and John Schofield (reviewed by Alice Gorman).
Altered Ecologies: Fire, Climate and Human Influence on Terrestrial Landscapes edited by Simon Haberle, Janelle Stevenson and Matthew Prebble (reviewed by Bruno David).
Altered States: Material Cultural Transformations in the Arafura Region edited by Clayton Fredericksen and Ian Walters (reviewed by Christopher Chippindale).
American Beginnings: The Prehistory and Palaeoecology of Beringia edited by Frederick Hadleigh West (reviewed by Rob Gargett).
A Millenium of Culture Contact by Alistair Paterson (reviewed by Angela Middleton).
An Analysis of Ice Age Art. It’s Psychology and Belief System by Noel W. Smith (reviewed by Robert Bednarik).
An Annotated Bibliography of Theses in Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Studies at The University of Queensland, 1948–2000 by Sean Ulm, Anna Schnukal and Catherine Westcott (reviewed by Annie Ross).
Ancestors for the Pigs: Taxonomy and Phylogeny of the Genus Sus by Colin Groves (reviewed by Tim Flannery).
An Archaeology of Australian Since 1788 by Susan Lawrence and Peter Davies (reviewed by Iain Stuart).
An Archaeology of Institutional Confinement. The Hyde Park Barracks, 1848-1886 by Peter Davies, Penny Crook and Tim Murray (reviewed by Susan Piddock).
An Introduction to Landscape by Peter J. Howard (reviewed by Tom Kimber).
A Pacific Odyssey: Archaeology and Anthropology in the Western Pacific. Papers in Honour of Jim Specht edited by Val Attenbrow and Richard Fullagar (reviewed by Alison Crowther).
A Pictoral Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture by R. Apperly, R. Irving and P. Reynolds (reviewed by Susan Lawrence Cheney).
Archaeological Dimensions of World Heritage: From Prevention to Social Implications edited by Alicia Castillo (reviewed by Ian Lilley).
Archaeological Investigation by Martin Carver (reviewed by David Frankel).
Archaeological Typology and Practical Reality: A Dialectical Approach to Artifact Classification and Sorting by W.Y. Adams and E.W. Adams (reviewed by Glenn R. Summerhayes).
Archaeology and Colonialism: Cultural Contact from 5000 BC to the Present by Chris Godsen (reviewed by Rodney Harrison).
Archaeology and Linguistics: Aboriginal Australia in Global Perspective edited by P. McConvell and N. Evans (reviewed by Ian Lilley).
Archaeology as Long-Term History edited by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Matthew Spriggs).
Archaeology of the Chinese Fishing Industry in Colonial Victoria by Alister M. Bowen (reviewed by Neville Ritchie).
Archaeology of the Coastal Exchange System: Sites and Ceramics of the Papuan Gulf edited by David Frankel and James W. Rhodes (reviewed by J. Peter White).
Archaeological Theory and the Politics of Cultural Heritage by Laurajane Smith (reviewed by Thomas F. King).
Archaeological Theory in Practice by Patricia Urban and Edward Schortmann (reviewed by Martin Porr).
Archaeological Theory: Who Sets the Agenda? edited by Norman Yoffee and Andrew Sherratt (reviewed by Laurajane Smith).
Archaeologies of Memory edited by Ruth M. van Dyke and Susan E. Alcock (reviewed by Rodney Harrison)
Archaeologies of Mobility and Movement edited by Mary C. Beaudry and Travis G. Parno (reviewed by Thomas G. Whitley).
Archaeology and the Media edited by Timothy Clark and Marcus Brittain (reviewed by Hilary du Cros).
Archaeology in Practice: A Student Guide to Archaeological Analyses edited by Jane Balme and Alistair Paterson (reviewed by Annie Ross).
Archaeology of Ancient Australia by Peter Hiscock (reviewed by Brian Fagan).
Archaeology of Asia edited by Miriam T. Stark (reviewed by Bill Boyd).
Archaeology of Oceania: Australia and the Pacific Islands edited by Ian Lilley (reviewed by Richard Fullagar).
Archaeology to Delight and Instruct: Active Learning in the University Classroom edited by Heather Burke and Claire Smith (reviewed by Martin Gibbs).
Arrernte Present, Arrernte Past: Invasion, Violence and Imagination in Indigenous Central Australia by Diane Austin-Broos (reviewed by John White).
Art and Archaeology: Collaborations, Conversations, Criticisms edited by Ian Alden Russell and Andrew Cochrane (reviewed by June Ross).
Artefact Classification: A Conceptual and Methodological Approach by Dwight W. Reed (reviewed by David Frankel).
At a Crossroads: Archaeology and First Peoples in Canada edited by George P. Nicholas and Thomas D. Andrews (reviewed by Paul S.C. Tacon)
Australia’s Fossil Heritage: A Catalogue of Important Australian Fossil Sites by the Australian Heritage Council (reviewed by Judith Field).
Australia and the Origins of Agriculture by Rupert Gerritsen (reviewed by Harry Lourandos).
Australian Apocalypse: The Story of Australia’s Greatest Cultural Monument by Robert G. Bednarik (reviewed by Paul Tacon).
Australian Archaeology ’95: Proceedings of the 1995 Australian Archaeological Association Annual Conference edited by Sean Ulm, Ian Lilley and Annie Ross (reviewed by Peter Veth).
Australian Rock Art: A New Synthesis by Robert Layton (reviewed by Claire Smith).
Australia’s Eastern Regional Sequence Revisited: Technology and Change at Capertee 3 by Peter Hiscock and Val Attenbrow (reviewed by Chris Clarkson).
Between Plateau and Plain by June Anderson (reviewed by Madge Schwede).
Beyond Art: Pleistocene Image and Symbol edited by Margaret W. Conkey, Olga Soffer, Deborah Stratmann and Nina G. Jablonski (reviewed by Linda Conroy).
Blue Mountain Dreaming: The Aboriginal Heritage by Eugene Stockton (reviewed by Val Attenbrow).
Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination by Karin Sanders (reviewed by Miranda Aldhouse-Green).
Box Office Archaeology: Refining Hollywood’s Portrayals of the Past edited by Julie M. Schablitsky (reviewed by Peter Hiscock).
Bradshaws: Ancient Paintings of North-West Australia by Graeme L. Walshe (reviewed by Mike Morwood).
Bridging the Divide: Indigenous Communities and Archaeology into the 21st Century edited by Caroline Phillips and Harry Allen (reviewed by Chris Wilson).
Bruising the Red Earth: Ochre Mining and Ritual in Aboriginal Tasmania edited by Antonio Sagona (reviewed by Bruno David).
Burning Bush. A Fire History of Australia by Stephen J. Pyne (reviewed by Lesley Head).
Bushfires and Bushtucker: Aboriginal Plant Use in Central Australia by Peter Latz (reviewed by Wendy Beck).
Catalogue of the Roth Collection and Aboriginal Artefacts from North Queensland by Kate Khan (reviewed by Paul Gorecki).
Cave Art: A Guide to the Decorated Ice Age Caves of Europe by Paul Bahn (reviewed by Iain Davidson).
Climate Change: The Science, Impacts and Solutions by A. Barrie Pittock (reviewed by Mike Rowland).
Coastal Themes: An Archaeology of the Southern Curtis Coast, Queensland by Sean Ulm (reviewed by Bryce Barker).
Colouring the Past: The Significance of Colour in Archaeological Research edited by Andrew Jones and Gavin MacGregor (reviewed by Noelene Cole).
Conserving Australian Rock Art: A Manual for Site Managers by David Lampert (reviewed by Christopher Chippendale).
Constructing Frames of Reference: An Analytical Method for Archaeological Theory Building using Ethnographic and Environmental Data Sets by Lewis R. Binford. (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).
Consultation and Cultural Heritage: Let us Reason Together by Claudia Nissley and Thomas F. King (reviewed by Lynley A. Wallis).
Contemporary Archaeology in Theory: A Reader by R.W. Preucel and Ian Hodder (reviewed by Bryce Barker).
Continent of Hunter-Gatherers: New Perspectives in Australian Prehistory by Harry Lourandos (reviewed by Ian McNiven).
Conversations with Landscape edited by Karl Benediktsson and Katrin Anna Lund (reviewed by Harry Lourandos).
Coobool Creek: A Morphological Analysis of the Crania, Mandibles and Dentition of a Prehistoric Australian Human Population by Peter Brown (reviewed by Phillip J. Habgood).
Cultural Heritage, Ethics and the Military edited by Peter G. Stone (reviewed by Umberto Albarella).
Cycles of the Sun, Mysteries of the Moon: The Calender in Mesoamerican Civilization by Vincent H. Malmstrom (reviewed by Gabrielle Vail).
Desert Peoples: Archaeological Perspectives edited by Peter Veth, Mike Smith and Peter Hiscock (reviewed by Mike Basgall).
Digging it up Down Under: A Practical Guide to Doing Archaeology in Australia by Claire Smith and Heather Burke (reviewed by George Nicholas).
Digging up a Past by John Mulvaney (reviewed by Bruno David).
Dingo Makes Us Human by Deborah Bird Rose (reviewed by Peter Thorley).
Dirty Diggers: Tales from the Archaeological Trenches by Paul Bahn (reviewed by Duncan Wright).
Documentary Archaeology in the New World edited by Mary V. Beaudry (reviewed by Tim Murray).
Documental Filmmaking for Archaeologists by Peter Pepe and Joseph W. Zarzynski (reviewed by Karen Martin-Stone).
Doing Archaeology: A Cultural Resource Management Perspective by Thomas F. King (reviewed by John L. Craib).
East of Wallace’s Line: Studies of Past and Present Maritime Cultures of the Indo-Pacific Region edited by Sue O’Connor and Peter Veth (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).
East of Wallace’s Line: Studies of Past and Present Maritime Cultures of the Indo-Pacific Region edited by Sue O’Connor and Peter Veth (reviewed by Martin Williams).
Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, society and cultureedited by D. Horton (reviewed by Sharon Wellfare).
Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Martin Porr).
Environmental Archaeology: Principals and Practice by Dena Dincauze (reviewed by Tim Owen).
Excavations, Surveys and Heritage Management in Victoria, Volume 1 edited by Ilya Berelov, Mark Eccleston and David Frankel (reviewed by Pamela Ricardi).
Exhuming Loss: Memory, Materiality and Mass Graves of the Spanish Civil War by Layla Renshaw (reviewed by Jon Prangnell).
Explorations into Highland New Guinea, 1930-1935 by Michael J. Leahy (reviewed by J. Peter White).
Exploring Central Australia: Society, the Environment and the 1984 Horn Expedition by S.R. Morton and D. J. Mulvaney (reviewed by June Ross).
Fantastic Dreaming: The Archaeology of an Aboriginal Mission by Jane Lydon (reviewed by Celmara Pocock).
Faunal Extinction in an Island Society: Pygmy Hippopotamus Hunters of Cyprus by Alan H. Simmons and Associates (reviewed by Mike Smith).
‘Fire and Hearth’ Forty Years On: Essays in Honour of Sylvia J. Hallam edited by Caroline Bird and Esmee Webb (reviewed by Harry Lourandos).
First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies by Peter Bellwood (reviewed by Tim Denham).
First Footprints: The Epic Story of the First Australians by Scott Cane (reviewed by Douglas Bird).
First in their Field: Women and Australian Anthropology edited by Julie Marcus (reviewed by Claire Smith).
First Light by Peter Ackroyd (reviewed by Tony Smith).
Flintknapping: Making and Using Stone Tools by John C. Whittaker (reviewed by Katerina McDonald).
Frauds, Myths and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology by Kenneth L. Fedden (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).
Gendered Archaeology edited by Jane Balme and Wendy Beck (reviewed by Stephanie Moser).
Geoarchaeology: The Earth-Science Approach to Archaeological Interpretation by G. Rapp Jr and C.L. Hill (reviewed by Rob Gargett).
Gunyah, Goondie and Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia by Paul Memmott (reviewed by Cherrie de Leiuen).
Handbook of Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology edited by Soren Blau and Douglas Ubelaker (reviewed by Judith Littleton).
Handbook of Landscape Archaeology edited by Bruno David and Julian Thomas (reviewed by David S. Whitley).
Heritage, Communities and Archaeology by Laurajane Smith and Emma Waterton (reviewed by Amy Roberts).
Heritage: Critical Approaches by Rodney Harrison (reviewed by Keir Reeves).
High Lean Country: Land, People and Memory in New England edited by Alan Atkinson, J.S. Ryan, Iain Davidson and Andrew Piper (reviewed by Sharon Sullivan).
Historical Archaeologies of Cognition: Explorations into Faith, Hope and Charity edited by James Symonds, Anna Badcock and Jeff Oliver (reviewed by Edwina Kay).
Historical Archaeology edited by Martin Hall and Stephen W. Silliman (reviewed by Jon Prangnell).
Historical Archaeology: Why the Past Matters by Barbara J. Little (reviewed by Alasdair Brooks).
Hominid Adaptations and Extinctions by David W. Cameron (reviewed by Sylvia Hallam).
How a Continent Created a Nation by Libby Robin (reviewed by Veronia Strang).
Human Evolution, Language and Mind: A Psychological and Archaeological Enquiry by William Noble and Iain Davidson (reviewed by Howard Morphy).
Hunters and Collectors: The Antiquarian Imagination in Australia by Tom Griffiths (reviewed by Mike Smith).
Hunter-Gatherers in History, Archaeology and Anthropology edited by Alan Barnard (reviewed by Ian McNiven).
Inauthentic Archaeologies: Public Uses and Abuses of the Past by Troy Lovata (reviewed by Denis Gojak).
Indigenous Peoples and the Collaborative Stewardship of Nature: Knowledge Binds and Institutional Conflicts by Anne Ross, Kathleen Pickering Sherman, Jeffrey G. Snodgrass, Henry D. Delacore and Richard Sherman (reviewed by Joe Watkins).
Inscribed Landscapes: Marking and Making Place edited by Bruno David and Meredith Wilson (reviewed by Michael Slack and Richard Fullagar).
Interpreting Ground-Penetrating Radar for Archaeology by Lawrence B. Conyers (reviewed by Ian Moffat).
Introduction to Rock Art Research by David S. Whitley (reviewed by Natalie R. Franklin).
Investigating Olduvai : Archaeology of Human Origins by Jeanne Sept (reviewed by Peter Grave).
Invitation to Archaeology Second Edition by Philip Rahtz (reviewed by Simon Holdaway).
Islamic Art and Archaeology of Palestine by Myriam Rosen-Ayalon (reviewed by Alan Walmsley).
Kakadu: Natural and Cultural Heritage and Management edited by Tony Press, David Lea, Ann Webb and Alistair Graham (reviewed by Sean Ulm).
Landscapes, Rock-Art and the Dreamings: An Archaeology of Pre-Understanding by Bruno David (reviewed by Tim Murray).
Lapita Design Form and Composition: Proceedings of the Lapita Design Workshop Canberra, Australia, December 1988 edited by Matthew Spriggs (reviewed by Jim Specht).
Late Holocene Indigenous Economies of the Tropical Australian Coast: An Archaeological Study of the Darwin Region by Patricia M. Bourke (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).
Lessons for Human Survival: Nature’s Record from the Quaternary edited by Paul Bishop (reviewed by Scott Smithers).
Lithics Down Under: Australian Perspectives on Lithic Reduction, Use and Classification edited by Chris Clarkson and Lara Lamb (reviewed by Ian J. McNiven).
Lithics in the Land of the Lightning Brothers: The Archaeology of Wardaman Country, Northern Territory by Chris Clarkson (reviewed by Richard A. Gould).
Love’s Obsession: The Lives and Archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart by Judy Powell (reviewed by Andrew Sneddon).
Making Archaeology Happen: Design versus Dogma by Martin Carver (reviewed by Tim Murray).
Managing Archaeological Resources: Global Context, National Programs, Local Actions edited by Francis P. McManamon, Andrew Stout and Jodi A. Barnes (reviewed by Thomas F. King).
Many Exchanges: Archaeology, History, Community and the Work of Isabel McBryde edited by Ingereth Macfarlane with Mary-Jane Mountain and Robert Paton (reviewed by Martin Gibbs).
Marine Molluscan Remains from Franchthi Cave by Judith C. Shackleton (reviewed by Moya Smith).
Maritime Archaeology: A Technical Handbook by J. Green (reviewed by Iain Stuart).
Material Culture of the North Wellesley Islands by Paul Memmott (reviewed by Asa Ferrier).
Measured on Stone: Stone Artefact Reduction, Residential Mobility and Aboriginal Land Use in Arid Central Australia by W. Boone Law (reviewed by Michael J. Shott).
Motherland by Timothy O’Grady (reviewed by Tony Smith).
Much More than Stones and Bones: Australian Archaeology in the Late Twentieth Century by Hilary Du Cros (reviewed by Tracey Ireland).
Mungo over Millenia: The Willandra Landscape and its People edited by Helen Lawrence (reviewed by Josephine M. Flood).
Mystery Islands: Discovering the Ancient Pacific by Tom Koppel (reviewed by Matthew Spriggs).
Native Title and the Transformation of Archaeology in the Postcolonial World edited by Ian Lilley (reviewed by Alistair Paterson).
Neolithic by Susan Foster McCarter (reviewed by Phillip C. Edwards).
Ngarrindjeri Wurrawarrin: A World That Is, Was and Will Be by Diane Bell (reviewed by James Knight).
Nomads in Archaeology by Roger Cribb (reviewed by Ron Lampert).
Nonlinear Models for Archaeology and Anthropology: Continuing the Revolution edited by Christopher S. Beekman and William W. Baden (reviewed by Mal Ridges).
North American Archaeology edited by Timothy R. Pauketat and Diana DiPaolo Loren (reviewed by Michael Slack).
Object Lessons: Archaeology and Heritage in Australia edited by Jane Lydon and Tracey Ireland (reviewed by Celmara Pocock).
Oceania Explorations: Lapita and Western Pacific Settlement edited by Stuart Bedford, Christophe Sand and S.P. Connaughton (reviewed by Patrick V. Kirch).
Otoliths of Common Australian Temperate Fish: A Photographic Guide by Dianne Furlani, Rosemary Gales and David Pemberton (reviewed by Marshall Weisler).
‘Our People’ Series (reviewed by Anne Skates).
Owls, Caves and Fossils: Predation, Preservation and Accumulation of Small Mammal Bones in Caves, with an Analysis of the Pleistocene Cave Faunas from Westbury-Sub-Mendip, Somerset, United Kingdom by Peter J. Andrews (reviewed by David Cameron).
Pacific Production Systems. Approaches to Economic Prehistory edited by D.E. Yen and J.M.J. Mummery (reviewed by J.P White).
Palaeonenvironmental Change and the Persistence of Human Occupation in Southwestern Australian Forests by Joe Dortch (reviewed by Sylvia Hallam).
Palaeopathology of Aboriginal Australians: Health and Disease across a Hunter-Gatherer Continent by Stephen Webb (reviewed by Graham Knuckey and F. Donald Pate).
Patterns of Burning over Archaeological Sites and Landscapes: Prospection and Analysis by Alistair Marshall (reviewed by Kelsey Lowe).
Peopling the Cleland Hills: Aboriginal History in Western Central Australia 1850-1980 by Mike A. Smith (reviewed by Jo McDonald).
Pictures of Time Beneath: Science, Heritage and the Uses of the Deep Past by Kirsty Douglas (reviewed by Josephine M. Flood).
Pieces of the Vanuatu Puzzle: Archaeology of the North, South and Centre by Stuart Bedford (reviewed by Jennifer G. Kahn).
Pinning Down the Past: Archaeology, Heritage and Education Today by Mike Corbishey (reviewed by Craig Baxter).
Pitt Rivers. The Life and Archaeological work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, DCL FRS FSA by Mark Bowden (reviewed by Ron Lampert).
Place as Occupational Histories: An Investigation of the Deflated Surface Archaeological Record of Pine Point and Langwell Stations, Western New South Wales, Australia by Justin Shiner (reviewed by Ben Marwick).
Plants in Australian Archaeology edited by Wendy Beck, Annie Clark and Lesley Head (reviewed by Bill Boyd).
Pleistocene Geology, Palaeontology and Archaeology of the Soa Basin, Central Flores, Indonesia edited by F. Aziz, M.J. Morwood and G.D. van den Bergh (reviewed by Jillian Garvey).
Port Essington: The Historical Archaeology of a North Australian Nineteenth Century Military Outpostby Jim Allen (reviewed by Charles E. Orser Jr).
Prehistoric Marine Resource Use in the Indo-Pacific Regions edited by Rintaro Ono, Alex Morrison and David Addison (reviewed by Mirani Litster).
Prehistory and Heritage: The Writings of John Mulvaney by D.J. Mulvaney (reviewed by R.J. Lampert).
Prodigious Birds. Moas and Moa-Hunting in Prehistoric New Zealand by Atholl Anderson (reviewed by Brendan Marshall).
Quantifying Diversity in Archaeology edited by Robert D. Leonard and George T. Jones (reviewed by Colin Pardoe).
Quaternary Environments by M.A.J. Williams, D.L. Dunkerley, P. De Deckker, A.P. Kershaw and T. Stokes (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).
Quaternary Environments (Second Edition) by M.A.J. Williams, D.L. Dunkerley, P. De Deckker, A.P. Kershaw and J. Chappell (reviewed by F. Donald Pate).
Quinkan Prehistory: The Archaeology of Aboriginal Art in S.E. Cape York Peninsula, Australia edited by Michael J. Morwood and Douglas R. Hobbs (reviewed by Bruno David).
Reading Material Culture: Structuralism, Hermeneutics and Post-Structuralism edited by Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Bruno David).
Recent Studies in Australian Palaeoecology and Zooarchaeology: A Volume in Honour of the Late Su Solomon edited by Jillian Garvey and Judith Field (reviewed by Joe Dortch).
Re-Constructing Archaeology: Theory and Practice by Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Bruno David).
Records in Stone: Papers in Memory of Alexander Thom edited by C.L.N. Ruggles (reviewed by R.J. Lampert).
Recovering the Tracks: The Story of Australian Archaeology by David Horton (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).
Remains to be Seen: Archaeological Insights into Australian Prehistory by David Frankel (reviewed by Annie Ross).
Renewing Women’s Business: A Documentary by Julie Drew and Wardaman Aboriginal Corporation (reviewed by Sally Babidge).
Returning to Nothing: The Meaning of Lost Places by Peter Read (reviewed by Veronica Strang).
Rock Art and Ethnography: Proceedings of the Ethnography Symposium, Australian Rock Art Research Association Conference, Darwin, 1998 edited by M.J. Morwood and D.R. Hobbs (reviewed by Noelene Cole).
Rock Art and Posterity: Conserving, Managing and Recording Rock Art edited by C. Pearson and B.K. Schwartz (reviewed by Christopher Chippendale).
Rock Art of the Dreamtime: Images of Ancient Australia by Josephine Flood (reviewed by Annie Thomas).
Rock Art of the Kimberley: Proceedings of the Kimberley Society Rock Art Seminar held at the University of Western Australia, Perth, 10 September 2005 edited by Mike Donaldson and Kevin Kenneally (reviewed by Paul S.C. Tacon).
Roonka: Fugitive Traces and Climatic Mischief edited by Keryn Walshe (reviewed by Eleanor Crosby).
Salvage Excavation of Human Skeletal Remains at Ocean and Octavia Streets, Narabeen, Site #45-6-2747 by Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd (reviewed by Judith Littleton).
Salvage Excavation of Six Sites along Caddies, Seconds Ponds, Smalls and Cattals Creeks in the Rouse Hill Development Hill Area by Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd (reviewed by Fiona Hook).
Scribes, Warriors and Kings, the City of Copan and the Ancient Maya by William L. Fash (reviewed by Rene Viel and Jay Hall).
Second Nature: The History and Implications of Australia as Aboriginal Landscape by Lesley Head (reviewed by Harry Allen).
Secrets at Hanging Rock by Alan Watchman (reviewed by Claire St George).
Shamans, Sorcerers and Saints: A Prehistory of Religion by Brian Hayden (reviewed by Bryce Barker).
Shared Landscapes: Archaeologies of Attachment and the Pastoral Industry in New South Wales by Rodney Harrison (reviewed by Lynette Russell).
Sites and Bytes: Recording Aboriginal Places in Australia edited by Josephine Flood, Ian Johnson and Sharon Sullivan (reviewed by Peter Veth).
Social Theory and Archaeology by Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Bruno David).
Social Theory and Archaeology by Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley (reviewed by Chris Godsen).
Structured Worlds: The Archaeology of Hunter-Gatherer Thought and Action edited by Aubrey Cannon (reviewed by Colin Pardoe).
Style, Society and Person: Archaeological and ethnological perspectives edited by Christopher Carr and Jill E. Neitzel (reviewed by Bruno David).
Surface Collection: Archaeological Travels in Southeast Asia by Denis Byrne (reviewed by Sarah Milledge Nelson).
Sustaining Heritage: Giving the Past a Future by Tony Gilmour (reviewed by Richard Mackay).
The Archaeologist’s Field Handbook by Heather Burke and Claire Smith (reviewed by Tim Ormsby).
The Archaeologist’s Fieldwork Companion by Barbara Ann Kipfer (reviewed by Ian J. McNiven).
The Archaeologist’s Manual for Conservation: A Gudie to Non-Toxic, Minimal Intervention Artifact Stabilization by Bradley A. Rodgers (reviewed by Brandy Lockhart).
The Archaeology of Australia’s Deserts by Mike Smith (reviewed by Peter Hiscock)
The Archaeology of Contextual Meanings edited by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Matthew Spriggs).
The Archaeology of Difference: Negotiating Cross-Cultural Engagements in Oceania edited by Robin Terrence and Anne Clark (reviewed by Jo McDonald).
The Archaeology of Drylands: Living at the Margin edited by Graeme Barker and David Gilbertson (reviewed by Mike Smith).
The Archaeology of Market Capitalism: A Western Australian Perspective by Gaye Nayton (reviewed by William Lees).
The Archaeology of Montebello Islands, North-West Australia: Late Quaternary Foragers on an Arid Coastline by Peter Veth, Ken Aplin, Lynley A. Wallis, Tiina Manne, Tim Pulsford, Elizabeth White and Alan Chappel (reviewed by Goeff Bailey).
The Archaeology of the Angophora Reserve Rock Shelter by Josephine McDonald (reviewed by Val Attenbrow).
The Archaeology of the Aru Islands, Eastern Indonesia edited by Sue O’Connor, Matthew Spriggs and Peter Veth (reviewed by Daniel Rosendahl).
The Archaeology of the Colonised by Michael Given (reviewed by Rodney Harrison).
The Archaeology of Time by Gavin Lucas (reviewed by Michael Morrison).
The Archaeology of Whaling in Southern Australia and New Zealand by Susan Lawrence and Mark Staniforth (reviewed by Peter Veth).
The Axe had Never Sounded: Place, People and Heritage of Recherche Bay, Tasmania by John Mulvaney (reviewed by Lyndall Ryan).
The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage (reviewed by Bruno David).
The Bone Readers: Atoms, Genes and the Politics of Australia’s Deep Past by Claudio Tuniz, Richard Gillespie and Cheryl Jones (reviewed by Iain Davidson).
The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia by Charles Higham (reviewed by Robert Theunissen).
The Cainozoic in Australia: A Reappraisal of the Evidence edited by M.A.J. Williams, P. De Deckker and A.P. Kershaw (reviewed by Scott Smithers).
The City in Time and Space by Aidan Southall (reviewed by Jim Walmsley).
The Dark Abyss of Time: Archaeology and Memory by Laurent Olivier (reviewed by Steve Brown).
The Death of Prehistory by Peter Schmidt and Stephen Mrozowski (reviewed by John Giblin).
The Dendroglyphs of ‘Carved Trees’ of New South Wales by Robert Etheridge (reviewed by Jeanette Hope.
The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq edited by Peter Stone and Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly (reviewed by Dan Potts).
The Discovery of the Hobbit: The Scientific Breakthrough that Changed the Face of Human History by Mike Morwood and Penny van Oosterzee (reviewed by Michael Green).
The Discovery of the Past: The Origins of Archaeology by Alain Schnapp (reviewed by Heather Burke).
The Domestication of Europe by Ian Hodder (reviewed by Ron Paul Rainbird).
The Early Prehistory of Fiji edited by Geoffrey Clark and Atholl Anderson (reviewed by Yvonne Marshall).
The Fabrication of Aboriginal History. Volume One, Van Diemen’s Land 1803–1847 by Keith Windschuttle (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).
The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk: An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilisation by Michael Balter (reviewed by Andrew Fairbairn).
The History and Archaeology of the Sydney Cove Shipwreck (1797): A Resource for Future Work by Shirley Strachan (reviewed by David Cameron).
The Illusion of Riches: Scale, Resolution and Explanation in Tasmanian Pleistocene Human Behaviourby Richard Cosgrove (reviewed by Judith Field).
The Illustrated History of Humankind edited by Goran Burenhult (reviewed by Jane Balme).
The Incas by Terence N. D’Altroy (reviewed by Dave Bulbeck).
The Languages of Archaeology: Dialogue, Narrative and Writing by Rosemary Joyce (reviewed by Darren Griffin).
The Lost Legions: Culture Contact in Colonial Australia by Alistair Paterson (reviewed by Nan Rothschild).
The Makers and Making of Indigenous Australian Museum Collections edited by Nicolas Peterson, Lindy Allen and Louise Hamby (reviewed by Michael Westaway).
The Meaning of Water by Veronica Strang (reviewed by Ingereth Macfarlane).
The Naïve Lands: Prehistory and Environmental Change in Australia and the South-West Pacific edited by John Dodson (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).
The Nature of Heritage: The New South Africa by Lynn Meskell (reviewed by Keir Reeves).
The New Archaeology and Aftermath: A View from Outside the Anglo-American World by K. Paddayya (reviewed by Tessa Corkhill).
The Northern Barbarians 100 BC-AD 300 by Malcolm Todd (reviewed by M. Ruth Megaw).
The Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal People by Josephine M. Flood (reviewed by J. Peter White).
The Origins and Spread of Domestic Plants in Southwest Asia and Europe edited by Sue Colledge and James Connolly (reviewed by Tim Denham).
The Origins of Hereditary Social Stratification by Malcolm McKay (reviewed by Ian Lilley).
The Origins of War: Violence in Prehistory by Jean Guilaine and Jean Zammit (reviewed by Graham Knuckey).
The Politics of Suffering: Indigenous Australia and the End of the Liberal Consensus by Peter Sutton (reviewed by Luke Godwin).
The Prehistory of the Mind: A Search for the Origins of Art, Religion and Science by Steven Mithen (reviewed by Catherine Mitchell).
The Riches of Ancient Australia by Josephine Flood (reviewed by Wendy Beck).
The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period by Darrell Lewis (reviewed by Kim Sales).
The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period by Darrell Lewis (reviewed by Natalie Franklin).
The Rocks: Life in Early Sydney by Grace Karskens (reviewed by Jane Lydon).
The Roth Family, Anthropology and Colonial Administration edited by Russell McDougall and Iain Davidson (reviewed by Luke Godwin).
The Science of Human Origins by Claudio Tuniz, Giorgio Manzi and David Caramelli (reviewed by Iain Davidson).
The Shore Whalers of Western Australia: Historical Archaeology of a Maritime Frontier by Martin Gibbs (reviewed by Ian Smith).
The Social Archaeology of Australian Indigenous Societies edited by Bruno David, Bryce Barker and Ian J. McNiven (reviewed by Richard Cosgrove).
The Stone Mirror: A Novel of the Neolithic by Rob Swigart (reviewed by Andy Fairbairn).
The Uses of Style in Archaeology edited by Margaret W. Conkey and Christine A. Hastorf (reviewed by Robert G. Bednarik).
The Willandra Lakes Hominids by S.G. Webb (reviewed by Phillip J. Habgood).
Thinking from Things: Essays in the Philosophy of Archaeology by Alison Wylie (reviewed by Tim Murray).
Time, Energy and Stone Tools by Robin Torrence (reviewed by Dan Witter).
Time to Quarry: The Archaeology of Stone Procurement in Northwestern New South Wales, Australia by Trudy Doelman (reviewed by Justin Shiner).
Tracks, Scats and Other Traces: A Field Guide to Australian Mammals by Barbara Triggs (reviewed by Rob Gargett).
Transitions: Pleistocene to Holocene in Australia and Papua New Guinea edited by Jim Allen and J.F. O’Connell (reviewed by Sandra Bowdler).
Treasures of the Nicholson Museum, The University of Sydney edited by D.T. Potts and K.N. Sowada (reviewed by Vincent Megaw).
23°S: Archaeology and Environmental History of the Southern Deserts edited by Mike Smith and Paul Hesse (reviewed by Peter Thorley).
Uncommon Ground: Cultural Landscapes and Environmental Values by Veronica Strang (reviewed by Wendy Beck).
Uncovering Australia: Archaeology, Indigenous People and the Public by Sarah Colley (reviewed by Ian McNiven).
Understanding Sea-Level Rise and Variability edited by John A. Church, Philip L. Woodworth, Thorkild Aarup and W. Stanley Wilson (reviewed by Mike Rowland).
Uses of Heritage by Laurajane Smith (reviewed by Jane Lennon).
Virtual Archaeology: Re-Creating Ancient Worlds edited by Maurizio Forte and Alberto Siliotti (reviewed by Roland Fletcher).
Visions from the Past: The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art by Mike J. Morwood (reviewed by Meredith Wilson).
Weipa Shell Mounds: Cultural or Natural Deposits? by Geoff Bailey (reviewed by Elizabeth Rich).
Whalers and Free Men: Life on Tasmania’s Colonial Whaling Stations by Susan Lawrence (reviewed by Martin Gibbs).
What is an Animal? edited by Tim Ingold (reviewed by Iain Davidson and William Noble).
What is Archaeology? An Essay on the Nature of Archaeological Research by Paul Courbin (translated by Paul Bahn) (reviewed by Allan Lance).
What’s Changing: Population Size or Land-Use Patterns? The Archaeology of the Upper Mangrove Creek, Sydney Basin by Val Attenbrow (reviewed by Brit Asmussen).
Women in Archaeology: A Feminist Critique edited by Hilary du Cros and Laurajane Smith (reviewed by Alexy Simmons).
Working with Rock Art: Recording, Presenting and Understanding Rock Art Using Indigenous Knowledge edited by Benjamin Smith, Knut Helskog and David Morris (reviewed by Sven Ouzman).
Writing Archaeology: Telling Stories about the Past by Brian Fagan (reviewed by Karen Murphy).
Kabadul Kula and the antiquity of Torres Strait rock art
Ian J. McNiven, Liam M. Brady and Anthony J. Barham
Excavations directly below a painted panel at Kabadul Kula rock art site on the island of Dauan, northern Torres Strait, revealed buried fragments of ochre pigment to a depth of 59cm. A series of AMS 14C dates indicate that most of the ochres and all pieces of facetted ochre were deposited between 1200 and 1400 years ago. Located in a moist tropical environment where the potential for erosion and bioturbation is high, the stratigraphic integrity of the deposit was tested by micromorphological analysis of sediments. Assessment of vertical changes in the size of stone artefacts and sediment particle sizes suggest strongly that this restricted timeframe for ochre use is reliable and not a taphonomic illusion created by post-depositional disturbance. These in situ ochres are associated with an early phase of painting at the site and represent the oldest dates currently available for Torres Strait rock art.
Review of ‘Australia’s Eastern Regional Sequence Revisited: Technology and Change at Capertee 3’ by Peter Hiscock and Val Attenbrow
Australia’s Eastern Regional Sequence Revisited: Technology and Change at Capertee 3 by Peter Hiscock and Val Attenbrow. British Archaeological Reports International Series S1397, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2005, xiv+151 pp., ISBN 184171836X.
School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia Qld 4072, Australia
Although published for several years now, Hiscock and Attenbrow’s 2005 monograph on the Capertee 3 site continues to be an important landmark in Australian and international lithic studies. The research presented is this BAR provides a detailed and rigorous exposition of important issues in Australian archaeology by focusing on a key site in the construction of pervasive, though problematic, eastern and pan-Australian industrial sequences. The issues they tackle include building a detailed understanding of Holocene retouching strategies, exploring typological boundaries and morphological continuums, documenting the temporal boundaries of key temporal markers and exploring the nature, rate and meaning of cultural and technological change in the Holocene period. While each of these issues is dealt with in detail, the monograph remains very readable and its conclusions go well beyond description of an old collection to provide a new framework for analysing and depicting cultural change in Australia.
Hiscock and Attenbrow begin with an excellent introduction outlining the focus of the research. The authors’ justification of the importance and theoretical positioning of the research clearly identifies the problematic nature of more traditional typological analyses, both for the way Australian prehistory has been constructed, as well as for archaeological practice more generally. Leading on from this, they identify a profitable direction for investigating issues of technological and cultural change in this region that is free of many of the problems inherent in typology. The discussion of the underlying materialist perspective the authors adopt is well informed and they deftly avoid laboring the theoretical points they raise. They pinpoint a key problem that has stymied productive archaeological research in Australia – that widely employed typological studies are not only an antiquated system founded on a problematic set of assumptions, often technologically inconsistent, limited in analytical power for addressing certain questions and badly in need of revision, but in some cases, may also be responsible for masking important aspects of cultural change, such as whether change is sudden and transformative or gradual and continuous in Australian sites. The direction they outline for the monograph sets out to resolve this issue for Capertee 3.
The review of the chronology, site formation and evidence for vertical disturbance at Capertee 3 presented in Chapter 2 is comprehensive and convincing. The authors make good use of a novel study of patination on stone artefacts to demonstrate the vertical integrity of the site and outline the problems that have arisen from McCarthy’s selective sampling strategy for the analysis. I was disappointed not to see a graph of weathering severity on backed artefacts themselves over the depth of the site like that presented for all retouched flakes, as this would be particularly interesting given the importance of vertical integrity for claims the authors have made here and elsewhere that the deepest backed artefacts in Sydney Basin sites are in their correct stratigraphic position and that backing is therefore a technology with greater antiquity than has previously been recognised.
Methods for the analysis of retouched artefact size and form are clearly set out in Chapter 3 and comprise a suitable battery of techniques to investigate patterning and change in the kinds of manufacturing technology they are dealing with. There are always more measurements and attributes that can be recorded on stone artefacts, but the authors are judicious and include only those that are appropriate for detecting significant patterning in their data. The analysis presented toward the end of the chapter provides thorough descriptive statistics for the main categories of retouched flakes found in the site, and summarises important background research related to the selection of appropriate methods of measuring retouching intensity that have been published elsewhere. Their approach here clearly takes quantitative analysis of stone artefacts in an important new direction by exploring the relationships between shape, size and retouch variables and determining levels of covariation and independence between them. This is a logical step in determining the contribution of each variable in creating patterning in retouched flakes, and one that might not have proved so successful had cluster analysis been attempted without a sound understanding of the interactions between measures of reduction and various aspects of artefact form.
Chapter 4 continues the exploration of type construction and turns to multivariate statistics and an examination of McCarthy’s illustrated specimens to explore bias and technological inconsistency in his classifications. This chapter is an interesting stand-alone piece of research that builds a convincing argument for a technological viewpoint as an internally consistent way of describing and classifying chipped stone artefacts. Owing to the fundamental differences in outlook between McCarthy’s classification and that of the authors, a point the authors are careful to reiterate, their analysis does not come across as a misplaced critique of research from another era, but as a systematic exploration of the consequences of emphasising similarities in shape over technological criteria in classifying stone artefacts. As McCarthy’s typology continues to play an influential role in Australian archaeology, the conclusions that arise from this study are extremely pertinent and Australian lithic analysts would do well to pay close attention to them. The simple metric and non-metric descriptions employed here mean that this approach could well form the basis of detailed examinations of problematic classificatory systems in other Australian assemblages and in other parts of the world.
Hiscock and Attenbrow turn next to a detailed quantitative exploration of manufacturing processes involved in backed and non-backed retouched flake production in Chapter 5. Their analysis compiles and builds on their own published material which documents continuums in implement morphology as reduction continues. It extends this research by carefully teasing out the parameters of blank selection and discard that set apart the various categories of retouched flakes found at the site. The result is in fact the most thorough and well presented consideration of the complete range of manufacturing steps (excluding raw material selection) involved in retouched implement production that has ever been assembled. This analysis also examines instances of implement reuse that took place long after implements were first discarded. Their primary observation, one that has now been stated many times in the literature though without such compelling data to back it up, is that broad changes in implement morphology over time may perhaps reflect as much, perhaps even more so, the oscillations in reduction intensity that are so clearly responsible for drastic alterations in flake form, as they do stylistic or other cultural changes. This is a bold statement, but it nevertheless follows from their findings. Even so, Hiscock and Attenbrow do not make any such claim for Capertee 3, or not yet at least, but merely demonstrate that it might be so, and that we should be ready to interpret some of the typological changes McCarthy noted at Capertee 3 in this light.
Hiscock and Attenbrow end the analytical section of their monograph on a high note. They turn from examination of atemporal trends in implement morphology related to reduction intensity, to a close examination of changing production rates through time. Their research yields an impressive conclusion – that many of the chronological changes in type frequencies noted by McCarthy do not reflect the addition or deletion of techniques in the manufacturing repertoire (with the exception of burinate reduction which seems to appear later in the sequence), but the differential creation of retouch features (such as serrations, notches and high edge angles) that emerge or are obliterated through changing degrees of reduction. Furthermore, their recalculation of discard rates using z-scores arrives at a new and extremely significant conclusion, that production rates for backed and non-backed artefacts are largely in sync. This is a revelation that is in stark contrast with McCarthy’s findings and one that clinches their argument for a trend toward a mid-to-late Holocene peak in reduction intensity in all classes of retouched implement. They attribute this peak to a likely extension of reduction during this c.1800 year period which was aimed at getting the most possible out of the high quality raw materials that are increasingly brought to the shelter at this time. The apparent introduction of burinate reduction just previous to this peak in reduction fits neatly with this trend the authors argue, by representing a new means of extending the reduction of flakes that are heavily battered and would otherwise be approaching discard thresholds. Since this technique is known to have also provided suitable blanks for backed artefact production, burinate reduction is likely to have been an extremely profitable way putting otherwise ‘spent’ flakes to good use.
In their final chapter, the authors draw on Hiscock’s previously published extendability/maintainbility spectrum model to provide a plausible explanation for the use of alternative retouching strategies. Their suggestion that the two techniques may have existed in unison at Capertee 3 makes sense in the context of mid-Holocene increased climatic variation.
In all, this study is a first of a kind, but one that will hopefully be emulated and expanded upon by many archaeologists interested in this approach. The monograph is very well written and presented with figures consistently prepared to a very high standard. The work sets a new standard in reporting lithic assemblage variability and will be something of a bible for lithic analysts for years to come.
Review of ‘What’s Changing: Population Size or Land-Use Patterns’ by Val Attenbrow
School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia Qld 4072, Australia
‘What’s Changing?’ is a revised and substantially updated version of Attenbrow’s doctoral research completed in 1987, which documents and explores the archaeology of the Upper Mangrove Creek Catchment (UMCC), located in the Sydney Basin. The exceptionally rich datasets from the UMCC were obtained by Attenbrow and co-workers during the Mangrove Creek Dam salvage project, with additional fieldwork conducted by Attenbrow during PhD research. Attenbrow provides an extremely detailed investigation of the prehistory of the UMCC via an analysis of 30 rockshelter deposits. One of the major findings of this work was that there was a continuous increase in the number of sites occupied in the last 12,000 years and a dramatic increase in the number of stone artefacts deposited in the third millennium, followed by decrease over the last 2000 years. Attenbrow is unconvinced by arguments which explain changes in the numbers of sites and artefacts in terms of population change. Instead, Attenbrow explains the patterns in terms of other behavioural changes, including modifications to habitation, subsistence and land-use patterns which were influenced by climatic and environmental changes.
Across 10 chapters, Attenbrow outlines the context, aims, methodology, results and interpretations of her research. The book can be roughly divided into three parts. Part 1 (Chapters 1–2) defines the study region, outlines previous archaeological investigation, and presents a comprehensive, critical synthesis of the various interpretations and explanations in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s concerning temporal changes in the number of sites inhabited and the numbers of artefacts accumulated in individual sites. Part 2 (Chapters 3–5) presents the aims and methods of the fieldwork and excavation programme, presents the fieldwork results, and considers possible biases in the archaeological record and datasets (survey design, sample size, visibility, destruction). Part 3 (Chapters 6–10) is the heart of the monograph, where Attenbrow builds her argument that changes in the number of sites and artefacts through time is not necessarily simply explained by population change. Chapter 6 presents the habitation and artefact indices Attenbrow generated, and the results of multiple analyses concerning trends in the numbers of sites and artefacts in the UMCC. Chapter 7 presents a comparative analysis of quantitative trends in artefact discard and site numbers in five other regions of eastern Australia. Chapter 8 argues that previous population-based explanations for quantitative changes in eastern Australia cannot be sustained, and that valid alternative explanations can be proposed to explain quantitative changes. Chapter 9 explores correlations between climatic and environmental change and observed temporal changes in the archaeological record of the UMCC. In Chapter 10, Attenbrow synthesises the UMCC data to deliver a millennia-by-millennia model of changing subsistence and technological practices, habitation patterns, land-use, and mobility over 12,000 years of catchment occupation, and identifies future research programmes to test the model proposed.
Although Attenbrow tackles many substantive issues facing the analysis of past Aboriginal societies, perhaps of greatest interest is her approach to teasing out the multiple factors behind changes in habitation and artefact indices. Instead of using the number of sites occupied through time as a proxy measure of population, she treats them as changing areas of activity within the catchment, which was itself part of a much larger foraging range. She classifies each site as a base camp or activity location/transit camp based on the amount of stone deposited per millennium, and traces the history of site occupation in terms of these site types, and their location in different topographic zones within the catchment in 1000 year chronological units. Using these data she identifies a dramatic increase in the number of sites being used as base camps 2000–3000 BP, and greater use of activity areas/transit camps in new topographic zones after 2000 BP, and argues that this reflects a change in habitation patterns and reorganisation of subsistence practices rather than population growth per se. There are clear methodological issues with classifying sites as base camps or activity areas based on the number of artefacts per unit time, of which Attenbrow is aware. Several avenues are identified to further test this interpretation.
Turning to the lithic evidence, she argues that a continuous increase in the frequency of bipolar knapping techniques, starting c.6000 years ago, indicates a reduction in residential mobility or restricted access to stone outside the region. Backed artefact discard begins 9000 years ago, peaking 2000–4000 BP, and declines thereafter. Attenbrow draws on faunal, technological and environmental data to propose that the increased production of backed artefacts was a risk minimisation strategy employed to avoid hunting failure resulting from climate and environmental changes. She argues that the return to warmer, wetter conditions did not result in a return to the old patterns of landscape use. An increasing use of edge-ground implements and changes in residential mobility are seen as indicative of new social and territorial organisations. Attenbrow draws several high-level conclusions from the study: a region’s prehistory cannot be based on the evidence from one, or a few selected sites; the use of one or two indices in isolation is inadequate when exploring long term archaeological trends, and multiple lines of evidence need to be utilised in the analysis of the archaeological record.
The work makes a major contribution to the discipline. The in-depth analyses provide detailed information about the prehistory of the UMCC. The work is perhaps the most detailed, methodologically rigorous and data-rich investigations of a single region, and how several processes, often proposed as important factors, changed though time in one region and created patterning in site numbers and artefact discard rates. Novel approaches are applied to assess changing site and landscape use, which can be applied to the interpretation of data in other regions. Attenbrow’s research is an able demonstration of the value of moving beyond simple prime mover models to explain complex archaeological change. This research is ongoing and Attenbrow identifies many avenues to further investigate the models proposed.
Attenbrow clearly sets out the research aims, defines terms, details methods (field survey methods, excavation strategy and methods and analytic methods) includes basic (but not often reported) details of each excavation (rockshelter dimension, aspect, excavation area, depths) and the contents of each deposit (stone, faunal remains, plant and charcoal). It is well illustrated via photographs, maps, tables and figures. The data are presented in four appendices, 73 figures and 51 tables (main text), and in such a way that it can be easily utilised by other researchers. The information presented (e.g. references and age determinations) is consistent and accurate.
Although the volume is exceptionally well-written, a number of figures are not easily read. Figure 3.14 (p.57) could use some dots in the legend, and a figure displaying the changes in the numbers and distributions of sites by function (base camp, activity location/transit camp) by topographic zone would have been a useful inclusion (perhaps a combination of Figures 3.14 and 6.4). Given so much ground is covered, an index would also be helpful.
The monograph is a substantial volume reflecting many decades of Attenbrow’s research and critical thinking. As such, it is not possible to do it justice in the short space of this book review. It should be read by professional archaeologists interested in Australian and regional prehistory, demographic change, and the role of multiple processes in shaping the archaeological record. It is also a useful teaching resource, being a clear example of a carefully planned and well-executed research project. It contains an excellent critical synthesis of interpretations and explanations of quantitative change in Australia during the 1970s and 1980s (Chapter 2) and discussion of biases in the archaeological record and datasets (Chapter 5): both valuable student reading. There is no doubt this monograph will continue to make an important contribution to Australian archaeology for years to come, and I look forward to further tests of proposed habitation and land-use models (pp.222–223; 241; 243–245) and the results of current and future research projects identified by Attenbrow.
An engraved ‘archaic face’ in the northeastern Simpson Desert
A new find of an engraved ‘archaic face’ in the Toomba Range, on the northeastern edge of the Simpson Desert, provides additional evidence for the production of these distinctive motifs on the eastern side of the arid zone (Figure 1). This supplements an earlier report of an engraved archaic face at Carbine Creek, 100km to the northeast of the Toomba Range (Morwood 1978, 1985). Together, these two engravings with characteristic basrelief facial features extend the known distribution of archaic faces and suggest that sometime in the past people shared aspects of a common visual vocabulary across the entire breadth of the arid zone, north of the Tropic of Capricorn.Image caption: The Gap Hole archaic face (published in Australian Archaeology 69:69).
Changing Times, Changing Techniques: The Spatial Analysis of an Aboriginal Rock Art Site with a Geographic Information System
MAppSc, Department of Geomatics, University of Melbourne, January 2004
The use of geographic information systems (GIS) by many disciplines has grown incrementally in the last decade. One field that has been particularly receptive to its application is that of archaeology. As a discipline, archaeological research is renowned for incorporating expertise from other disciplines, such as botany, geography, geology and chemistry. GIS has been used in a wide variety of archaeological projects including the spatial analysis of landform use (landscape archaeology), stone artefact analysis, as well as historic and maritime sites.
In the field of rock art research, methods for recording, analysing and interpreting art, as well as the sites and complexes containing it, are constantly undergoing development and refinement. Current techniques include, but are in no way restricted to, the extrapolation of spatial components in studies of both regional and intrasite analyses through the use of statistics. Analyses of this type provide a great deal of assistance in the interpretation of the rock art designs, sites and complexes but are restricted when questioning the spatial organisation present.
An intrasite analysis of a petroglyph site with a GIS was developed in order to act as an example of the ways in which this type of technology may be incorporated into a research design. The analysis of the rock art complex in the Euriowie region of far-western New South Wales, Australia, demonstrates that a GIS can effectively be used to conduct spatial analysis of a rock art site. The methods developed within the project, in particular those relating to the integration of the GIS, are discussed in detail and the appropriateness of the application as both a data management and data analysis tool is described.
Modernity and tradition: Considerations of Cornish ethnicity and its recognition in the archaeological record of a Burra dugout
This paper presents the results of an analysis of a ceramic assemblage excavated from a nineteenth century dugout home in Burra, South Australia. It traces living standards around the world to establish that the dugouts were ordinary homes. The role of ceramics in class, status and ethnic identity in nineteenth century cultures is discussed. British regional cultures, including the Cornish, are explored, their differences from their English contemporaries are exposed, and a proposal is made to determine whether the inhabitants of this dugout were Cornish. Methods of excavation and artefact analysis are then described and results provided. The discussion considers the ceramics as both utilitarian and display items, and concludes that the preponderance of one class of food consumption item illustrates that the inhabitants were probably of British regional extraction.Image caption: Site MF15 during excavation (published in Australian Archaeology 69:62).
Review of ‘Aesthetics and Rock Art III Symposium’ edited by Thomas Heyd and John Clegg
Discipline of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, School of Humanities, University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351, Australia
John Clegg sums up the papers published in the volume he co-edited with Thomas Heyd as an ‘eclectic mooting of experts’. It is indeed a catholic collection of rock art papers – 11 in all – by Australian and international authors, enriched with perceptions borrowed from disciplines such as psychology and philosophy. While all were presented under the framework of aesthetics in rock art, the varied approaches evident in the papers demonstrates the broad scope of this topic as conceived by the contributors. Such approaches contrast with more literal interpretations of the term that define and limit the concept of aesthetics to the study of the effect of the physical properties of objects on the senses and the qualitative evaluation of those properties, or simply to a Eurocentric evaluation of skill or beauty.
The volume comprises the proceedings of a symposium of the same name held at the XV World Congress of the International Union for Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences held in Lisbon, Portugal during 2006. The contributions complement, revisit and build upon the papers (many by the same authors) published in the editors’ earlier book Aesthetics and Rock Art: An Introduction (Heyd and Clegg 2005).
In order to impose structure on the broad-ranging papers, the editors have arranged the papers into five sections. The first, ‘Aesthetic Perspectives on Origins and Importance of Rock Art’, includes two papers; Margaret Bullen looks for a physiological explanation for the emotional reactions that people have to memorable rock art images. She identifies human responses to these images similar to the common responses experienced by sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder independent of their cultural backgrounds. In the second paper, Deręgowski stops short of claiming universality for particular aesthetic values, but flags this possibility based on results from a study of a small sample of South African Bushmen rock art in which he identifies stylistic elements such as linear repetition, which are commonly found on other art objects throughout the world.
The second section titled ‘Applying the Aesthetic Perspective in Understanding Rock Art’ is comprised of four papers. Clegg and Jamwal analyse rock art from three countries in order to demonstrate that function rather than aesthetics (as defined Eurocentrically as ‘skill and prettiness’) was more likely to have been the foremost concern of prehistoric artists. In the following paper, Dobrez, like Deręgowski, seeks to identify universals in the way humans respond to a particular range of formal markers in figurative rock art assemblages and the contexts in which they were produced. Using Reception Theory, a concept borrowed from philosophy and a very detailed analysis, he flags fundamental generic options, claimed to be value-neutral, which are used by viewers to make sense of visual images. Michael Eastham presents a detailed analysis of the stylistic elements of painted motifs from Anbangbang in Arnhem Land. He argues that rock art provides an alternate means of communicating ideas across language barriers in a region where a multiplicity of languages are spoken. Further, he suggests that some images provide an essential means of retaining and passing basic information from generation-to-generation independent of language. If this were to be the case as Eastham suggests, the meaning of such motifs would have to be inherent in the motif and/or panel and would rely upon a literal reading of the images. This idea challenges the more accepted notion that meaning is established and agreed to arbitrarily and can thus vary or change through time, or alternatively, motifs might hold a multiplicity of meanings at the same time. The final paper in this section written by Andrei Isnardis, Vanessa Linke and Andre Prous analyses stylistic changes at Minas Gerais in the highlands of central Brazil and has been published in Chinese rather than being translated into English.
While Chazine’s paper in the third section of the book, ‘Expression and Intention in the Aesthetics of Rock Art’ has been published in English rather than his native French, it would have benefited from a tighter editorial hand. Focused on the distinctive arrangement of hand stencils found in caves in Borneo, Chazine perceives what he identifies as the elementary aesthetic concerns of the producers. The other paper in this section, by Anne Eastham, investigates the intentions of the creators of standing stones in Pembrokeshire in Wales by analysing their specific location and later repositioning and decoration. Based on this analysis, she concludes that the function of the standing stones has differed through time.
The penultimate section of the book is devoted to ‘Aesthetics and Ethics of Rock Art’. Heyd points out the threats of commercial exploitation or academic appropriation to which rock art is exposed. He warns that transculturation, in order to be generative or productive in a meaningful way, requires that encounters between cultures be guided by respect founded on the pursuit of understanding of the other. Such an understanding of other cultures is seen as a prerequisite by Bararda Fernandes in his paper on conservation of engravings in the Côa Valley in Portugal. He highlights the integral role that fissures and other intrinsic qualities of rock substrates might play in the aesthetic intentions of the original producers.
The two final papers included in the ‘Overviews and Commentaries’ section summarise the diversity of approaches taken by the contributors: Clegg states that it is the incorporation of such differences that add richness to the discipline. Nowell provides a different perspective on aesthetics as a framework from which to study rock art, advocating instead a comprehensive contextual approach for the discipline. In conclusion, she argues that researchers need to move away from essentialist approaches that assume that art and human responses to it are universals.
It may well be that the term ‘aesthetics’ has lost its valency as an accurate rubric to cover the diversity of approaches included in this volume. Whatever the title under which the papers are gathered, the volume provides thought-provoking and innovative examples of the ways in which our understanding of rock art can be illuminated and warrants its publication as a worthy addition to the earlier publication on the same topic.
Heyd, T. and J. Clegg (eds) 2005 Aesthetics and Rock Art: An Introduction. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Artefact assemblage characteristics and distribution on the Point Blane Peninsula (Blue Mud Bay, northeast Arnhem Land)
Previous analysis of the archaeological material recorded on the Point Blane Peninsula in Blue Mud Bay has highlighted the dominance of shell deposits within this landscape. While only minimally represented within the study area, the stone artefact assemblage characteristics, the level of artefact reduction, raw material use and the distribution of artefacts across the peninsula all suggest that, while there may not have been a heavy reliance on stone technology in this coastal area, stone was largely procured locally and intensively reduced. This reinforces the interpretation of economic activity within this area being focused on coastal resources and locally oriented.Image caption: Location of quartzite and silcrete artefacts across the Point Blane Peninsula (published in Australian Archaeology 69:25).
Review of ‘A Critical Exploration of Frameworks for Assessing Significance of New Zealand’s Historic Heritage’ by Sara Donaghey
A Critical Exploration of Frameworks for Assessing Significance of New Zealand’s Historic Heritage by Sara Donaghey. British Archaeological Reports International Series S1836, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2008, viii+196 pp., ISBN 9781407303208.
Reviewed by Jane Lennon
Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood Vic. 3125, Australia
This book opens with a quotation from a Maori elder: ‘When I look at these landscapes I see my ancestors walking back to me’ (p.1). The elder would be deeply disappointed by the findings of this book regarding the inability of his fellow citizens to agree on a common framework, terminology and concepts for identifying and assessing the historic heritage of New Zealand.
It is even more telling that this publication, based on a thesis for a PhD in New Zealand in 2004, had to be published as part of a series of British Archaeological Reports. Will the empire strike back in assisting post-colonial heritage assessment frameworks? Or does one have to be published in England for the local press to engage in a meaningful discussion on the nature of New Zealand’s historic heritage?
The 196 page publication has eight chapters and the constant iteration in style makes for cumbersome reading even if this means continual reinforcement of the findings of each section. Chapters 2 and 3 present a well-researched summary of the theories of heritage significance and assessment and a review of international policy based on those from Australia, Canada, England and the USA. Chapter 4 reviews New Zealand policy and practice, while Chapters 5 and 6 detail the data surveys and questionnaires used by the author in her study. Chapter 7 analyses the wider findings while the final chapter concludes with the policy implications of the research on the assumption that ‘paying regard to the value of historic heritage is a duty of civilised society’ (p.149).
The exploration of theoretical frameworks concludes with the primacy of social value ‘articulated as expressions of cultural identity, community sentiment and public values’ (p.20). Donaghey notes that ‘the challenge lies in satisfactorily acknowledging the collective memories of all cultural groups and developing an appropriate disciplinary consciousness’ (p.20).
The chapter on international evidence presents snapshots of the various systems as at 2004. For Australia (pp.24–29) this is when the new national regime commenced with its powerful ideal of an integrated framework of heritage values, but some scepticism about the practicality of this approach was raised. The new National Heritage Places Strategy was to tackle flaws in the old system: duplication in legislative process at all levels of governance; lack of an overarching national heritage policy; confusion in the community about the various systems and lists; and lack of effective protection for nationally important heritage places.
Sadly for this book, and its Australian readers, there is a five year time lag from research to publication. During this time the much derided Productivity Commission report, Conservation of Historic Heritage Places, came to dominate which was couched in economic rationalist terms of market failure. Despite the Productivity Commission conducting local government surveys similar to those conducted by Donaghey in New Zealand and over 400 submissions requesting various forms of technical and financial assistance for conservation, it progressed the wider agenda very little. Currently there is the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
Donaghey concludes her international review with a table of the comparative features for an effective heritage evaluation system (Table 3.6.1) and states that it is ‘undisputed that the Burra Charter has been a powerful instrument in promoting the efficacy of Australia’s heritage policy’ (p.38). However, she notes that as governance increases in complexity, effective heritage strategies depend ‘on the energetic vision of national lead bodies’ (p.38), and an effective assessment process requires recognition of locally significant heritage, consistency, government commitment and provision of resources, competent local authority mechanisms and community inclusiveness. These issues have been found deficient in the Australian system now by submitters to the above-mentioned review of the EPBC Act.
Her review of New Zealand policy and practice (pp.42–61) finds it wanting in comparison to the international systems examined, considering the dynamic nature of heritage values, the lack of a landscape approach, the anachronistic approach to archaeological site protection and in having differing concepts for Maori and Pakeha. To compound this confusion devolution of heritage management to local authorities without adequate resourcing highlights the lack of clear national policy. Her surveys back up this initial review. The survey of non-professional opinion reflects the strength of community feeling towards historic heritage and the diverse ways in which heritage is revered, while the survey of professional opinion highlighted the need for national standards and a common assessment process to ensure consistency of criteria and methodology. Both groups supported the need for greater engagement with the community (p.112).
The analysis of wider findings (pp.113–139) results in a blueprint for corrective action for national policy, resourcing, legislation, registration and listing, regional and local authority procedures, Maori heritage, communities, historic areas and landscapes, and archaeological sites. This is obviously required given that a table ranking New Zealand frameworks against internationally effective system characteristics, like guiding principles or clear assessment guidelines, scores only 5 out of 19 characteristics (Table 7.5.1, p.136).
Donaghey’s concluding chapter argues that social value be accorded greater recognition in policy and practice and that three issues predominate: significance of local heritage; consistency; and resourcing (p.146). These ring true for Australia as well. She hoped that a nationally consistent, clear and easy to use assessment system would be in place by 2010, but experts were not optimistic. She notes a political unwillingness to invest in the heritage process. It is the same in Australia, but what action are individual practitioners taking to ensure a relevant deal for heritage?
While this book may be a benchmark for New Zealand in 2004, it is out of date for Australian readers, although many of the issues are relevant as a wake up call. Policy is in a vacuum and it is up to professional bodies to raise and debate these issues before any comment is regarded by bureaucrats downsizing and simplifying processes as irrelevant.
The Broadbeach Aboriginal Burial Ground: An Analysis of Social Behaviour and Identity
MA, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, The Australian National University, February 2007
This thesis is a re-evaluation of the Broadbeach Aboriginal burial ground (from AD 750–AD 1900), the main aim being to distinguish patterns of social behaviour and identity previously unknown. To achieve this, several facets of mortuary behaviour were examined: age; sex/gender; rank; and belief systems. Analysis of the data looked at numerous aspects of mortuary behaviour including the presence or absence of mortuary material such as red pigment, charcoal, shell, animal bone and stones; the position of the body; sex; age; and treatment of the body. Analysis of the site in conjunction with ethnohistory of the region showed variability in mortuary ritual and methods of disposal reflecting aspects of societal attitudes. The differential treatment of individuals observed at the Broadbeach burial site appears to be based on age; sex/gender; rank; and belief systems. Analysis of material remains found at the site indicates that children as young as five years of age were potentially economic agents; similarly identified with adults; or that their family members held status within the community. Differential treatment was also seen between men and women, namely in the location of the burial; numbers of males and females interred; burial type; burial stage; and distribution of artefacts, however, a lack of evidence prevented further interpretation of gender aspects. In line with the ethnography of Queensland, the Broadbeach site shows evidence that belief systems such as sorcery played a significant role in influencing methods of disposal. Although the mortuary evidence analysed at Broadbeach only represents a small portion of mortuary behaviour practiced within the region, the significance of funerary practices at this site is the combination of factors such as age; sex/gender; rank; and belief systems and their corresponding influence on methods of disposal.
Universal Visions: Neuroscience and Recurrent Characteristics of World Palaeoart
PhD, Centre for Classics and Archaeology, University of Melbourne, March 2009
Palaeoart includes a diverse range of art-like manifestations, predominantly comprising rock art and portable art objects, dating from the Pleistocene right through to the Holocene. A fascinating aspect of palaeoart is that striking commonalities or parallels may be observed worldwide. These parallels include a range of recurrent abstract-geometric motifs and patterns, figurative subjects and themes. Similarities in the ways in which this content is executed may also be found. Despite various attempts, these commonalities have not yet been adequately explained. Positioned within a structuralist framework, this thesis considers recent breakthroughs in neuroscience as a means of understanding them. Specifically, it examines the role of human perceptual-neurophysiological universals in governing palaeoart production, and argues for a basis of artistic parallels in aspects of the evolved neurobiology shared by all normal humans. The rock art of hunter-gatherer societies constitutes more than 90% of known prehistoric art, and the scope of the study is limited to palaeoart attributed to pre-European contact, pre-literate hunter-gatherer societies. The temporal scope of the study varies with the evidence discussed.
The approach taken is partly informed by recent studies that have used neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to reveal brain activation patterns associated with the perception of different types of visual stimuli. It is further informed by a wide range of additional neuroscientific and perceptual experimentation data relevant to palaeoart imagery. The value of considering human universals as a means of answering the questions how and why the same forms recur in palaeoart around the world is addressed. The approach provides a sound alternative to simplistic interpretations such as cultural diffusion based solely on visual resemblances between the arts of widely separated regions. The examination of palaeoart in light of neuroscientific data has major implications, ultimately revealing underlying reasons for the production of certain types of imagery. Abstract-geometric motifs and patterns, animals and parts of animals, and the human body and its parts are all shown to have special roles in visual information processing. It is found that shared aspects of the human nervous system influence conscious and unconscious preferences and decisions made in the process of creating graphic imagery, and that this has given rise to cross-cultural similarities in palaeoart. Recurrent forms in palaeoart are shown to be precisely those visual stimuli that are particularly powerful triggers of neural activity and correspond with prominent areas of the visual brain. These forms of visual imagery stimulate inherent neural mechanisms that have developed during human evolution specifically for the analysis of biologically significant aspects of the visual world. Palaeoart can thus be regarded as a kind of neuro-perceptual mirror demonstrating attributes and principles characteristic of human beings.
Review of ‘The Roth Family, Anthropology and Colonial Administration’ edited by Russell McDougall and Iain Davidson
Central Queensland Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd, 16 Moren Street, Rockhampton Qld 4700, Australia
Walter E. Roth stands, in the truest meaning of the word, as a polymath: a scholar whose interests extended across a range of disciplines and with a capacity to produce work of considerable depth in each. He was a formally trained medico, whose work as an ethnographer and anthropologist, linguist, collector of material culture, historian, and senior bureaucrat, among other things, in both Australia and South America, generated material of such quality that 100 years on it is still of great value and interest to scholars in each of these disciplines. Many of us would settle for making a contribution of that kind in any one of these areas. In light of this legacy, it is incredible that during his career some doubted his abilities, intellect and application, and that he upbraided himself for wasting time. Whatever the reality, such self-perceptions and an awareness of the attitudes of others towards him, possibly engendering a low self-esteem, may in part explain his motivations and drive.
It is difficult not to be impressed by Roth’s capacities as a scholar and a person. That this dedication to research of an impeccably high quality, particularly in the areas of ethnography and the fledgling archaeology, in challenging conditions was a mark of the family as a whole is amazing. In this context, a volume devoted to Walter and his other perhaps less well-known siblings and relatives is a worthy, and some might think overdue, task. So it is easy to welcome this collection of papers that had their genesis in a conference devoted exclusively to the purpose of exploring the achievements as well as other aspects of the careers of this remarkable family.
While not forgetting the far from negligible contributions of his relatives, the breadth of the papers in this volume, covering so many facets of Roth’s career as both researcher and bureaucrat, is testament to his own catholic interests. That some can and do openly look at more challenging issues in that career, including the manner in which he used informants (notably the matter of photographing people demonstrating certain sexual positions) and his role as a Protector of Aborigines serves to demonstrate that, like all of us, Walter was a complex individual sometimes capable of allowing his own interests to overtake an awareness of, or openness to, the rights of others and that he was a creature and product of his times. Recent distasteful behaviour where shock jocks beguile mothers to question their juvenile daughters on commercial radio about their sexual experiences for the purpose of titillating a mass audience, and thereby for profit, perhaps should temper our judgement of Roth in this regard.
The central elements in Roth’s career from an Australian perspective were his time as a medical officer in remote Queensland and then subsequently as a Protector of Aborigines in the 1890s and 1900s. It was during these decades that he undertook the research for which he justly remains famous. His career at this time paralleled that of a certain Archibald Meston. In my mind, and having had some opportunity to compare the writings and attitudes of Roth and his bitter bureaucratic rival, Meston, there is little question as to who usually demonstrated the greater humanity in the carriage of his duties while also bringing to his research a disciplined mind committed to rigorous, accurate description and judicious analysis. We can reasonably compare them in the following broad terms. Meston was gung-ho in seeking to remove people from their traditional country to populate reserves often many hundreds of miles away (remembering he was the architect of that the reserve system). At the same time he sought to apply a strict economic rationalism to these reserves to keep costs down, thereby inflicting great hardship on the unlucky residents while, in the best interests of nepotism, promoting his son for office as overseer or manager of various reserves. It seems to me that, while Roth certainly did authorise removals, he was slower, at times almost reluctant to do so, and not without exploring the issue in some detail. Meston’s flights of fantasy and errors are obvious to any who have taken time to read his reports and magazine articles, while Roth continues to impress well-qualified scholars in all the areas in which he took interest.
The ongoing scrap between Roth and his nemesis played its way out in various controversies including the Keppel Island removals (a bureaucratic fight he lost), and in the sale of his collections for personal profit. It is easy to see a great jealousy seething in Meston: his bureaucratic equal, but rival, secured the plum position for which he thirsted, and then ultimately overtook him, and all the while there was Roth’s continuous, seemingly effortless production of material of a consistently high standard widely admired by the academic and scientific community. One of the great shames in all this is that it was Walter who was hounded (and at times slandered) by politicians and bureaucrats, often at the instigation of, or egged on by Meston, ultimately seeing him resign his position in Queensland and depart for foreign climes in South America. But then I observe that we will wait some time to see a collection of essays extolling the contributions of Archibald Meston.
All this and more is explored in this volume. As someone who has worked in central and western Queensland for a number of years I have always found it a pleasure to delve into Roth’s voluminous materials from these regions for some new insight. This volume nicely complements that. For others there will be other aspects to catch their interest, including an opportunity to compare colonial administrations in Australia, the Pacific and South America.
McDougall and Davidson have done a fine job editing this handsome volume. It is nicely produced in hard covers with good quality photographs, figures and maps (though the text in Figure 7.1 tested my fading eye sight). The papers generally demonstrate a confidence in handling data and a lightness of touch that mark scholarship of some depth being at play. A minor quibble: while I enjoyed reading all the papers in this volume, there were times when I had a sense that some were terminated just when they were starting to get really juicy, or that some discussion was attenuated possibly to meet a word limit set by the editors in the interests of equity. Perhaps this merely reflects my own interest in a subject having been pricked but not satisfied. However, I suspect that my frustrations will be eased on going and ferreting out some of the less accessible material these scholars have produced on these subjects. It is a measure of the value of this volume that it encourages such interest. It is also something that I think Walter and the rest of his family would wholeheartedly endorse.
Politics of the Dead: A Comparative Analysis of Legislative Options for the Reburial of Repatriated Indigenous Human Remains in Southeastern Australia
BArch(Hons), Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, November 2007
This thesis examines current options for reburial of Indigenous remains in legislation and the administrative policies of collecting institutions and government departments in mainland southeastern Australia. The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 (South Australia), Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Victoria) and National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (New South Wales) are examined in combination with the ‘Policy and Procedures for Aboriginal Heritage Unit and Related Unit’ (Australian Museum, NSW), ‘Policy on Human Skeletal Remains Collection 1987’ (South Australian Museum), ‘Repatriation of Aboriginal Cultural Material Policy: Principles and Direction for Repatriation’ (draft document, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division, SA) and ‘Repatriation of Aboriginal Cultural Material Policy’ (Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, NSW).
The past collection of Indigenous skeletal remains for scientific research by various parties has resulted in the current ‘reburial issue’. With the successful repatriation of remains, deciding whether, where, how and when remains will be reburied is a complex process confronting Indigenous communities. Utilising a qualitative research methodology, this study explores the reburial options for remains within public policy and state heritage legislation. This research contributes to the sparse discourse regarding this complex contemporary issue, discussing several key issues confronting Indigenous communities, notably the access to useable land for reburial; provisions for resources (both financial and logistical) within legislation and policy; and the future protection of these remains.
Owing to the independent development of legislation and policy of each state in the study region, the study explores the effectiveness of each state model in providing provisions for the reburial of remains. In doing so, the study illustrates the present deficiency in South Australian legislation and policy in comparison with those of its counterparts, New South Wales and Victoria. The research concludes that although some significant steps have been made towards establishing an effective response to this complex issue, in general the collecting institutions and government departments in southeastern Australia have been ‘slow’ in creating ‘real’ assistance to Indigenous communities in the complex process of deciding how, when, where and whether to rebury their Old People.Image caption: Uncle Major ‘Moogie’ Sumner at a Ngarrindjeri reburial ceremony (photograph courtesy of Lynley Wallis).
Archaeozoological records for the highlands of Papua New Guinea: Review of current evidence
Archaeozoological records for seven occupation sites in the highlands of New Guinea are presented and reviewed. The sites were originally excavated between 1959 and 1981. More recent excavations have not documented comparable archaeozoological records. This paper aims to summarise unpublished research, together with some previously published results, for a broader audience, and elicit general trends within the data. Of significance are methodological insights, observations on Pleistocene and Holocene extinctions and the introduction of exotic fauna, and implications for understanding land-use and socio-economic histories during the late Holocene.Image caption: Map of Papua New Guinea showing places mentioned in the paper (published in Australian Archaeology 69:42).
Review of ‘Heritage, Communities and Archaeology’ by Laurajane Smith and Emma Waterton
93 East Street, Torrensville SA 5031, Australia
This book is one in a series of volumes ‘devoted to a theme which is the subject of contemporary debate in archaeology’ and which is ‘designed to be accessible to students and serious scholars alike’ (back cover). The authors tackle some important issues facing the archaeological discipline with the primary aim of providing an analysis of the manner in which ‘community’ and ‘heritage’ have been ‘yoked together’ (p.11) and to ‘unpack’ the ‘prevalent images of ‘community’ in heritage studies’ (p.14). The opening sections begin with an analysis of the term ‘community’ with the authors making some pertinent comments about the inherent dangers of assuming that ‘communities’ are a ‘homogenous unit’ (p.18).
Australian readers should be aware that the book appears to be primarily written for a UK/European audience, although there are some references to Australian examples/case studies (e.g. Ros Langford on p.35 and the Yorta Yorta community on pp.81–85). One observation that the authors discuss in this regard relates to the lessons that the discipline can learn from ‘Indigenous engagement’. They write:Although the insights emerging from the literature on Indigenous engagement are useful and applicable more broadly, they are often ignored in the wider archaeological and heritage literature because they are seen as issues only relevant in crosscultural or so-called post-colonial contexts. This tendency to compartmentalise these issues derives from the assumption that communities within one broad community will understand and accept narratives about the past and heritage that their experts construct (p.142).
This would seem particularly so in relation to the authors’ comments on ‘intangible’ heritage regarding their case study about Castleford (a post-industrial town in West Yorkshire, UK):For many in the CHT [Castleford Heritage Trust] and the wider Castleford community, heritage is not simply the physical remains of the industrial landscape, nor primarily the Roman remains that still underlie modern Castleford. Nor is it its mining artefacts or pit banners and so forth. Intangible heritage is an important aspect in Castleford … much of what the CHT and other community members define as heritage are intangible events such as memories, oral histories, dances, music, industrial knowledge and workplace skills (p.97).
For many Australian archaeologists who work with Indigenous communities the parallels between debates about Indigenous Australian intangible heritage and the authors’ comments above will be obvious.
Given the recent demise (and resurrection) of the Ausarch listserver, Australian readers will also find Smith and Waterton’s commentary on ‘digital communities’ interesting (pp.119–137). They note that ‘[t]he current web presence tends to be associated with professional communities or disenfranchised groups already struggling to find a legitimate and authoritative voice’ (pp.136–137).
Another important theme concerns what the authors term AHD (Authoritative Heritage Discourse) – a discourse in which ‘emphasis is placed upon the material and tangible which are earmarked as crucial markers of heritage and identity’ (pp.27–35). They provide some interesting analysis of the ways in which the ‘emotional quality of heritage’ may be disregarded in an AHD discourse (p.52). In this regard they refer not only to the ‘emotional response of communities’ but also importantly to the ‘complex and nuanced emotional responses from the heritage expert’ (p.52). As they rightly point out, ‘heritage experts’ are often characterised as the objective professional which may serve to ‘mask’ the ‘emotional and political work that heritage does in our society’ (p.54).
Smith and Waterton’s comments about ‘inclusion’ in the heritage sector provide useful commentary though they leave you wanting to know if they have considered practical solutions to the issues they raise:Dissonant or ‘negative’ heritage thus becomes something that is undesirable and to be avoided. The mechanism that has arisen in the UK for dealing with this need to eradicate dissonance has come in the form of ‘inclusion’. Here, community groups and individuals operating outside dominant understanding of heritage are subsumed, through policy, practice and rhetoric, into dominant understandings (p.65).
As cases in point they refer to the ‘acknowledgement and commemoration of the Holocaust and the trans-Atlantic slave trade in Britain’ and argue that both events, by focusing on ‘unity’ and ‘togetherness’, consequently denied the ‘needs, memories and disparate requirements of a range of stakeholders’ (pp.66–68). Whilst this may be so, one feels that the authors need to provide alternative methodological approaches that could provide heritage professionals with new ways of approaching inclusion issues. They suggest that ‘critically and politically aware community engagement’ (p.108) is what is needed in these situations. Many archaeologists would be aware of the pitfalls of ‘consultation’, as the authors also point out (p.115), but as a reader I am interested to know their thoughts on how one arrives at this level of engagement. What are the steps that should be taken? What does this look like in practice? What are the dangers as they perceive them? What can we learn from the experiences of other practitioners and communities?
The book does provide in-depth critiques of the ways in which relationships between archaeologists and communities can be problematic. But critiques such as these are not new and many researchers have attempted to grapple with the complexities inherent in these relationships over the last decade and more.
Smith and Waterton provide good advice to embrace the fact that ‘community interaction is contested, fraught and dissonant’ and to pay attention to ‘honesty, dialogue, recognition of power, a holistic and integrated approach and a critical regard for the political and social context of community engagement’ (pp.142–143), but one is left wanting more.
Now that most heritage professionals are at least cognisant of many of the issues that Smith and Waterton analyse what I imagine most want to know are practical steps they can take, real life examples they can borrow from, tangible ways that they can achieve ‘critically and politically aware engagement’ under real time and funding pressures, and ways to cope with the stresses that community work ultimately brings to bear. It is for this reason that I hope that Smith and Waterton consider a second volume in which they turn their attention to addressing the issues that they bring to the fore in this book.
Review of ‘The Lost Legions: Culture Contact in Colonial Australia’ by Alistair Paterson
Department of Anthropology, Barnard College, 3009 Broadway, New York NY 10027, USA & Center for Archaeology, Department of Anthropology, 954 Schermerhorn Extension, Columbia University, 1200 Amsterdam Avenue MC: 5523, New York NY 10027, USA
This book is a significant study of a colonial encounter in a little known (especially in America) part of Australia, the desert of Central Australia. It describes mostly sheep-keeping endeavours in the later nineteenth century, although there is supplementary material on cattle pastoralists and the twentieth century. The book incorporates both historical/documentary information and archaeological data, and aims to address both settler and Indigenous perspectives, although, as one might expect, the documentary evidence is almost all associated with Europeanderived settler colonists. It also focuses on the now-familiar issues of theoretical orientation in discussing colonialism: that the concept of acculturation and single-vector discussions of the impact of Europeans on Indigenous peoples are one-sided and allow no agency to those whose land was intruded upon and whose labour was acquired, by whatever means, to run these pastoral enterprises.
There are seven chapters in the book, with archaeological data and historical evidence each presented in one chapter. An introduction and conclusion, a chapter examining global examples of intrusive pastoral settlers, a chapter on comparisons with other Australian pastoral settlements, and a chapter that focuses on various kinds of agency in this particular case study make up the remaining portions of the book. It is an ambitious volume, but it is not entirely successful in its endeavours. Chapter 2, the global review of stock-raising experiments, contains useful insights but is too broad in scope to be effective. Perhaps a few examples targeted for specific comparisons would have been more enlightening. I liked Chapter 3, the archaeological chapter quite a bit, outlining the challenges specific to the examination of Strangways Springs, and giving the reader the basic landscape of sheep-herding in the water-deprived desert. The section of historic resources is enhanced by extensive passages from a diary and some letters written by managers of the sheep camp. These passages offer meaningful insights into the perceptions of Aboriginal people by Westerners, showing that relations were varied over time and situation.
The subsequent chapter, the ‘Texture of Agency’, enlarges on this idea and takes up the issue of the degree to which Indigenous life was altered by labour and other demands from camp managers. It also considers the crucial aspect of behaviour modification introduced by the practice of providing food rations to Indigenous workers, outlining the effect of this activity on site locations and interactions between peoples involved. I think this is the crucial issue in this work, and in others of this type. The author also suggests that the notion of landscape is the most useful concept in disentangling the cultures involved in this interaction; I think it is important to note that there would be multiple landscapes involved, for the different groups and time periods represented. It is clear that archaeology is crucial in identifying Aboriginal landscape(s). Because most of the deposits were very close to the surface and without stratigraphy, the identification of period of occupation depends mostly on the presence of European materials, but I would have liked a bit more of an attempt to consider whether Indigenous materials were always/sometimes/never replaced by European tools and equipment.
A few minor quibbles: In the discussion on diversity (Chapter 5), the author should have included assemblage size in the data provided on assemblage richness, as the latter has been shown to be dependent, often, on the former. Some of the figures throughout the book are very complex and a bit difficult to decipher, there are places mentioned in the text that are not on the maps provided and the bibliography mostly includes references prior to 2000. To balance these, there is some nice ancillary material presented on rock engravings and two brief ‘biographies’. And the issues I have outlined above do not detract from the study in meaningful ways. The book is well worth reading and provides a real contribution to colonial studies, here in a remote part of the colonial world.
Gledswood Shelter 1: Initial radiocarbon dates from a Pleistocene aged rockshelter site in northwest Queensland
Wallis, Lynley A., Ben Keys, Ian Moffat and Stewart Fallon
Like elsewhere in Australia, the archaeology of northwest Queensland has focused on the antiquity of occupation and the continuity of that occupation through the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), in an attempt to better understand the adaptive capabilities and strategies of early humans. Veth (1989, 1993) has hypothesised that the northwest Queensland savannah, as an important ‘corridor’ for the colonisation of Australia (e.g. Bird et al. 2005; Hortson 1981) contain ‘early’ sites; and furthermore that with the climatic deterioration associated with the LGM, such sites should fit one of two patterns: (1) they will be abandoned and display a cultural hiatus; or, (2) if located in resource-rich zones within catchments (‘local refuges’), they will continue to be utilised, though subsistence strategies will be modified to rely more heavily on locally available resources. The northwest Queensland sites of Colless Creek at Lawn Hill (Hiscock 1984, 1988), and GRE8 near Riversleigh (Slack 2007:218-251; Slack et al. 2004), both fit the second pattern, i.e. persistent occupation through the LGM with altered strategies to cope with increased aridity. However, outside these local refugia, sites pre-dating the LGM have not yet been located in the northwest Queensland savannah.
Review of ‘The Makers and Making of Indigenous Australian Museum Collections’ edited by Nicolas Peterson, Lindy Allen and Louise Hamby
The Makers and Making of Indigenous Australian Museum Collections edited by Nicolas Peterson, Lindy Allen and Louise Hamby. Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2008, vxi+596 pp., ISBN 978-0-522-85568-5.
Michael C. Westaway
Queensland Museum, PO Box 3300, South Brisbane Qld. 4101, Australia
Those interested in gaining a greater appreciation of the history of acquisition of many of the country’s significant ethnographic collections will not be disappointed with this volume. The 19 chapters of the book provide a comprehensive overview of the individuals that for various reasons decided to make significant ethnographic collections. Like many volumes that are produced as a result of symposia, The Makers and Making of Indigenous Australian Museum Collections is not an easy read. However, the individual chapters are easily accessible and provide a good starting point for an investigation of important collectors. The book also provides an important resource for those interested in the motivations behind the collectors of Aboriginal ethnographic collections.
The volume is divided into four parts. The first part considers the phase of collecting in an institutional context. I found Satterthwait’s taphonomic approach in Chapter 1 for understanding collection management formation processes quite sensible, although at times his position was perhaps overstated; for example, ‘the creation of a collection entails the making of connections, the establishment of associations, that link together in networks of meaning. Collections are then, ultimately objects of the mind’ (p.54). Robins’ Chapter 2 provides a valuable insight into the many reasons behind the general apathy underlying the Queensland Museum’s (QM) approach to ethnographic collecting (although it has in times past collected quite vigorously in the fields of physical/biological anthropology and archaeology). Robins notes that this circumstance is largely a result of the failure of the institution to engage a long-term curator of anthropology, such as a Tindale or McCarthy, but history has also played a cruel role in the QM’s past, with cadet ethnologist Lieutenant Ken Jackson being killed in Papua New Guinea in 1943 and the falling out between Malcolm Calley and the QM Director George Mack in 1953. It was not until the appointment of Michael Quinnell that the QM had found a long-term curator committed to devoting much of his professional life to getting the collection in a state comparable to other Australian museums. In Chapter 3 Leo notes that it was not until the 1970s that the number of professionals in Queensland reached a level where they had a significant impact on Queensland society and institutions. Leo provides an account of the development of the University of Queensland’s AnthropologyMuseum during the peak phase of QM disinterest in ethnographic collecting. The development of the UQ Anthropology Museum, largely derived from the collections of Lindsay Winterbotham, was a catalyst for the development of its department of anthropology. Leo also discusses at some length the motivating factors behind the acquisition of ethnographic objects by Winterbotham (doomed race theory and salvage ethnography).
Part 2 discusses collecting under the influence of social evolutionary theory. In Chapter 4 Elizabeth Willis introduces us to the gentlemen collectors of Victoria. It is a very positive paper as it points the way forward as to how such collections, even in the absence of good provenance, can continue to play an important role in interpreting Aboriginal society. John Mulvaney’s Chapter 5 provides an excellent synthesis of the work of Spencer, who was the pioneer of many approaches in museum anthropology; for example he was the first curator to develop a comprehensive catalogue of the museum’s collection, a task that was not emulated by any other Australian museum for another 60 years. Very importantly, Mulvaney points out the importance of assessing the contribution of collectors in the intellectual milieu of the time, rather than simply addressing such issues from a contemporary viewpoint. The importance of empathy in undertaking historical assessments seems to be something that many researchers of nineteenth century issues have forgotten. In Chapter 6 Kate Kahn provides a very solid account of the significance of Roth’s work in north Queensland. She notes that Roth was a man well ahead of his times in terms of his sympathies for Aboriginal people. In the midst of his role as protector and all the opposition he experienced in the position he also managed to produce a comprehensive ethnographic collection and numerous scientific papers and reports. Chapter 7 is an interesting account of the reasons behind the development of ethnographic collections at the BerlinEthnologicalMuseum. It would appear that there was close research collaboration between ethnography and biological anthropology in order to develop knowledge in both the fields of human and cultural evolution which were inextricably linked at the museum. Lally informs us that the museum was interested in documenting different levels within human civilisation to establish if there was a definable pattern of progression towards higher civilisation. Chapter 8 by Nobbs provides an engaging account of collectors in the arid region around Cooper’s Creek, including the work of Samuel Gason and Otto Siebert, and how this was to heavily influence the writings of Alfred Howitt. Howitt’s 1861 rescue party, responsible for recovering the sole survivor of the forward Burke party, initiated a series of ethnographic investigations and collecting programmes amongst groups in the vicinity of Innamincka. Ian Coates in Chapter 9 provides an account of the collecting practices of Henry Hillier at the Lutheran missions of Killalpaninna and Hermannsburg. Hillier’s collecting environment was underpinned by a clash between Spencer and Strehlow, and Coates reveals the complex physical, intellectual and political environment that the young collector endured. Ross Chadwick’s Chapter 10 is essentially a historic account of the naively obedient collector John Tunney. Tunney had no formal training, collected in the main natural history specimens and took what would appear to be quite average ethnographic photographs. Part of his role was to develop a collection to illustrate the diversity of Aboriginal material culture across Western Australia and to obtain objects for the exchange of cultural artefacts from overseas. This he did and Chadwick informs us that the collection remains largely understudied. Kaus’ Chapter 11 represents another straightforward historical account which provides a valuable background to the origins of the NationalMuseum of Australia’s ethnographic collections. It also provides a worthwhile definition of the different divisions of collectors, amateurs and professionals.
Part 3 is an investigation of collecting for the sake of salvage anthropology. In Chapter 12 Philip Jones provides an account of the success of the ethnographic collecting activities undertaken by Norman Tindale. His background in natural history, detail in documenting provenance and his willingness to adopt new principles of anthropological analysis resulted in the creation of arguably the most valuable ethnographic collection in Australia. The chapter focuses on his two initial collecting expeditions to Groote Eylandt and PrincessCharlotteBay, and illustrates how Tindale’s anthropological fieldwork later evolved into an approach that would appear to be similar to the American four-field model of anthropological research (social anthropology, archaeology, physical anthropology and linguistics). Chapter 13 discusses the work of Lloyd Warner who would appear from Hamby’s account to have a clear appreciation of how material culture items were integrated within the overall structuring of values in Yolngu society. Considering that sometime after 1935 Warner lost his eight fieldbooks and other archives in a flood, Hamby has done an impressive job of getting into the mindset of this collector through the limited available sources. In Chapter 14 we are provided with an important insight into the value of the work of the seemingly indefatigable Donald Thomson. This is an excellent introduction into the significance of Thomson’s collections and the importance of his work. Ursula McConnel represents a very interesting study of ethnographic collecting as she was the only professionally-trained female anthropologist collecting during the early 1920s–1930s. In Chapter 15 Anne O’Gorman Perusco reveals much about the character of McConnel and the objections that she had to overcome in order to gather collections from the land of the Wik Mungkan people. Chapter 16 provides a comprehensive account of the work of the amateur ethnographer Charles Mountford, discussing amongst many matters the opposition he received from the professional anthropological establishment of the time. Mountford was a successful advocate for anthropological research and coordinated the major multidisciplinary American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land in 1948, much to the abhorrence of a number of prominent professional anthropologists. The history of the expedition and a discussion of some of its outcomes form a central part of the chapter. I get the impression that May has just begun to scratch the surface of the significance of this expedition and it would appear that a much greater appreciation of the expedition will come to light through further investigation of its collections and associated archives. Val Attenbrow’s Chapter 17 focuses on the work of Frederick McCarthy, a curator interested in gathering both archaeological and ethnographic collections (in other words a balanced sought of fellow). This chapter represents an impressive summary of the significant contribution made by McCarthy and the important role his work played in establishing the foundations of archaeology and Aboriginal studies across Australia.
The final section, Part 4, covers the time from around 1980 until the present in a section titled ‘Transformed Collecting’. The collection of Aboriginal art is a major theme of contributions grouped here. Chapter 18 provides an account of the work of Ronald and Catherine Berndt, private people who produced an enormous record (both published and archival) on their collections. The Berndt’s did not distinguish between art and material culture and had an inclusive approach to studying such collections as complementary documents rather than distinct elements. The work of Helen Wurm, who collected the magnificent bark paintings that now reside in the NationalMuseum of Australia, is summarised in Chapter 19. Wurm’s anthropological training in Vienna and London provided her with a very different intellectual approach to that of Mountford (she collected not long after the time of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land). While Mountford approached bark painting as fine art, Wurm (where possible) explored the relationship between bark paintings and their ceremonial and ancestral context. The final chapter is a very interesting exposé of the origins of an offshore collection known as the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection which is currently held at the University of Virginia. Professor Ruhe seems to have been an eccentric character that underwent a life-changing experience in Arnhem Land, becoming an Aboriginal art tragic during a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Adelaide in 1965, much to the benefit of the Spence Collection that perhaps would have dispersed amongst collectors if it was not for his enthusiasm.
At the end of the book it is clear to the reader that different periods in Australia’s past saw different motivations for collecting. It is difficult to deny that these collections have played an important role in not only public education (both domestically and internationally), but perhaps more importantly in cultural revival for those Aboriginal communities that have chosen to employ the collections for these purposes.
One is given the impression that these chapters represent a re-emergence and reinvigoration of research into the history of collecting in anthropology and ethnography. This is further demonstrated by the appearance of a number of conferences that have included further analysis of the work of ethnographers (e.g. the recent conference on the Roth family and another this year on the work of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land). This can only be good news, for if such collections are allowed to continue to languish in collection spaces without significant research and Indigenous community engagement their significance will slip further from view. In this light, the histories of collection presented in this volume stand as a good starting point for students and academics interested in pursuing research on ethnographic collections.
The importance of the volume is perhaps elevated by the fact that many of the articles are written by curators and museum-based researchers with responsibilities for the collections they are writing about. In some cases, these curators have been working with the collections for decades and once retired/departed, much knowledge associated with the collections will likely disappear with them. Unfortunately not one of the authors is an Indigenous Australian, despite the fact that all major State museums and galleries employ Indigenous curators and have done so now for some time. It would be of great interest to read the thoughts and perspectives of Indigenous curators undertaking research on such collections.
Finally the study is interesting as it perhaps also tells us something of the history of the disciplines of anthropology and archaeology. Outside of the work of Tindale and McCarthy, there seems to have historically been little interest in exploring the relationship between material culture and the antiquity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander occupation. Ethnography was of greater interest than establishing a geological antiquity of people in Australia, perhaps reflecting the views prolific in publications of the nineteenth and early twentieth century arguing that Aboriginal people were a Stone Age people and therefore much more could be learnt about them from ethnographic observation and related collecting activities. Very few people thought that Aboriginal occupation of Australia had a Pleistocene antiquity until the early ages were produced from KenniffCave in 1960. This perhaps reveals to us why a greater professional emphasis was placed on ethnography and anthropology than archaeology for much of Australia’s scholarly past.
Review of ‘The Bone Readers’ by Claudio Tuniz, Richard Gillespie and Cheryl Jones
Discipline of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, School of Humanities, University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351, Australia
I wish this book had not been written. Since at least the invention of radiocarbon dating in the 1940s and 1950s, archaeology has had close relationships with the work of physics, chemistry, zoology, botany, geology and other natural sciences. Many of the relationships between scholars in these different disciplines have been not only close, but collaborative, constructive and, above all, respectful. This book ignores that respect and seems to advocate that archaeologists just get in the way of doing good science. Just supposing that there was any merit in that argument, there can be no constructive way ahead by presenting that supposed conflict in this way. In some areas, scientists from those disciplines would benefit from closer, collaborative relations with archaeologists, and this book will make that more difficult. I am pretty sure that many archaeologists will be reluctant to work with these two physicists and chemists in future, given that they risk vilification in print. Further, the book begins with a representation of the sincerely held beliefs of Aboriginal Traditional Owners at LakeMungo which is patronising and dismissive. I would not be surprised if they take offence at the characterisation in this book that is not shared by all those concerned with the Aboriginal past.
The sad thing is that there are some real issues here: how do we reconcile the different views about the past represented by modern Aboriginal peoples’ worldviews and those of archaeologists; how do we deal with the apparent conflicts between results from archaeological excavation and the results presented by physicists, chemists or geneticists; how should archaeology proceed in a world in which some merit has been achieved by post-modern approaches; how does archaeology deal with the appearance that molecular biological approaches can offer the appearance of a convincing tale of the process of colonisation and of demographic histories without recourse to archaeological evidence at all? All of these questions are in the background in this book, but none is addressed directly in any depth (although there is a substantial literature on most of them), except to claim that all that is needed is to leave it to people who call themselves ‘scientists’. I was left with a very strong feeling that we should beware of those who claim as their authority that they are scientists and others (in this case archaeologists) are not. Such false dichotomies will get us nowhere. In this book, too often the qualification to be recognised as a ‘scientist’ is just agreement with the authors and, to reinforce the claimed dichotomy, some archaeologists escape being labelled at all because the authors do not disagree with them. Whatever happened to theory, hypothesis, evidence and argument as the foundations of science?
Finally, this book is surely unusual in quoting adverse comments on grant proposals by three different assessors. These people called the writers ‘neo-colonialist’ and ‘arrogant’, said that they treated ‘archaeologists with contempt’ and implied that their ‘scientific objectivity’ needed to be ‘clearly seen’. The book’s attitude to Aboriginal beliefs certainly justifies the first claim, the constant assertion of superiority to archaeologists justifies the second two, and all of the one-sided discussion of dating of Australian archaeology justifies the final point. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: to have one adverse judgment confirmed may be regarded as a misfortune; to have two confirmed looks like carelessness; three begins to look as if the critics are right. Note to publishers: beware of ‘scientists’ aggrieved because not all reviewers think as highly of their work as they do themselves.
How sad that these authors, well qualified to show how their work clarifies the debates through well reasoned argument, should emulate those they have argued with and descend into the very ‘posturing, emotive rhetoric and personal abuse’ (p.59) they accuse others of.
To end on a positive note: those chapters which are not principally about dating methods are noticeably less polemical and are more balanced. But then they are not directly concerned with ‘the politics of Australia’s deep past’ either.
Review of ‘Archaeology to Delight and Instruct: Active Learning in the University Classroom’ edited by Heather Burke and Claire Smith
Archaeology to Delight and Instruct: Active Learning in the University Classroom edited by Heather Burke and Claire Smith. One World Archaeology 49, LeftCoast Press, Walnut Creek CA 2007, 288 pp., ISBN 978-1-59874-257-2.
Department of Archaeology, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney NSW 2006, Australia
It is hardly a closely guarded secret that most of the class-based practical exercises used for undergraduate students have been passed down through a mysterious process of osmosis and/or appropriation. The lessons learned as an undergraduate are likely to make an appearance in your own classes for the very good reason that they worked for you and almost certainly will work for another generation as well. This isn’t to say that classroom exercises are not adapted, reconsidered or updated, or that new exercises aren’t devised, but that a successful educational tool isn’t one to be discarded lightly. Consequently, the opportunity to read about other people’s successful teaching strategies is always welcome, especially when there are clear instructions on the what, why and how. There are several volumes available which provide examples of classroom activities for the weary-minded educator to pilfer, although Burke and Smith’s volume is different in that they have forced the contributors to be explicit about the underlying theoretical constructs and messages which they feel underpin each exercise.
This volume explores the notion of ‘active learning’ which, when you strip away the verbiage, means that students learn better when they participate. As arguably the most hands-on of the Arts disciplines (which is where most archaeology departments sit in the university spectrum), we already tend to take it as a given that students will often learn more through practical engagement in activities and discussions than by suffering through hours of lectures. Despite traditional lectures still being a vital component of what we do, as we shift into a primarily Generation Y student body there is also a real expectation on their part for these sorts of participatory educational experiences. The exercises presented in this volume are meant to complement other forms of information delivery such as lectures by keeping the students feeling involved, stimulating their thought processes, and often by challenging their preconceptions. Some are lengthy and could run over weeks, while others could quite easily be broken into smaller sessions or even mini-breaks within lecture themselves.
The introductory essay by Burke and/or Smith explains the four main types of active learning: cooperative (group tasks), collaborative (teacher and student work together), problem-based (students address complex real-world issues without absolute answers), and guided discovery (students discover answers for themselves). Overall the idea is to emphasise the processes rather than products. On top of this the introduction explains that there are eight ‘instructional strategies’: role play, simulations, games, hands-on learning, narrative, creative construction, performance and critical reflection. My first reaction was to dismiss this as the bleeding obvious and wander off to do something which involved less navel gazing (the word ‘pedagogy’ has a Pavlovian effect on me – whenever I hear it I have an irresistible urge to find a cup of tea in a different room). However, eventually I had to confess that I quite enjoyed this critique of the structure of how we teach, with a particular focus on the instructional strategies used by archaeologists. One thing that did strike me is that for a volume in a WAC series, the authors are only drawn from the US (the majority) and the UK, with a sprinkle of Australians, with no obvious representation from beyond the English-speaking world. While the Western European cultural orientation (which also probably defines the market for this book) does not negate the value of the exercises in addressing archaeological theories and concepts you would suspect that there are other perspectives and approaches out there, or that given the editors’ other interests this might have been addressed in the discussions. This is more an observation rather than a criticism.
Each chapter has a contributor presenting an example of a learning activity they personally use. I say ‘use’ rather than ‘developed’ or ‘invented’ as none of the authors claim complete originality and several of the exercises are very familiar (see my comment on osmosis, above). To paraphrase the editors (p.16), each chapter opens with a contextual piece which focuses on the aims of the teacher and the theoretical concepts which they hoped to address. Next is the exercise as presented to the students, also detailing any materials and preparations required. Finally, each author provides a reflection on the exercise, any problems or issues that arose, and ways to expand, adapt or improve. Understanding the intention behind each exercise is interesting and often something which teachers don’t make explicit, although I felt this was the area which was the most laboured and made me want to ask the editors who, exactly, these dialogues were meant to be aimed at. Since I can’t see this volume being of great interest to the wider archaeological readership, I would have to guess from the title that the intended audience is primarily university level academic educators. Some of the contextual pieces are brief and pragmatic, explaining the reasoning and need for the exercise. Others are more complex and theoretical, while a couple verge on the condescending, given the likely intended audience.
In terms of the actual exercises, most are oriented towards encouraging students to engage with the theoretical concepts and structures by which we approach interpretation, with the editors and authors stressing the notion of making the exercises ‘fun’. The six sections reflect the educational strategies employed. Under ‘Role Play’ students adopt personas in order to debate or interpret data (Burke and Smith), or engage in debates about situations such as the repatriation of the Parthenon friezes (Kersel). The ‘Games’ section includes card and dice games tying quotes or images to theoretical structures (Higginbotham), and exploring social complexity by passing lollies through a kin network (Burke and Smith). ‘Simulations’ includes the analysis of datasets to examine the development of archaeological sequences (Carman) and the sampling and statistical analysis of burials (Orton). Far more elaborate is the simulated excavation exercise familiar to many of us, although in many ways it seems a little out of place here (Bowman and Dean).
The ‘Hands-On Exercises’ approach the interpretation of rock images and pottery (Diplock and Stein, Leach), various ways to employ toilets and toilet paper in teaching (Wobst), and analysis of the contents of the lecturer’s desk draw and wastebasket (Zimmerman). There is also that perennial favourite; having students observing (ethnographic) discard behaviour in and around a rubbish bin and then analysing the (archaeological) spatial patterning and contents (Stottman, Miller and Henderson). Sadly, the last time I attempted to run a version of this exercise the edifice of university occupational health and safety and ethics requirements meant that unless the students were wearing something akin to full body armour (goodness knows what nasties are in a bin) and had signed waivers from the people discarding the material (i.e. they should be aware that half a dozen students are not only watching them but also poised to deconstruct/read/analyse their refuse), meant that it simply couldn’t happen. Finally, the ‘Creative Construction and Performance’ section includes students drawing a typical archaeologist as a way of addressing stereotypes (Renoe), using archaeological data in a short story fictional format (Berg), scenario play (Allen), and compiling thematically organised scrapbooks of articles relevant to their course (Rubertone).
Do these exercises work? Are the activities ‘fun’? Do they achieve the intended goals? Can these people actually teach? The authors are clearly earnest in their belief that these are effective educational devices, although I have seen any number of lecturers convinced of their superior teaching skills and laden with awards (often self-nominated and based on their ability to write about pedagogy rather than educate) who are held in contempt by their students. That said, many of the authors provide honest reflections about the effectiveness of their exercise at the end of their chapter, and most of the activities feel like they could be applied with success, sometimes with only minimal modification. A few (such as Higginbotham’s ‘Trivial Pursuit’-style game) require quite a lot of preparation which unless it was a significant component of the course and recycled annually, I suspect I wouldn’t have the time or energy to attempt, although it is an interesting idea nonetheless. Some also suit only small classes, probably at senior level, or particular courses and educational contexts. However, this was clearly not intended to be an off-the-shelf book of activities, so it is up to the individual teacher to find what is appropriate and modify as necessary.
Who should buy this volume? In truth, I can see this only being of interest to those already teaching archaeology in university, museum or other formal contexts and interested in thinking about what and how we do what we do. Despite my reservations about theorised teaching, simply saying ‘I produce archaeology graduates’ really doesn’t cut it any more. Attaching the ‘active learning’ discussion to real examples is not just an interesting idea, but in this era of increasing scrutiny of pedagogy (yuck) and practice it also appears to offer us a way of organising our approach to archaeological teaching within a legitimate framework.
Determining Research Significance in Archaeological Collections from Historic Sites
PhD, Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific, Deakin University, July 2008
This thesis presents a model for assessing the research significance of Australian historical archaeological collections. It responds to problems being experienced in Australia and elsewhere in the long-term preservation of increasing numbers of archaeological collections: a consequence of important heritage legislation requiring the excavation of sites at threat from proposed development works. A ‘curation crisis’ is identified in the inadequate recovery, documentation, and legislative protection of historical artefacts and in the insufficient resources for their storage, conservation, and management. This has resulted in threats to both the physical condition of excavated collections and their accessibility for research, thus impacting on their research significance.
After exploring the emergence and current context of these problems, the thesis proposes that assessing the research significance of historical archaeological collections is an important preliminary step that establishes a basis for making decisions about the long-term management of these collections.
It is widely assumed that the significance of archaeological collections is contingent upon the research questions they can address. However, debate in the archaeological literature has stressed the subjective nature of significance, suggesting that links between archaeological collections and archaeological questions are almost impossible to determine with certainty. This reasoning has handicapped the significance decision-making process and certainly contributes to the fact that archaeologists and curators rarely identify the significance of the artefact collections they excavate and manage. Another important contributing factor has been the low level of training in the responsibilities of archaeologists towards the collections they create and the value of these collections for research. This has all resulted in the underutilisation of the collections in research, making it difficult to justify their value, and long-term preservation, to funding bodies and the general public.
The study utilised a variety of methods to identify assessment criteria commonly perceived to impact on the significance of an artefact collection and then tested their relevance through the significance assessment of six Australian historical archaeological collections. The results of these assessments established that the criteria ‘rarity’, ‘representativeness’ and ‘condition’ have little impact on the research significance of a collection. Of most importance is establishing the diversity within a collection (based on the diversity of artefact materials, forms and diagnostic features) and the collections’ archaeological context. Factors that impact on these are the size of a collection, whether artefacts have been discarded from the collection, and the quality of the collection’s documentation.
The study puts to test long-held assumptions about what defines the research significance of archaeological collections. The thesis acknowledges that the significance of archaeological collections is inextricably linked with the research questions for which they can provide data. However, it stands apart from previous approaches by bringing focus to the physical, quantifiable attributes of artefacts and collections that enable them to provide data for future research regardless of the research topic. Also unlike previous approaches, the model presented does not attempt to quantify the degree of significance in a collection. The model can be used to determine which collections have greater research significance than others, but the threshold that will result in particular management decisions about the collections must be determined by the institutions conducting the assessments, according to their needs and resources.
Review of ‘Climate Change: The Science, Impacts and Solutions’ by A. Barrie Pittock
Michael J. Rowland
Department of Environment and Resource Management, Locked Bag 40, Coorparoo DC Qld 4151, Australia
The dilemma: what to read about climate change and what to recommend to one’s colleagues. The literature is enormous and controversial. The mention of climate change no longer automatically triggers thoughts of a normal part of earth history, but has become synonymous with global warming and in particular human-induced warming. Pittock’s book is about human-induced warming.
Archaeologists in particular are aware that throughout human history, periods of cold generally had negative effects on humans, while periods of warming most often had positive effects. Australian archaeologists who have written on the subject (Rhys Jones, Iain Davidson, Ian Lilley and myself) have therefore tended to be more critical/sceptical of human-induced global warming (I do not use the terms ‘deniers’ or ‘contrarians’ which have special meanings in the debate, e.g. pp.69–73).
For a traditional discussion of climatology in Australia and New Zealand, I recommend Sturman and Tapper (2006) as a more useful text. First published in 1996 this has been adopted as the standard for many universities in Australia and New Zealand. Of a text of 500 pages, the last 100 pages deal with climate change and variability in a much more sober manner than Pittock’s book. In the final paragraph Sturman and Tapper (2006:494) note climate change ‘has become politicised … [and] the human side of the problem is surely as complex as the environmental aspects; the prospect of climate change raises a new set of questions about energy consumption, population growth, living standards, and other crucial aspects of society’. For the anthropologist/archaeologist Hulme’s (2009) book, in which he treats climate change as an idea as much as a physical phenomenon, may also appeal. Singer and Avery (2007) also provide a convincing case that climate change is part of a natural cycle and Plimer (2009) provides a controversial counterpoint to Pittock, writ large (500 pages, 230,000 words and 2311 footnotes).
The back cover of Pittock’s book claims that ‘climate change is a reality’ (but as already noted this means human-induced global warming). Barrie Pittock led the Climate Impact Group in CSIRO until his retirement in 1999 and contributed or was the lead author of all four major reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC). In the acknowledgements, Pittock notes that much of the book is paraphrased from the IPPC reports, though with substantial updates. The book is also an update of his book Climate Change: Turning up the Heat (2005) which he claims ‘found a niche as a tertiary textbook in many multi-disciplinary courses, where its objectivity and comprehensiveness were appreciated’ (p.xiii). The second edition is certainly written as a textbook. The format of the first edition is octavo size; the second edition is quarto and two columns. The chapter and subchapter headings are basically the same. The 2009 version has one less chapter – Chapter 13 ‘Further Information’, is replaced by extensive endnotes at the end of each chapter (650 in all).
It is difficult to review a book of this nature because of the extent of the material covered (and therein lies a weakness; some sections are treated more cursorily than others) and the issue of human-induced warming has developed to a point where it is difficult to hold a neutral position. Both Pittock and I have our biases and to an extent I will focus on these. Pittock’s position on human-induced global warming is spelt out in the Introduction and Chapter 1 opens with three alarmist accounts. But Pittock’s position is clearest on page 270: ‘The first key issue is whether we have something urgent to do about climate change, and if so, what. The answer hinges on how credible the science is, and what it means in terms of risk to us, and to our children and grandchildren. Despite all that the contrarians have thrown at it, the science is credible’.
Chapter 2 is about learning from the past and is very short. Archaeologists would find this disappointing. The ‘hockey stick debate’ is dealt with in only a cursory fashion on page 37 and in endnote 29. A quick search of the literature on this topic reveals numerous papers and reports that question the very honesty of some scientists and the way science is currently practiced. Chapter 3 asks; How good are the climate models? After much twisting and turning we learn they are ‘far more reliable than handwaving arguments about climate made by some sceptics …’ (p.56).
Chapter 4 is very short and is about risk. Here it is noted that ‘What we are concerned about is the probability of changes that push us over the threshold into these extremes’ (p.65). Climate change thus seems to be about increases in extremes. In this chapter it is also noted that ‘the public perception of the debate over climate change has been shaped by the media’s common adherence to a doctrine of ‘balanced reporting’. This tends to give equal space to the considered judgements of the scientific community, expressed in peer-reviewed publications such as the IPPC reports, and the often completely un-refereed opinions or advocacy of a contrarian minority’ (p.73). To keep a ‘balanced’ perspective on a daily basis the website http://climatedebatedaily.com/ is a good starting point. Plimer’s (2009) book also offers a counterbalance.
Chapter 5 is a short chapter on what climate changes are likely. Again the issue of extreme events is discussed (pp.84–87). This should be read in conjunction with the work of Nott (2006), for example, who offers evidence that cyclones, floods and erosion have occurred in the past at levels much larger than those observed in the present. One does have to wonder about the science and the difficulty of making policy decisions when Table 6 has estimates of sea-level rise for 2100 which range from 9cm–5m. Chapter 6 is about impacts and reasons for concern. On page 125 Pittock notes that rapid sea-level rise could continue until both Greenland and the West Antarctica Ice Sheet are more or less completely melted, leaving the world with a sea-level rise of up to 10–12m lasting for millennia. But this is a conclusion built on many assumptions.
Chapter 7 on adaptation is one of the shortest chapters at just 13 pages and 17 footnotes. Archaeologists would again find this disappointing. Chapter 8 is long at 58 pages, with 188 footnotes and I personally found it the most interesting for the sheer range of new and exciting technologies being developed for reducing carbon emissions. But here there are also points of irritation. For example, a generally positive account of biofuels is provided (pp.182-185), but it is not difficult to find contrary views suggesting that arable land used for biofuel production should instead be used for providing food for the hungry. Chapter 9 attempts to place climate change in context and to me provides one of the most useful statements in one of the three opening quotes that are a feature of each chapter:climate change is only part of a broader multi-stress setting of global through local changes. Privileging climate change policies over other concerns leads to tragic outcomes. Climate policies need to be designed for and integrated into this broader and challenging context (Dowlatabdi 2007).
Chapter 10 is about the politics of greenhouse warming and the contrarians come in for another blast with, ‘the weight of evidence that global warming is happening, and is in large part caused by human action, is now overwhelming, even if the details are still uncertain’ (p.241). It is noted that a number of scientists ‘are going beyond their IPPC role as uncommitted scientists to exert their rights as citizens to make value judgements informed by their scientific knowledge’ (p.245), and thus inform the public of the crisis. But no mention, for example, is made of over 31,000 American scientists who have signed a petition drafted by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, that there is no convincing scientific evidence that humans are disrupting the Earth’s climate (www.petitionproject.org). A response to some of the latest Rudd government policies on climate change by Bob Carter and colleagues (2009) is also useful.
It is critical to get cause and effect right in this debate because disastrous policy decisions can be made where the wrong cause and effects are identified. There have been a multitude of scares in the past (e.g. Booker and North 2007; Hulme 2009:91) which follow a similar pattern. A threat to human welfare is exaggerated beyond the scientific evidence (which is uncertain) in collaboration with the media. A tipping point then occurs where politicians marshal the machinery of government in a disproportionate regulatory response which is difficult to alter until contrary scientific evidence becomes overwhelming.
A critical issue for the future is that moderate to conservative demographic projections indicate that global human numbers could reach nine billion (or more) by mid-to-late twenty-first century (i.e. half as many people again as already exist). And many of the poorest countries continue to drive their economies out of poverty through highly polluting industrial development. But it is rare to find explicit discussion about population policies as part of the many debates about climate change (Hulme 2009:270), and Pittock’s contribution is limited (but see pp.229-231). Yet population growth, density dependent impacts and expansion in levels of extractive industries must be critical in this debate.
Barrie Pittock, in his retirement, is to be congratulated for updating his original book. The second edition is wide-ranging and comprehensive on the issue of human-induced global warming. He has tried for objectivity and has mostly been successful. However, there is no easy way through this debate. Personal views, ideologies and politics now infiltrate the debate at most levels. Archaeologists might find Pittock’s book useful to have on their shelves, but for a broader perspective they might also consider Booker and North (2007), Hulme (2009), Plimer (2009), Singer and Avery (2007), and Sturman and Tapper (2006) among many others.
Booker, C. and R. North 2007 Scared to Death: From BSE to Global Warming: Why Scares are Costing us the Earth. New York: Continuum.
Carter, B., D. Evans, S. Franks and W. Kininmonth 2009 Minister Wong’s Reply to Senator Fielding’s Three Questions on Climate Change – Due Diligence. Retrieved 14 August 2009 from http://jennifermarohasy.com/data/7%20%20Carter-Evans-Franks-Kininmonth%20Due%20Diligence%20on%20Wong-Z%20.pdf.
Dowlatabadi, H. 2007 On integration of policies for climate and global change. Journal Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 12(5):651–663.
Hulme, M. 2009 Why we Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nott, J. 2006 Extreme Events: A Physical Reconstruction and Risk Assessment. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.
Pittock, A.B. 2005 Climate Change: Turning up the Heat. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing.
Plimer, I. 2009 Heaven and Earth: Global Warming: The Missing Science. Ballan: Connor Court.
Singer, S.F. and D.T. Avery 2007 Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.
Sturman, A.P. and N.J. Tapper 2006 The Weather and Climate of Australia and New Zealand. 2nd ed. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Review of ‘Place as Occupational History: An Investigation of the Deflated Surface Archaeological Record of Pine Point and Langwell Stations, Western New South Wales, Australia’ by Justin Shiner
Place as Occupational History: An Investigation of the Deflated Surface Archaeological Record of Pine Point and Langwell Stations, Western New South Wales, Australia by Justin Shiner. British Archaeological Reports International Series S1763, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2008, x+140 pp., ISBN 9781407302522.
Department of Anthropology, Denny Hall 117, Box 353100, The University of Washington, Seattle WA 98195 3100, USA
The main goal of this monograph, which is a slightly modified version of Shiner’s PhD thesis, is to highlight the relevance of surface deposits of stone artefacts for the investigation of place use histories. Shiner’s work was part of the Western New South Wales Archaeology Project (WNSWAP), directed (and much published on) by Simon Holdaway and Patricia Fanning. As documented in this monograph, Shiner’s project was a study of the composition and chronology of stone artefact assemblages from four locations in arid western New South Wales. The project is motivated by a critique of the assumption that surface sites in arid zones were created at similar times and represent similar periods of time, analogous to ethnographic observations of site use.
Particularly notable about this study is its exploration of two issues relating to surface sites as a resource about past human behaviour. First, Shiner’s consideration of geomorphologic history shows that environmental variability can limit attempts to build synchronic settlement models. In particular, changing alluvial contexts in western New South Wales mean than present landscapes are poor analogues for prehistoric landscapes and the ages of the sites are constrained by the ages of the land surfaces. Second, Shiner’s chronological framework, derived from 16 radiocarbon dated hearths, is crucial evidence to support his claims that surface sites are deflated, palimpsest and irregularly occupied deposits. Along with other work done by the WNSWAP, this shows that dating surface scatters of open sites is viable (provided they have hearths) and adds substantial value to open sites as an archaeological resource (provided the hearths can be clearly associated with the lithics).
As a side note on the dating, the Bayesian method for identifying clusters of dates is not described in adequate detail to enable reproduction (other statistics used in the volume are common frequentist methods). This is problematic given that the model ranking method used in the monograph comes from software that is currently unavailable (DateLab) and the method is not available in other packages. A better approach might have been to use a method that has been more extensively published on and is implemented in widely available calibration software (e.g. Ward and Wilson’s clustering in CALIB). Aside from that, the detail evident in Shiner’s treatment of geomorphology and chronology sets a high standard for future work on prehistoric surface sites, especially by consultant archaeologists interested in making more reliable scientific assessments of open sites.
The stone artefact technologies at the four locations are described in detail in three chapters. The assemblages are partitioned by raw materials and a suite of technological and metric attributes are examined to compare relative intensity of reduction between the raw materials. These are robust analyses because of the use of multiple independent lines of evidence. The analyses may have benefited from further partitioning; for example, of the binary classes used by Shiner (cortical and non-cortical cores) into finer-grained scales (e.g. cores with cortex coverage recorded to the nearest 10% plus counts of flake scars per core). More explicit links between the variables considered in the monograph and experiential studies of the characteristics of these variables would have strengthened the interpretations of the lithic analysis. Shiner’s main conclusion from the lithic analysis is that although the availability of raw materials has some influence on reduction patterns, there are inconsistencies in the measures of assemblage reduction intensity and clear patterns between the assemblages are hard to identify.
Shiner concludes that ethnographically-derived concepts of occupation intensity, duration of occupation and mobility are not supported by his analysis, especially the inconsistent results of the different attributes related to core reduction analysis and the limited explanatory success of distance-decay models for these sites. These are argued to result from a mixture of site uses and technological strategies at each location. The hiatuses implied by the radiocarbon date distribution from the open sites also suggest to Shiner that there have been discontinuities in site use and technological behaviours, contributing to the complexity of the assemblages. These are persuasive arguments and should stimulate similar future work attempting to investigate the temporal contexts of surface assemblages.
Peter Veth’s investigations in the arid Rudall River region of Western Australia are presented throughout the monograph as typical of the ethnographically-derived settlement-subsistence models that Shiner has criticised as no longer tenable. On one hand, this reflects the strong influence that Veth’s work has had on Australian arid zone archaeology, especially amongst consulting archaeologists. On the other hand, it often reads like a replay of the mid-1990s controversy between Veth and Holdaway (one of Shiner’s PhD supervisors). A more progressive and productive approach might have been to forge an alternative model in detail – such as one based on Richard Cosgrove’s behavioural ecological model that is approvingly mentioned (p.20), and investigate predictions derived from this new model.
To conclude, this monograph is a valuable demonstration of the dynamism of the behaviours that contribute to the formation of open sites. It will be of great interest to those taking the next step of decoding some of the complexity documented here by Shiner and building new models to better understand what the behaviours involved in arid zone open site formation.
‘Life in a Corridor’: An Archaeological Investigation of the Diamantina Channel Country – a Western Queensland Corridor
PhD, School of Social Sciences, The University of Brisbane, June 2007
In models put forward to explain Aboriginal occupation of the Australian arid zone, the Diamantina River is characterised as a corridor, linking refuge areas – occupied for much of the arid period – to barriers that prevented occupation. The Diamantina River is part of a larger arid zone river catchment that flows into Lake Eyre. The catchment is an extensive but isolated area with much potential to increase our understanding of how inland river systems may have influenced arid zone colonisation, particularly the role of rivers as corridors. The focus of the study is Diamantina National Park (DNP) and this thesis is the first substantial archaeological research on this park and the Diamantina River. One of the key aims of this thesis is to establish a regional perspective on the archaeological record and to investigate whether current behavioural models for colonisation of the arid zone are appropriate for this corridor.
Initial surveys of key environments across DNP determined that the archaeological record was mostly restricted to open sites influenced by key environmental settings. A detailed and systematic survey to identify this patterning in the archaeological record was conducted via a series of continuously sampling transects that examined a cross-section of the key land zones found across DNP. The survey stage was complemented by an excavation programme that focused on nine hearths from five open site locations across DNP.
Survey results show that while archaeological evidence is found in most land zones, there is a clear preference for certain land zones over others, particularly dune fields associated with riverine environments. The hearth excavations confirmed a late Holocene age for the surface archaeological record (c.800 BP). Further, the environmental detail of the Diamantina catchment offers a microcosm of land zones that loosely fit the biogeographic concepts of refuge, corridor and barrier. These concepts provide a satisfactory framework to describe and predict the archaeological record and are the basis for a residential mobility model that explains the distribution of people across DNP in the recent past.
Excavations at Parnkupirti, Lake Gregory, Great Sandy Desert: OSL Ages for occupation before the Last Glacial Maximum
We report on early occupation from the Parnkupirti site on Salt Pan Creek at Lake Gregory, on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert of northwest Australia. OSL ages from excavations, and stratigraphic correlations between dated exposures along Salt Pan Creek, show some stone artefacts in situ in sediments dating from greater than 37ka and most probably on stratigraphic grounds in the range of ~50–45ka. The deep stratigraphic section at Parnkupirti also provides a long record of the Quaternary history of Lake Gregory, which remained a freshwater system during the Late Quaternary.Image caption: View of the creek section at Parnkupirti Site 3 (photograhy by Mike Smith, published in Australian Archaeology 69:2).
A re-evaluation of ‘petroglyphs’ on Blue Tier, northeast Tasmania
Jo Field and Peter McIntosh
In 1957 several eminent scientists (‘the 1957 Blue Tier Expedition’) investigated unusual rock markings reported to be Aboriginal petroglyphs on Blue Tier in northeast Tasmania and concluded that some markings were the result of dissolution of granite by roots, some were made by the subaerial action of plants abrading granite, and others were made by miners and prospectors. However a recent publication has restated claims of an Aboriginal origin for the ‘petroglyphs’. As a result the markings were re-examined so that their genesis could be conclusively decided. The markings on Blue Tier are classified into eight types: (1) Rills; (2) Long Linear Grooves; (3) Circular Holes; (4) Inscriptions; (5) Oval Depressions; (6) Regularly Spaced Circular Depressions; (7) Short Linear Grooves; and (8) Small Circular Depressions. We conclude that Types 1, 2, 5, 7 and 8 markings are natural; Type 3 markings were drilled by prospectors or geologists; Type 4 markings were incised by miners or visitors; and Type 6 markings, which form a distinctive feature just below the crest of Australia Hill, were made by tin prospectors employed by the Mt Lyell Railway and Mining Company Limited. Therefore all markings on Blue Tier have been either produced by natural means (chiefly chemical weathering) or by geologists, prospectors and recent visitors. There is no evidence for the presence of Aboriginal petroglyphs on Blue Tier.
Rock of Ages: Stoneyfell Quarry: An Archaeological Investigation into Stonyfell Quarry’s Contribution to a Changing South Australian Landscape
BArch(Hons), Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, March 2004
Quarrying as an area of archaeological inquiry has been under-researched in Australia. In general, while the archaeology of buildings and features on the landscape has been widely researched, the procurement of resources essential in the building of these structures has gained little attention. By researching the quarry site, however, information beyond building style and location can be achieved. Identification of the resource, the methods used to win the resource and the way in which people worked the quarry, all have potential to add to existing research. The process of identifying building stone to its source through stone analyses allows the archaeologist to potentially identify the area of stone extraction. This thesis looks at the contribution made by Stonyfell Quarry to the development of the South Australian landscape from 1837 to 1955. The historical site of Stonyfell Quarry is an important area for historical archaeological study. Not only can it reveal the way in which stone was extracted from the landscape but also how this resource was used to develop a European colony in the new world. Adelaide is renowned for its beautiful stone buildings and owes much to the early quarriers of South Australia. Men using muscle power and few tools worked the quarries in the 1800s and produced a product that had many uses; cut stone for buildings and features, and crushed stone aggregate for constructing pathways, roads, tramways and railway tracks. The lives of the quarrymen who transformed the industry through time are reflected in the site and the local community buildings. The end use of the stone from Stonyfell Quarry is identified through primary source documentary evidence, oral history and stone analysis. By researching historical documentary evidence of the time, together with the physical evidence that remains on site and locally, an understanding of the contribution made by Stonyfell Quarry to the cultural landscape of South Australia is realised.
Review of ‘Time to Quarry: The Archaeology of Stone Procurement in Northwestern New South Wales, Australia’ by Trudy Doelman
Time to Quarry: The Archaeology of Stone Procurement in Northwestern New South Wales, Australia by Trudy Doelman. British Archaeological Reports International Series S1801, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2008, xiv+179 pp., ISBN 9781407302881.
Archaeology Program, School of Historical and European Studies, La Trobe University, Bundoora Vic. 3086, Australia
Quarries have long been recognised by Australian archaeologists interested in the study of stone artefacts. Despite this, quarry assemblages have rarely been investigated at the scale required to understand their role in stone artefact production systems. This in part reflects the difficulty of defining quarries, something admirably attempted two decades ago by Hiscock and Mitchell (1993) in Stone Artefact Quarries and Reduction Sites in Australia: Towards a Type Profile (Canberra, A.G.P.S.). Further, the study of quarries is complicated by the large numbers of artefacts spread over many square metres and the near absence of dateable materials associated with the deposits. Trudy Doelman takes up some of these challenges in Time to Quarry.
Time to Quarry is published as part of the BAR International Series and primarily presents the results of Doelman’s PhD research at silcrete Quarries 27 and 35 from the arid MountWoodRanges of SturtNational Park near Tibooburra. This work was undertaken as part of the broader Western New South Wales Archaeological Program (WNSWAP). Overall the volume is clear and methodical, representing a very worthwhile addition to the increasing amount of material published on western New South Wales (NSW). Doelman systematically builds her argument that quarries must be studied from the perspective of technological organisation within a non-site framework that incorporates an understanding of the time dependant nature of assemblage formation.
The volume begins with the introductory chapter that outlines the theoretical and methodological framework behind the objective of the research to identify the factors that influence the formation of quarry assemblages through an analysis of reduction strategies, landscape context and role of time in artefact discard. Doelman makes the point that the study of quarries fits into the broader theoretical and methodological challenges posed by the surface archaeological record. The second chapter builds the theoretical framework of the research with considerable attention given to understanding assemblage formation. This serves to highlight the complex range of factors involved in the formation of lithic assemblages. The nature of the surface archaeological record as a palimpsest was explored in several sections. The discussion would have benefitted from a more detailed consideration of the implications of this for the study, particularly in terms of the potentially long span of time associated with quarry use compared to the late Holocene artefact scatters in the more geomorphically active creek valley below Quarry 35. These artefact scatters become important later in the study.
The landscape context of the study area is summarised in the third chapter. From this it is clear that the MountWood area is a very rich lithic landscape with a range of potential raw material sources. Further, geomorphological and chronological data from other WNSWAP studies are used to highlight the chronological context of occupation in the StudCreekValley below Quarry 35. Chapter 4 summarises field and analytical methods which are critical for understanding the subsequent chapters. The results of the quarry fieldwork are presented in Chapters 5 through 8. These chapters treat both quarries separately, but essentially subject each quarry to the same set of technological and spatial analyses. Several key differences are revealed between the quarries. In summary, Doelman notes that Quarry 27 exhibits a limited amount of core reduction compared to Quarry 37.
In Chapter 8 the nature of quarried and non-quarried stone reduction across the broader landscape is investigated through the analysis of assemblages from landscape sampling units at upper and lower Stud Creek. One of these, the Upper Stud Creek sampling area, was recorded by Doelman, while the Stud 1 and Stud 2 areas were recorded during WNSWAP fieldwork. Through the analysis of core morphology and flake characteristics, it is demonstrated that raw material quality, distribution, nodule size and form were significant factors that influenced assemblage composition. A technological strategy of expedient reduction of the generally lower quality gibber cobbles at the Upper Stud Creek sampling area is contrasted with the curated reduction of quarried stone which is used for specialised reduction and tool manufacture demonstrated at the Stud 1 and Stud 2 locations.
The major conclusions of the study are developed in Chapter 9 where the quarries are compared to evaluate the definition of what a quarry actually represents. This is an interesting section of the book where a number of technological analyses (the proportion of different core types, flake size and platform characteristics) are undertaken to illustrate key differences in the reduction strategies employed at both sites. Quarry 35 exhibits a more intensive pattern of core reduction than Quarry 27 which is argued to represent a greater focus on blade manufacture. The second part of this chapter focuses on the relationship between time and assemblage formation. Here it is argued that the two quarries were used differently, with visits to Quarry 35 tending to be longer in duration owing to the more complex nature of core reduction and the discard of a greater number of tools. The chapter then moves onto examine the role of different types of stone resources in assemblage composition throughout the study area, suggesting that the reduction of stone from gibber pavements reflects procurement embedded in other activities, while the quarries reflect a more specialised pattern of use, with an emphasis on the complex reduction sequence at Quarry 35 compared to Quarry 27. The chapter concludes with a re-evaluation of quarry definitions concluding that quarries are often different in character, complex and contain material related to not only to extraction but also core reduction.
I was slightly disappointed that the discussion of quarry definition did not move beyond the correlation to functional factors. The quarry as a distinct entity is an anthropological concept without regard for the variability and time-depth of the archaeological record. Doelman argues that the use of stone procured from adjacent gibber pavements at the Upper Stud Creek sampling area does not represent quarrying as the material was not removed from the source. I find it hard to agree with her on the basis that functional conclusions implied by site types prejudice one type of behaviour over others by attempting to assign an average behaviour to an assemblage. As Doelman notes, complex processes have led to the formation of the archaeological record, and this includes the different periods over which accumulation occurred. Given the acknowledged palimpsest nature of the record, there then seems little justification for inferring models based on ethnographic notions of site function. All of the assemblages evaluated in the study exhibit quarry-like behaviour, as they do other types of behaviour. It is the relationship between these and assemblage composition through time that is of real interest.
Chapter 10 reaffirms the conclusions of the study drawn from the previous chapters. Doelman notes that Australian quarry studies are rare and that further work is required to understand the role of raw material in technological systems.
I enjoyed reading Time to Quarry. Many years ago I briefly participated in some of the fieldwork at Quarry 35 and it is pleasing to see the results of this work in print. My only observations regarding the presentation of the volume are that it would have benefitted from a careful proof read prior to printing and the greyscale format makes it difficult to interpret some of the maps which are critical to the conclusions drawn from the data. Some of the typographic errors may reflect the difficulty of formatting word documents into the BAR style, rather than errors of the author.
This is an impressive study that provides the justification for detailed artefact-level analysis of large samples from individual locations – something I wholly support. Time to Quarry is a must read for anyone interested in Australian stone artefacts and more specifically quarry studies.
Grants, gender and glass ceilings? An analysis of ARC-funded archaeology projects
Joann K. Bowman and Sean Ulm
A recent study by Smith and Burke (2006) found that barriers to women’s advancement existed in Australian academic archaeology workplaces. They examined gender biases in employment and publication rates, concluding that systemic barriers exist for women in archaeology despite recent initiatives towards greater gender equity. Smith and Burke identified funding as an area of interest but made only a cursory examination of this issue. We undertook an analysis of ARC-funded archaeology Discovery Projects awarded between 2001 and 2008 to further investigate the influence of gender biases on grant funding. Results show considerable gender disparity in a number of areas, including the gender composition of grant investigators, the amount of funding awarded, the geographical focus of grants and the awarding of fellowships. Of greatest concern is an apparent correlation between the gender of successful applicants and the ratio of women to men serving on the ARC’s Humanities and Creative Arts Panel responsible for the assessment of grant applications. In other words, institutional factors may be contributing to gender disparities in archaeology.Image caption: All fellowship recipients according to gender and year (published in Australian Archaeology 68:34).
Archaeobotany in New Guinea and Australia (ANGA): Practice, potential and prospects
Tim Denham, Jennifer Atchison, Jeremy Austin, Sheahan Bestel, Doreen Bowdery, Alison Crowther, Nic Dolby, Andrew Fairbairn, Judith Field, Amanda Kennedy, Carol Lentfer, Carney Matheson, Sue Nugent, Jeff Parr, Matiu Prebble, Gail Robertson, Jim Specht, Robin Torrence, Huw Barton, Richard Fullagar, Simon Haberle, Mark Horrocks, Tara Lewis and Peter Matthews
Archaeobotany is the study of plant remains from archaeological contexts. Despite Australasian research being at the forefront of several methodological innovations over the last three decades, archaeobotany is now a relatively peripheral concern to most archaeological projects in Australia and New Guinea. In this paper, many practicing archaeobotanists working in these regions argue for a more central role for archaeobotany in standard archaeological practice. An overview of archaeobotanical techniques and applications is presented, the potential for archaeobotany to address key historical research questions is indicated, and initiatives designed to promote archaeobotany and improve current practices are outlined.
Review of ‘The Archaeology of Montebello Islands, North-West Australia: Late Quaternary Foragers on an Arid Coastline’ by Peter Veth, Ken Aplin, Lynley Wallis, Tiina Manne, Tim Pulsford, Elizabeth White and Alan Chappell
The Archaeology of Montebello Islands, North-West Australia: Late Quaternary Foragers on an Arid Coastline by Peter Veth, Ken Aplin, Lynley Wallis, Tiina Manne, Tim Pulsford, Elizabeth White and Alan Chappell. British Archaeological Reports International Series S1668, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2007, iii+84 pp., ISBN 978-1-4073-0103-7 (pbk).
Department of Archaeology, University of York, The King’s Manor, YorkY01 7EP, United Kingdom
This volume is a report on the fieldwork conducted on Campbell Island, part of the Montebello group of islands about 50km offshore of the Pilbara mainland, as part of the Montebello Archaeological Research Project (MARP). The work is described as ‘a summary of the survey, excavation and analysis results’ (p.1), and as ‘a synthesis of the first phase of archaeological analysis of two stratified sites on CampbellIsland’ (p. 45). It is, in fact, rather more than this, giving an account of survey and excavation results that is as full as one would expect for a final publication, with details of methods, stratigraphy, dating, a full tabulation and analysis of the excavated materials, and a sustained evaluation of their significance in relation to issues of preservation and taphonomy, to the evidence from the wider region in the Northwest, and to substantive issues of wider interest in Australian archaeology, and beyond.
Survey began in 1991, with excavation in 1992 and 1994, and post-excavation work extended over the subsequent 10 years. This publication is therefore relatively prompt by archaeological standards, and more rapid than many. That it is, properly speaking, a final report (though one that the authors seem shy of describing as such), rather than that more common phenomenon, the preliminary report that is clearly deficient in detail but masquerading as a final report, or one which, after the passage of many decades, is clearly not going to be followed up by a final report, is to the credit of the authors. If there is more work to come, we are not told what it is, though it may relate to the investigation of other sites in the region.
The two sites described here, Noala Cave and Hayne’s Cave, are not substantial, with about half a metre depth of deposit in both cases, and a total inventory of just 158 lithic artefacts. Shell and bone are more numerous with combined totals of over 1200 (MNI) shells and more than 14,000 bone fragments, including a substantial fish bone assemblage. The results from each cave are presented in turn, except for the lithics, which are treated together in a separate appendix, presumably because of the small sample size. A second short appendix details descriptive measurements in support of taxonomic identifications of species of bettong and wallaby that have biogeographical significance.
The combined sequence shows evidence of occupation at about 30,000 years ago, and more enduring use from 12,000 to 7000 years ago, after which the sites were abandoned. The long hiatus associated with the glacial maximum is regarded as a genuine reflection of human absence rather than the result of erosion of sediments, with abandonment the result of extreme local aridity when the sites were far inland from the contemporaneous coastline. Placed on an island, which was once part of the mainland and far inland from the coast at the maximum glacial sea-level regression, and then progressively encroached upon by sea-level rise to form successively a peninsula, part of a large island close to the mainland, and finally a small and distant offshore island, the archaeological sequence provides an opportunity to calibrate the effect of sea-level change on local environmental conditions and human responses to them. Stone raw materials that include local calcrete, and volcanic and siliceous exotics present only at distance on the mainland, provide further opportunities to track changing patterns of mobility. The marine resources are rare early on in the sequence and progressively more substantial and diverse towards the end.
The interpretation presented here is that the sites were associated with a stable regional adaptation entailing high levels of mobility, and a mixed economy that combined resources on land with marine resources at the shore edge. The authors reject the idea of a trend towards development of specialist marine-based economies, and see changes in the relative emphasis on marine resources throughout the sequence as the product of the changing distance from site to shoreline with changes in sea-level, with earlier shorelines and their archaeological sites lost beneath the sea, as has been argued in other parts of the world. Final abandonment came about not because marine resources were depleted, but because of the scarcity of drinking water on a small island, the loss of complementary resources on land, and a sea crossing to the mainland of some 50km that inhibited temporary visits. Close analysis of the shell species further suggests that shorelines at the glacial maximum and during sea-level transgression were no less productive than those present from the mid-Holocene onwards, while changes in the representation of mammalian species chart subtle shifts in moisture regimes and habitat distributions in the wider landscape.
The evidence and arguments in favour of these interpretations are detailed and persuasive, and appear to refute, at least for this region, the two dominant Australian models of Holocene population dynamics, Beaton’s time-lag hypothesis and Lourandos’ intensification hypothesis. Whether Veth et al. turn out to be more generally correct in this regard remains to be seen. One of the great challenges for all the competing hypotheses is their dependence to some extent on negative evidence from earlier periods. In the coastal context the greatest challenge is to find out more about what the now-submerged landscape and its associated shorelines comprised in terms of environmental conditions, and what underwater archaeological evidence has survived to substantiate human use of that lost landscape. This is a worldwide challenge, and one that has, as yet, scarcely begun to be tackled.
There was a time when a report such as this would have appeared in an archaeological journal. However, international journals seem increasingly reluctant to publish long and data-rich papers in the competition for wider audiences, while field archaeologists for their part hope for wider dissemination and recognition of hard-earned primary research than can usually be offered by a regional or national journal. British Archaeological Reports are regarded as rather unglamorous in British archaeological circles, but they perform an important service for archaeologists in many countries, who see the virtue of an outlet that is widely accessible and can cope with primary field data, rapid publication and high production standards. Without the opportunity to disseminate widely the full results of primary fieldwork, archaeology would be that much weaker in its claims to be an independent empirical discipline. This volume is exemplary in showing how careful analysis of what might seem at first sight to be unpromising and limited material can be systematically interrogated to throw light on issues of far-reaching interest and significance.
The Victorians in ‘Paradise’: Gentility as Social Strategy in the Archaeology of Colonial Australia
PhD, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, December 2007
The last two decades have seen increasing archaeological interest in the ideology of gentility, that complex set of social rules, rights and expectations which is virtually synonymous with the Victorian period around the world. In this ideology’s conventions of ‘correct taste’ and ‘correct behaviour’ archaeologists have seen a template for how the Victorians were to behave and, even more importantly, how they were to express themselves through material culture. Gentility provides an explicit link between the intangible world of the Victorian mind and the tangible world of Victorian goods and, because of this, has been a popular archaeological model of the nineteenth century.
In recent years, however, historical archaeologists have become disillusioned with the Gentility Model. Critics have argued that the model homogenises the past, obscuring the diversity of the Victorian period, and it is these criticisms which provide the impetus for this work. In this thesis I examine the Gentility Model in detail, reviewing its strengths and weaknesses, and considering in particular the way that this model applies to the Victorian period in Australia. It is clear that the Gentility Model as it currently exists does have serious flaws but, I would argue, these are not intrinsic to the model itself. Rather, these flaws reflect the influence of the dominant ideology thesis, a theoretical approach which casts gentility as an oppressive force in the nineteenth century, and in doing so, artificially constrains our understanding of Victorian life.
I argue that to overcome these limitations, notions of gentility as a dominant ideology must be abandoned in favour of those which recognise the primacy of human agency and, building on the work of archaeologists and social theorists, I suggest a new model based on the idea of gentility-as-strategy. In this new model, gentility is not an oppressive force, but rather a means to an end, a symbolic language which the Victorians employed to negotiate matters of gender, class, and social power.
I examine the applicability of this new form of the Gentility Model through a case study of Paradise, a late nineteenth century gold mining town in central Queensland. Paradise was home to a diverse group of men, women and children, and provides an excellent setting in which to explore the functioning of gentility in colonial Australia, and to assess the explanatory power of the revised Gentility Model. From this case study emerges a highly detailed picture of daily life in the nineteenth century, and of the role gentility played in the negotiation of status and identity.
It is clear from the Paradise case study that the Gentility Model still has much to offer archaeologists studying the Victorian period. Reconceptualised as it has been here, the Gentility Model provides a means through which human choice and agency can be explored and the subtleties of nineteenth century history appreciated. In this history, the Victorians are not the victims of an oppressive ideology, but rather social actors with the power to control their own destinies.
Wooden artefacts from Gariwerd rockshelters, western Victoria
Two bark slabs recorded from a rock art shelter in Gariwerd (GrampiansNational Park), western Victoria, correspond to implements described in the ethnographic record for use in the curing of possum skins. Two other rock art shelters contained wooden pieces cut with steel blades. These artefacts support the excavated evidence that the use of some shelters in Gariwerd continued into the contact period, and also suggests that some shelters were used for non-ceremonial activities.Image caption: Wooden artefacts at Cultivation Creek 29 (published in Australian Archaeology 68:27).
Review of ‘The Discovery of the Hobbit: The Scientific Breakthrough that Changed the Face of Human History’ by Mike Morwood and Penny van Oosterzee
Museum Victoria, PO Box 666, Melbourne Vic. 3001, Australia
If the discoveries announced to the world in 2004 of a 1.3m, small-brained human species living on the island of Flores between 95,000 and 12,000 years ago still quite haven’t made it onto your radar, and you’d like to learn more, then this is the book for you.
However, even if you have heard all about it, you almost certainly won’t have the degree of insight that the authors present here regarding some of the political machinations and (pardon the pun) downright skulduggery that apparently went on behind the scenes.
I need to get one thing clear from the outset – I firmly believe that the Hobbit (and now that I’ve got your attention, that is the last time I’ll use the word), properly known as Homo floresiensis, is the real deal. Not a Laron Syndrome- or MOPD II-induced microcephalic modern human dwarf suffering from pathological shoulders, wrists, feet and brain, or even fillings, but a new species that is a fully fledged member of our human lineage.
I felt that had to be said as the debate has polarised opinion around the world, and I didn’t want you trying to second-guess my position and have that get in the way of this review. That said, I don’t want to get into the debate here and now, as exciting and controversial as that is. Arguments have raged over the last four years regarding the nature and taxonomic relationships of the little people of Liang Bua, and it seems that for a while we needed insightful review articles every three or four months just to keep up. We’re probably due for another one pretty soon, but this is not it.
Instead, I want to applaud Mike Morwood and Penny van Oosterzee’s book on the background to the Flores discoveries and the impacts they had on the lives of the central players. Among many standout features of the book, I was struck by the humanity of the story, of Morwood’s rollercoaster of anxiety, delight and frustration, of Peter Brown’s amazement and stubbornness, and of the complex and intricate network of political obligation and social hierarchy that seems to characterise Indonesia’s archaeological and palaeoanthropological fraternity.
With Oosterzee’s extremely able assistance, Morwood traverses the rich historical, intellectual and physical landscapes that characterise H. floresiensis’ discovery and the public reaction to it. As one would expect there are plenty of references to the historical contexts against which the discovery had to be assessed. References to Darwin, Wallace and Dubois are de rigour, but the time taken to acknowledge the vital contribution of Father Theodor Verhoeven as the first (albeit amateur) archaeologist to investigate Flores’ Pleistocene history is poignant. Morwood introduces some of the historical figures involved in Dutch palaeontology and geology during the 1960s, and the ways in which they snubbed Verhoeven’s conclusions about the early presence of Homo erectus in Southeast Asia, some 30 years prior to the more recent discoveries in Flores. I initially wondered at the reason why so much time would be spent on presenting such a minor matter, but I believe that Morwood genuinely wanted to amend the historical record in this regard and allow Verhoeven to have his moment in the sun. From Morwood’s point of view, it also helps to understand why it took so long for recent attention to swing away from Africa and back to Asia as an important source of new information about the human story.
As those of you have heard Morwood speak on the subject know, he is all about history as an essential context for understanding the present, and for him the littlest detail is important. Even to the point of identifying by name the Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of New England who prevented Morwood from returning to Indonesia at time when tensions between the senior research partners were admittedly high and there was a serious risk that the fossil remains would be transferred out of the project team’s custody.
In fact, Morwood is big on naming names. His warts-and-all, blow-by-blow description of the sequence of events that saw a breakdown in his partnership with Raden Pandji Soejono, and the temporary loss of the remains to Teuku Jacob and the subsequent public stoush over the damage that they sustained, is a little shocking. But then again, the whole sorry saga has left a somewhat bitter aftertaste, played out as it was in the public arena, and it is possible that Morwood felt it was important for him to put forward his version of the story in a more comprehensive and controlled setting. And it is these very features of the book that make the story so appealing – it presents the players as human, as people with foibles, and not as disembodied research machines who take a back seat to their discoveries.
The authors devote quite a bit of space to educating the reader about the principles of island biogeography, and the evolutionary mechanisms that make big animals small and vice versa. Their relevance to arguments about how such a small-bodied, small-brained individual as LB1 could have come to be is lucidly presented. What is not so well explained, however, is the fact that according to archaeological evidence, H. floresiensis co-exists with modern Homo sapiens in the region for at least 38,000 years, until the demise of the former at around 12,000 BP, without there being any evidence for modern humans on Flores until after the other’s disappearance from the fossil record. Their conclusion that modern humans were responsible for the extinction of the little people is at odds with their references to oral histories that indicate the possible presence of ‘hairy little men’ until recent times. You can’t have it both ways.
One of the most interesting parts of the book for me was Morwood’s description of the various models the research partners argued in order to develop a taxonomy for H. floresiensis. This was a rare insight into the process, and helped to situate the remains within a broader international perspective. Of course the debate still rages.
Morwood clearly respects local customs. He was not averse to allowing chickens to be sacrificed and their entrails consulted in order for work to able to proceed smoothly. In fact, Mowood spends quite a bit of time describing the day-to-day working life of a field archaeologist, which for many non-specialist readers will be somewhat of a revelation. Despite the cheese factor sometimes reaching dangerously high levels (the ‘unchewable meat’ story on p.36 sounds like a ‘you had to be there’ kind of moment), the general tone of the book is very engaging apart from the occasional aside where some readers will wonder at their relevance.
This is a great read, one that I would recommend wholeheartedly.
The Batavia Shipwreck: An Archaeological Study of an Early Seventeenth Century Dutch East Indiaman
Wendy van Duivenvoorde
PhD, Nautical Archaeology Program, Texas A&M University, July 2008
Batavia, a Dutch East Indiaman, sank in 1629 on its maiden voyage to the Indies in the Houtman Abrolhos Archipelago off the coast of Western Australia. The ship gained notoriety for the mutiny and horrific massacre that engulfed the survivors after the wreck, but the vessel itself was lost for centuries. The remains of the ship were discovered in 1963, and excavated between 1971 and 1980 by a team of archaeologists from the Western Australian Museum. The surviving hull timbers, raised from the seabed by archaeologists, represent approximately 3.5% of the original hull. They include part of the transom and aft port quarter of the ship. To date, Batavia represents the only excavated remains of an early seventeenth century Dutch East Indiaman that have been raised and conserved in a way that permits detailed study. This is of great significance as there are no line drawings or construction plans for any Dutch ships from this period. The study and comparison of the Batavia hull timbers with those of other Dutch shipwrecks and historic documentation contributes to the understanding of Dutch ship-building techniques at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries.
Didthul, Bhundoo, Gulaga and Wadbilliga: An Archaeological Study of the Aboriginals of the New South Wales Coast Hinterland
Philip G. Boot
PhD, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, The Australian National University, December 2002
The hinterland of the New South Wales South Coast has long been considered a cultural heritage backwater in comparison to the adjacent coastal strip. While the coast has been a focus of intensive archaeological research for several decades, the forested hills, mountains and plateaus between the coastline and the Southern Tablelands have only been investigated by a small number of archaeologists. Paradoxically, many coastal researchers developed models of hinterland Aboriginal occupation without conducting any field research there. Before commencement of the research programme described here, only two hinterland sites had been excavated and dated, compared to over 20 on the adjacent coast. The research described in this thesis was developed to provide more balance between coastal and hinterland archaeological knowledge.
The research programme included reviews of previous work, existing site distribution data and ethnohistoric records coupled with an extensive fieldwork programme of survey, excavation and artefact collection. The materials and data obtained in the field were subjected to a wide-range of laboratory and computer analyses. An extensive radiocarbon dating programme was also undertaken, revealing hinterland rockshelter occupation from 18,810±160 BP (ANU-9375) at Bulee Brook 2 and use of open locations, such as the alluvial terrace at Blue Gum Flat on the ClydeRiver, from 4050±210 BP (ANU-8768). Results are interpreted and synthesised to provide a preliminary prehistory of the South Coast hinterland.
Results have led to revision of some previous hypotheses, while others have withstood rigorous testing. The research has demonstrated that hinterland Aboriginal occupation was extensive and wide-ranging, was probably not seasonal and has a late Pleistocene antiquity. The results also indicate that the intensity of hinterland occupation fluctuated geographically and temporally, possibly in relation to environmental change, local resource abundance, spiritual associations and Aboriginal economic and subsistence strategies.
The work has allowed the identification of preferred resource exploitation and habitation zones within the hinterland, which range from a Pleistocene preference for well-watered and protected locations to a Holocene focus on highly biodiverse hinterland valley woodlands. The research has shown that, although exchange networks were largely restricted to within the hinterland, Aboriginal occupants had extensive social and ritual networks which linked them with coastal areas to the north, south and east and with the tablelands to the west.
Overall the research indicates that Aboriginal people successfully inhabited and exploited a diverse range of hinterland environments over many millennia. The descendants of those original inhabitants still maintain strong connections with the hinterland’s unique cultural heritage.
Review of ‘Sustaining Heritage: Giving the Past a Future’ by Tony Gilmour
Godden Mackay Logan, 78 George Street, Redfern NSW 2016, Australia
Concepts of what constitutes ‘heritage’ and the theory and context which underpin cultural place conservation as a social good have evolved rapidly following the advent of Australian heritage legislation in the 1970s. With a recent explosion in the number of listed places and a more enduring mention of heritage in the national discourse, the notion of ‘sustainable heritage’ is a timely and relevant concern. Tony Gilmour’s book Sustaining Heritage is therefore a welcome addition to the burgeoning shelves of heritage management literature.
Gilmour’s volume presents a plain English synopsis of a Masters dissertation completed at the University of Sydney in 2005. At times the book reads as a competently edited extract from the larger academic corpus. It is therefore surprising, given its own academic heritage, that the book is sometimes loose with terminology and in a few places erroneous. The implicit assumption that ‘heritage’ equates to ‘buildings’ might have been made more explicit in both title and text. Readers expecting any substantive consideration of archaeological sites, Aboriginal places or natural heritage will be disappointed. A second assumption that heritage listing imposes additional costs on the owner of a listed place raises some doubt regarding Gilmour’s general points about economic viability. Nevertheless, he does raise a number of critical issues and makes both useful and provocative arguments that contribute to contemporary thinking about how heritage is regulated, funded and managed in Australia.
Professor Edward Blakely’s foreword baldly asserts that the ‘basic notion of heritage is to add value and not to stop the future’ (p.v). The scene is thereby set for an ensuing focus on building sustainability – with discussion of adaptation, commercialisation, economics and institutions – rather than less tangible notions like value, or inheritance. The introductory chapter pursues this theme, suggesting that the (assumed) impact of heritage listing – on funding responsibilities, property rights and residential social patterns – has occurred with little discussion. While Gilmour’s research did pre-date the recent Commonwealth Productivity Commission Inquiry into heritage, contact with Commonwealth or State heritage agencies might have corrected this misapprehension. Similarly, some additional examination of the statutory listing processes across the nation might have revealed that listing without wide-ranging consultation with residents and other stakeholders is the exception, rather than the rule.
A strength of Sustaining Heritage is the analysis of several case studies, covering both heritage places and agencies. Data from annual reports, other research and personal interviews combine to provide a range of insights and conclusions. The case of the MaritimeServicesBuilding at Circular Quay in Sydney (and its tenant the Museum of Contemporary Art) underlines the complexity of the listing process, the effects of political intervention and the challenges that may be faced by public sector agencies with major heritage assets. This example also seems to refute an earlier suggestion that ‘the best way to protect [heritage] for future generations to enjoy is for it to be given legally enforceable protection’ (p.46). Gilmour’s examination of those he terms the ‘new guardians of heritage’ is engaging, but selective. The example provided by the British National Trust is relevant, but may not be comparable to Australian counterparts, or generally applicable, given the extraordinary patronage and income arising from visitors to historic homes in England and Wales. Gilmour is therefore harsh in his critique of the Australian National Trust organisations for not taking up some of the fundraising initiatives of its British equivalent.
Economic sustainability is addressed in two ways; through examination of recent economic theory and literature that places an economic value on heritage (including the notion of ‘cultural capital’), and by narrated examples of trends and innovations, such as transferrable development rights, the English Heritage Lottery and securitisation of future entrance receipts. The focus is on publicly-owned buildings and museums. There is no detailed engagement with the reality that the majority of listed buildings in Australia, for example, are conserved by the residents who continue to use them for their original purpose, by living in them – in some cases basking in the reflected glory brought by the status of living in a ‘heritage listed’ home.
Sustaining Heritage chronicles a moment in the history of heritage conservation and has a particularly Australian focus. Gilmour’s thoughtful analysis, informative case studies and conclusions provide some valuable insight and relevant messages. He is strongest in his perspicacious observations of the need for viable economic models, transparent processes and community engagement. His comments on heritage governance and the perils of multiple listing statutory regimes are timely as Australia engages with an evolving federal regime and changing community perceptions of what we want to pass on to future generations.
Review of ‘The Axe had Never Sounded: Place People and Heritage of Recherche Bay, Tasmania’ by John Mulvaney
The Axe had Never Sounded: Place People and Heritage of Recherche Bay, Tasmania by John Mulvaney. Aboriginal History Monograph 14, ANU E Press and Aboriginal History Inc., Canberra, 2007, xxi+141 pp., ISBN 9781921313202.
School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle, Callaghan Campus NSW 2308, Australia
In 1989 John Mulvaney produced Encounters in Place: Outsiders and Aboriginal Australians 1606-1985 which identified 57 sites of cross-cultural encounters between Aborigines and Europeans that should be included in the Register of the National Estate. A bold, generous, well-illustrated book, published with the encouragement and support of the Australian Heritage Commission, it showed how Australians were beginning to grapple with the cultural complexities of their nation’s past.
Today, optimism about preserving Tasmania’s cultural heritage has evaporated. Cultural heritage politics is now conducted as a lopsided battle between a cabal of the logging industry, developers and Federal and State governments on one side and a cluster of heritage advocates on the other. In his latest book and possibly his last, John Mulvaney shows just how difficult the process has become in Tasmania, by providing a cultural history of RechercheBay in the state’s southeast, as part of the campaign to have it preserved on the National Heritage Register.
RechercheBay is the site of two visits made by the French maritime scientific expedition led by Bruny d’Entrecasteaux in 1792 and 1793. On the first visit a raft of ground-breaking scientific experiments were conducted and important flora and fauna collected, and on the second visit, three encounters were recorded with the Tasmanian Aborigines. However, few records of the expedition were translated into English at the time and others were lost. Its wider significance did not become apparent until the end of the twentieth century when new scholarly translations became available, along with a biography of its chief botanist, Labillardiere, who recorded the most detailed observations of the Tasmanian Aborigines and new assessments were made of the ethnographic observations. These publications not only dramatically changed our understanding of the humanity of the Tasmanian Aborigines, but also the significance of RechercheBay as a critical site of cross-cultural encounter. In 2003, when evidence of the remains of the temporary garden, established during the expedition’s first visit to RecherhceBay in 1792, was alleged to have been found, the campaign to preserve the site swept into action.
Part of the purpose of this book is to reassess the significance of the d’Entrecasteaux expedition’s textual and visual observations of the Tasmanian Aborigines at RechercheBay. Mulvaney begins this task by reviewing the expedition’s origins during the tumultuous early years of the French Revolution and its dual purpose: to search for the maritime explorer La Perouse whose expedition was last seen at Botany Bay in January 1788; and to seek ‘geographical, biological and ethnic data in the interests of learning unrelated to imperial desires’ (p.xx). He points out that the expedition attracted the most experienced naval officers in France to conduct the search for La Perouse and the best and the brightest young scientists to collect the data. Despite their obvious political differences – the naval officers were largely staunch royalists and the young scientists were ardent republicans – their French nationality and belief in the Enlightenment gave both groups similar ideas and beliefs about the humanity of native peoples.
This was demonstrated at RechercheBay, which Mulvaney explains, the expedition accidentally ‘discovered, through a compass error’ in April 1792 and revisited for three weeks in January-February 1793. During the first visit, members of the expedition recorded evidence of Aborigines in the area, but they did not make contact until half way through the second visit in early February 1793. What followed was three cross-cultural encounters which Mulvaney argues produced ‘a priceless archive’ of information about the Tasmanian Aborigines that has never been surpassed. What then did the French record, and where and how did they do it?
According to Mulvaney, the first encounter took place near Southport Lagoon on the morning of 7 February and recorded by Labillardiere, the botanist and Felix Delahaye, the gardener, who with two of the crew of Recherche, were on an overnight excursion to the northeast peninsula. The Aborigines saw them coming and drew themselves almost in a semi-circle with the men and young boys at the front and the women and children well-behind. Holding firmly to his belief that they were not hostile, Labillardiere stepped forward and offered the oldest man a piece of biscuit. He was rewarded with a dazzling smile and a hand offered in friendship which he grasped, gratefully. The rest stepped forward and according to Mulvaney, ‘peaceful relations were initiated’ (p.64). Labillardiere counted 42 people, including seven men and eight women. The rest were children and adolescents.
When Labillardiere invited his new companions to his campsite for breakfast, one of the men explained, by using unequivocal signs, that he had reconnoitered the camp during the night. According to Mulvaney, ‘neither then nor upon any other occasion were the objects stolen, a virtue stressed by the French’ (p.64). Labillardiere made several careful ethnographic observations concerning their appearance, skin, hair and body adornments while Delahaye was more interested in recording that the men had spears hidden in the long grass.
The French then demonstrated their firearms, which the Aborigines did not like, and then the Aboriginal men threw their spears at an indicated target which the French judged to be of impressive accuracy. On their return to the ship, the Aborigines cleared the track to the beach by removing dead branches, breaking off obstructions and then taking them by the arm to guide them through slippery areas. According to Mulvaney, ‘the whole group went on arm-in-arm singing’ (p.65). Both diarists considered that the Aborigines were intelligent, inquisitive, sentient human beings.
The second encounter took place the following morning near Blackswan Lagoon where Mulvaney records that Labillardiere and Delahaye, together with three naval officers, Louis Ventenat, Lieutenant Saint-Aignan and Sub-Lieutenant, La Motte du Portail, the artist Jean Piron, the naturalist, Claude-Antoine Gaspard Riche, and at least one of the crew of the Recherche, were welcomed by 19 Aborigines, who were eating shellfish beside three fires. The French happily mingled with the Aborigines. Labillardiere, Delahaye, Vententat and du Portail recorded their observations and Piron made a pictorial record of the encounter, which became the engraving: ‘Aborigines of Van Diemen’s Land preparing a meal’, 1793.
Despite Piron’s representation of the Aborigines as classical in bodily stature and the obvious inventions of background vegetation, Mulvaney considers that there is ‘a remarkable degree of realism in the scene’ (p.66). Three hearths with crayfish broiling can be readily identified together with fine examples or basketry and seaweed water containers. Seventeen of the 19 Aborigines are also identifiable, ‘although the sex of some is indeterminate’ (p.66). The probable tally, he contends ‘is seven men, five women and five children’ (p.66). Since ‘some women are seated with one foot concealing their genital area, a characteristic commented on by most diarists’, this sketch, ‘represents keen ethnographic accuracy’ (p.66). He then identifies, for the first time, each of the six French participants mingling with the Aborigines. ‘Such carefree fraternization’, he claims, ‘indicates the degree of informality and equality that typified the humanizing spirit of the occasion’. Above all, he concludes, Piron’s engraving reveals ‘mutual interest, respect, equality and informality’ (p.67).
Mulvaney believes that the final encounter probably took place on 9 February at Quiet Cove, another open area. Labillardiere, du Porteil and Captain d’Aribeau textually recorded the encounter and Piron visually recorded it in another engraving, ‘Tasmanians preparing a meal from the sea’. All these records, he argues, provide critical information about Tasmanian economic and social life. On this occasion the French recorded 10 men, 14 women and 12 children, six of each sex, gathered around 10 fires, suggesting to them that each monogamous family had its own hearth. While the French were disturbed that the women appeared to be the major food gatherers, Mulvaney notes that ‘this visual and written account of the female role in food procurement was detailed, more so than most nineteenth-century observers, who stressed the male hunting role in mainland society’ (pp.68-69). He points out that the females preparing this one meal ‘are frozen in time, as they catch and cook shellfish and crayfish. An archeological midden may be visualized accumulating from the ashes mixed with discarded shells and food debris’ (pp.69-70).
Mulvaney contends that all the observers emphasised the family as the focus of Aboriginal social life in which monogamy appeared to prevail. ‘The more the two races became acquainted, the greater the emphasis on the essential humanity of the Tasmanians’ emerged, in particular ‘their loving treatment of children, the sharing of food and their good humour’ (p.70). Such observations, he says, add ‘a significant collection to the meager store of ethnographical knowledge of contact period Tasmanians’ (p.71).
After reflecting on this momentous and friendly encounter for human history, Mulvaney concludes:Since their arrival in southern Tasmania at least 35,000 years ago, the Tasmanians have been isolated from all outside human contact for a period between 10,000 and possibly 14,000 years. Yet their bearing surely reflected those values that are the criteria of humanity. It is not unreasonable to conclude that their ancestors brought this culture with them on their long migration. They spoke fluently and in a lively manner, communicating meaning to the French newcomers. They sang, danced, showed their trust, affection and consideration when they grasped the visitors’ arms. The French already had inferred that they had solicitude (or fear) for deceased kin in the form of cremating their dead. These were hardly the characteristics of sub-human and unintelligent savages. These distinguishing traits of conversational jollity and adaptability stamped these remote people for their French observers as fully sentient Homo sapiens, whereas many later colonists assumed otherwise (p.73).
Mulvaney certainly makes a compelling case for the significance of these observations in enlarging our understanding of the Tasmanian Aborigines. His interpretation of Piron’s etchings, in particular, offer new ways of reading visual texts for ethnographic information. Not even G.A. Robinson, who had longer interaction with the Tasmanian Aborigines 30 years later, recorded such intimate encounters with intact family groups with lots of healthy children. Although I would argue that he did accord them their humanity and did consider them to be his closest friends. Put together, both sets of observations make a powerful case not only for the humanity of the Tasmanian Aborigines but also for their potential longevity, despite their long isolation from the Australian mainland.
Mulvaney however, does not dispel Rhys Jones’s assertion that they were destined to die out. Rather he focuses on the fact that one of the French scientists, who was known to have been tubercular, appears in one of Piron’s etchings, mingling with the Aborigines. This man, he argues, could have passed on the virus to this very group, thus according the etching even greater significance as the last glimpse of a people, before their physical decline.
I would argue however, that members of this particular group could have been the progenitors of Truganini, the best known Aborigine in nineteenth century Tasmania. She told G.A. Robinson that she was born at RechercheBay, as was her father, Mangerner. Indeed their historical association with the site could have enhanced the case for its preservation. But this is a minor point.
This book not only makes the case for the preservation of RechercheBay as a cultural heritage site, it is also a call to arms to restore Australia’s position as a world leader in cultural heritage legislation. I would like to hope that Peter Garrett, the Federal Minister for Arts, Environment and Heritage, reads this book and acts to restore the National Heritage Commission Estate to its previous pre-eminent position. It would be a fitting conclusion to John Mulvaney’s illustrious career and acknowledgment of his vital role in promoting the nation’s cultural heritage.
Mulvaney, J. 1989 Encounters in Place: Outsiders and Aboriginal Australians, 1606–1985. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.
Review of ‘Digging it Up Down Under: A Practical Guide to Doing Archaeology in Australia’ by Claire Smith and Heather Burke
Digging it Up Down Under: A Practical Guide to Doing Archaeology in Australia by Claire Smith and Heather Burke. World Archaeological Congress Cultural Heritage Manual Series, Springer, New York, 2007, xxvi+325 pp., ISBN 9780387352602 (hbk).
Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada
The concept is intriguing – how does one actually set about doing archaeology in unfamiliar parts of the world? What are the various ways that archaeologists in Australia, for example, go about their business? What is the essential legislation there? How does one obtain a permit to conduct fieldwork? What are the regionally specific terms, historical sequences, and artefact typologies one needs to know? What opportunities are there for students?
Addressing such questions is essentially the focus of Digging it Up Down Under: A Practical Guide to Doing Archaeology in Australia, and also of the World Archaeological Congress’ Cultural Heritage Manual Series, of which this is the inaugural volume. Promoting the notion of ‘archaeologists without borders’, these ‘field manuals have been written for both undergraduate and graduate students, and for emerging professionals. Each book constitutes a step-by-step guide to undertaking and successfully completing cultural heritage fieldwork in a particular country or region’ (p.vii). Other volumes now under development will focus on India, the United Kingdom, northwestern South America, and western-central Europe.
Digging it Up Down Under consists of 10 chapters, each focusing on different aspects of doing Australian archaeology: 1. ‘A Brief History of Australian Archaeology’; 2. ‘An Introduction to Indigenous Australians’; 3. ‘Finding Funding’; 4. ‘Living It Up Down Under: Working in an Australian Setting’; 5. ‘Working with Legislation’; 6. ‘Doing Archaeology in Aboriginal Australia’; 7. ‘Doing Historical Archaeology in Australia’; 8. ‘Doing Maritime Archaeology in Australia’; 9. ‘Conserving and Managing Cultural Heritage’; and 10. ‘Documentation and Publication’. The authors also provide a Glossary and four appendices, which include the AAA Code of Ethics and a sample consent form. Each chapter includes a ‘References and Future Readings’ section. My comments below touch on aspects of only some of these chapters, especially those whose subject matter may not be evident from the titles.
Smith and Burke’s excellent Preface identifies the goals of the volume (and to a degree, the series), and situates nicely all that follows. In fact, this section would have been more effective as the first chapter of the volume, especially since Chapter 1 jumps directly into the history of Australian archaeology. Their review includes a 3.5-page timeline that neatly encapsulates notable events in the historical development of Australian archaeology (although there will likely be detractors concerning who/what is/isn’t included here). Included are the notable discoveries, excavations, publications, conferences, legislation, and controversies that have shaped Australian archaeology. The first entry is somewhat questionable – ‘50,000 Aboriginal people interpret the material remains of human behavior’ (p.5), – but is followed with ‘1669 William Dampier makes the first written records of archaeological observations in his analyses of Aboriginal campsites in WA’ (p.5).
Chapter 2 reviews the pre-contact history of Australia, from founding populations and models of colonisation through to the range of Holocene and more recent lifeways. Included in this summary are reviews of such topics as megafauna extinction, fire-stick farming and resource intensification, trade networks and exchange, and, of course, Aboriginal culture, including the Dreaming, social and linguistic diversity, and the nature of Aboriginal knowledge systems. As a review of ancient and traditional lifeways, environments, and technologies of this vast continent, this chapter initially feels lightweight until one remembers that it is meant only as a primer on the subject within the larger context of this manual.
One other chapter deserves special attention. For many readers, Chapter 4, ‘Living It Up Down Under’ may be the highlight of the volume for it focuses on the realities of doing fieldwork in Australia. As recounted by the authors themselves, and through a series of sidebars written by others, the reader is introduced to the very human dimension of fieldwork and given sensible advice for cross-cultural encounters with Australian archaeologists, and to a host of potential dangers stemming from encounters with Australian fauna or from ignoring social conventions relating to alcohol consumption. Finally, there is Colin Pardoe’s ‘Top Twenty Tips for ‘Living it Up Down Under’’ sidebar, which rounds out the chapter with such bon mots as:
6. If you are a proponent of culture history, get in touch with the ANU.
7. If you are a proponent of post-processualism, get in touch with Flinders University.
8. If you are a proponent of processualism, go anywhere you like and do any darned thing you like. Australia was made for processualism.
9. If you seek pre-understanding, see Bruno David.
The authors go to great lengths throughout the volume to ensure the presence of Indigenous peoples on the past and present archaeological landscape. In Chapter 6, for example, the first section introduces and describes the primary site types to be encountered and the artefact recording systems commonly used. But the bulk of the chapter contextualises these within the realm of the living descendant communities. This is exemplified by the section headings: ‘Undertaking Ethnohistoric Research’, ‘Ethical Issues in Indigenous Archaeology’, ‘Applying to Work on Indigenous Lands’, and ‘Seeking Indigenous Support for Archaeological Research’. There are many valuable insights here, gleaned both from the authors’ extensive collaborative work with Aboriginal communities, and from those who contributed sidebars. Additional information in similar vein appears in other chapters, including ‘Working with Community Groups’ (Chapter 7), ‘The Burra Charter Model for Assessing [site] Significance’ (Chapter 9), and ‘Conservation or Desecration?: The [rock art ] Repainting Debate’ (Chapter 9).
Finally, the authors are to be commended for concluding the volume with a chapter dedicated to ‘Documentation and Publication’, an all-too-often neglected aspect of doing archaeology. There is much good advice here for archaeologists working in any part of the world concerning accountability, the necessity of community-oriented reports, benefits sharing, publication permissions (including photographs), and intellectual property rights. Sage advice is also provided in sidebars, prepared by individuals experienced in journal and book publishing.
Although touted as a means to facilitate non-Australians’ research and working within Australia (or other countries for other volumes in the series), it is likely that few will ever put the advice provided into practice. Yet this doesn’t diminish at all the contribution of Digging it Up Down Under. The greatest value of this volume, and likely the entire series, may be when these are viewed as ethnographies of archaeological practice. In this case, Smith and Burke’s field manual reveals important things about the nature of Australian archaeology today, its developmental history, and the social context in which it is today practiced. Here one also finds insights into the Australian character and welcome advice on the realities of health issues, taxes, driving, and employment.
As with many ethnographies, our knowledge and understanding of the cultural system observed is highly influenced by the author(s), the informants, and the time and place of observation/interview. And, as Karl Heider (1989) reminds us, different ethnographers can produce different sets of observations and interpretations. Thus, the particulars of the two authors, and the fact that this is a WAC volume, do influence the overall character of the volume: other archaeologists may have produced a significantly different field manual for Australia. But for Smith and Burke, there is an emphasis on collaboration and on ethical practice, both of which reflect an emerging trend in archaeology elsewhere. Indeed, it is the inclusion of such topics – ethics, discussions concerning relations between archaeologists and descendant communities, and the pervasive nature of archaeological resource management today – that provides this ethnographic snapshot, this glimpse into how and why archaeology is done in Australia this decade.
Digging it Up Down Under does have several noticeable shortcomings, some minor, a few distracting, particularly in terms of the organisation of some chapters. For example, the second half of Chapter 1 switches to non-historical subjects (e.g. ‘How to Get Work in Australia’ – an important and enlightening section but one much better placed elsewhere). I would also have expected some illustrations of major artefact types, as well as perhaps several maps providing more detail that the continental-scale maps provided. Another useful addition would have been Nicholas Peterson’s culture area map, reprinted and extensively discussed in Lourandos (1997).
Overall, Smith and Burke have produced an interesting and engaging introduction to doing archaeology in Australia, not just in terms of procedure, but also its historical, ethical, and social contexts. And the authors do so in a way that not only addresses the needs of professional archaeologists, but also, through the scope and style of the volume, makes a great deal of information accessible to students, Indigenous communities, heritage managers, and non-government organisations who may have limited knowledge of the topics covered. I commend the authors for their vision, for the care they’ve taken in emphasising the responsibilities archaeologists have not only to the archaeological record, but to the descendant communities whose ancestors created and embody that record, and finally for conveying to a wide audience the human dimension of doing archaeology in Australia. I very much look forward to future volumes in this series.
Heider, K. 1989 The Rashoman Effect: When ethnographers disagree. American Anthropologist 90:73–81.
Lourandos, H. 1997 Continent of Hunter-Gatherers: New Perspectives in Australian Prehistory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Managing the Archaeology of the Modern City
PhD, School of Historical and European Studies, La Trobe University, 2005
Archaeological management studies were first produced in England in the early 1970s to assess what remains survived within city centres where archaeology was being destroyed by new developments, and to devise better ways to investigate these. Since the late 1980s, Australian historical archaeology has produced approximately 20 (and counting) similar studies for urban centres in New South Wales and Victoria, referred to as archaeological zoning and/or management plans. These plans are the only specifically archaeological mechanism used to create meaningful broad-scale perspectives about the significance of urban archaeological resources in Australia. Notwithstanding their importance to date, there has been little discussion about their effectiveness as management tools.
Ways of managing archaeological sites from their initial identification to their ultimate interpretation continue to change and evolve. Despite the sustained production of urban archaeological management plans (AMPs), important questions about their capacity and modus operandi remain unanswered. For example, how effective are they in assisting the planning process, or protecting the archaeological resource? Which ones (if any) work and why? Where do these plans best fit within broader urban planning strategies?
This dissertation comprises the first rigorous assessment of the approach, structure, and application of AMP studies to determine how these can better assist the different needs of stakeholder groups, facilitate the management of urban archaeological resources and enable archaeology to play a more active role than that of reactive mitigation. Discussion focuses on review of the existing plans for the city centres of Melbourne and Sydney, six other Australian plans, and five comparable British archaeological studies to provide the basis for a new model AMP that can be applied to urban centres in Australia.
The thesis also addresses issues that affect the quality of broader management procedures and practices in urban archaeology. It identifies particular funding and strategic initiatives, each of which has the potential to support progressive administration and planning frameworks, and to assist the development of professional performance standards and data management systems. My research thus encourages more responsive and meaningful ways of managing and protecting the urban archaeological heritage of modern cities to ensure that the outcomes — what is gained or lost from the archaeological process, whether through excavation, interpretation or preservation – is information and experience shared.
Ploughzone archaeology on an Australian historic site: A case study from south Gippsland, Victoria
Archaeologists are often confronted with sites featuring post-occupation disturbance. At rural sites, this disturbance often comes in the form of agricultural activity, such as ploughing and grazing. These disturbances can call into question the value of site spatial relationships and broader data integrity. Between 2006 and 2007, archaeologists from La Trobe University and New Zealand-based consultancy firm Geometria carried out a programme of fieldwork at an 1841–1861 cottage in Gippsland, Victoria. The site is now an open grazing paddock that has been ploughed on several occasions in the past. The survey techniques used by the archaeological team, which included geomagnetic survey and artefact surface scatter mapping, allowed for testing the integrity of the ploughed archaeological deposits prior to excavation, and provide a case study for the applicability of ploughzone archaeology techniques to Australian historic sites.Image caption: The Ben Site, February 2006 (published in Australian Archaeology 68:39).
Review of ‘Oceanic Explorations: Lapita and Western Pacific Settlement’ edited by Stuart Bedford, Christophe Sand and S.P. Connaughton
Oceanic Explorations: Lapita and Western Pacific Settlement edited by Stuart Bedford, Christophe Sand and S.P. Connaughton. Terra Australis 26, ANU E Press, Canberra, 2007, x+299 pp., ISBN 9780975122907 (pbk).
Patrick V. Kirch
Departments of Anthropology and Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley CA 94720, USA
Over the past two decades, the field of Lapita studies has witnessed a sustained period of intellectual growth that can be traced back to the stimulus first generated by the Lapita Homeland Project of the mid-1980s. This reflects the now widely-acknowledged significance of Lapita as the archaeological signature of a critical period of expansion of one branch of Austronesian-speaking peoples into Near Oceania, and beyond into the previously unoccupied archipelagoes of Remote Oceania. The dominance of Lapita studies in Oceanic archaeology also stems from continuing and sustained field projects in such areas as the Bismarck Archipelago, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga, which have continued to provide new and sometimes startling evidence with which to reassess our hypotheses and models about what Lapita represents.
Oceanic Explorations is the latest in a series of proceedings derived from various conferences of Lapita investigators, in this case the Nuku‘alofa gathering which was organised by David Burley and convened in the Tongan capital on 1–7 August 2005. The volume contains an Introduction followed by 16 papers, subdivided by the editors into three themes: (1) ‘Lapita Origins’ (two articles); (2) ‘Lapita Dispersal and Archaeological Signatures’ (the largest section with nine articles); and (3) ‘Lapita Ceramics’ (with five articles). The contributions vary widely in scope and significance, ranging from masterly syntheses such as Pawley’s treatment of the ‘testimony of historical linguistics’ and Chiu’s insightful work on Lapita faces, to preliminary reports on recent fieldwork (Felgate on New Georgia; Galipaud and Kelly and Aore Island; Nunn on Rove, Fiji; and, Connaughton on Falevai). Despite such unevenness, typical of this genre of conference proceedings, Oceanic Explorations is a valuable addition to the Lapita literature, one that will be essential reading for Oceanic archaeologists, although probably of less interest beyond this regional sphere. I cannot here do justice to all articles, but will touch on those that I consider to have the greatest import.
The introductory chapter, by Bedford and Sand, contextualises the volume in terms of four main themes – origins, boundaries, provinces and chronology – and addresses as well a number of ‘persistent problems’ in Lapita archaeology. With respect to origins, the authors suggest that ‘the debate … has largely remained at a standstill’ (p.2) since Green introduced his ‘Triple I’ model (standing for intrusion, innovation and integration). Rather than a lack of progress, however, this may simply speak to the enduring ability of Green’s model to accommodate new data. While the geographical boundaries of Lapita are seen as having remained ‘fairly much the same’ since Golson’s tentative review in the 1970s, the number of documented Lapita sites continues to rise year-by-year. Bedford and Sand contribute a table itemising 49 new sites, all reported since the last comprehensive inventory of Lapita sites published in 2001. This brings the grand total of known Lapita sites to 229. With respect to chronology, questions persist regarding a Lapita ‘pause’ in the Bismarcks and Near Oceania prior to the expansion of Lapita into Remote Oceania. Bedford and Sand also suggest that it is ‘very unlikely that Lapita dentate-stamping continues anywhere in the Western Pacific beyond c. 2500 BP,’ an important clarification of chronology (p.5). Among the persistent problems that they see continuing to nag at Lapita archaeology, Bedford and Sand point to poor preservation and taphonomic issues at many sites, the lack of analysis and complete publication of many collections, and continuing problems of radiocarbon dating and calibration in the mid-second millennium BP.
For this reviewer, one of the highlights of the volume is the second chapter, by foremost Pacific linguist Andrew Pawley, addressing Lapita origins and the nature of Lapita society from the perspective of historical linguistics. As many readers will know, the promulgation of a multidisciplinary approach to Pacific prehistory, especially one that incorporates the evidence of historical linguistics, has not always been met with open arms; indeed, there has been considerable resistance in some quarters to the idea that linguists can tell prehistorians anything meaningful about Lapita. Might the mere inclusion of this chapter in a volume on Lapita archaeology then be taken as a sign that linguistic prehistory is finally becoming more widely accepted? I certainly hope so. In any event, Pawley provides a masterful overview of the current subgrouping model for Austronesian languages and the place of Proto Oceanic (regarded as the language probably spoken by early Lapita communities in the Bismarcks). This is followed by a review of the lexical evidence for ‘selected cultural domains’, including canoes and sailing, architecture and settlements, fishing, agriculture and domestic animals, various kinds of material culture, kinship terms, and some social categories. It is, of course, in the latter domains that linguists such as Pawley have the most to offer, giving us insights into aspects of Lapita life that will probably never be recoverable through the archaeological record. Among these is the conclusion that Lapita societies were matrilocal, an interesting suggestion in respect of recent Y-chromosome data indicating that local males were being recruited into Lapita communities.
In a second chapter grouped under the ‘origins’ theme, Jim Specht re-examines the role and significance of small islands (islets, or even sand cays, in many cases) in the formative period of Lapita in the Bismarcks. Drawing in part on data from the early Eloaua Island sites, Specht hypotheses that some off-shore or small islet localities might have been special purpose localities, rather than simply residential locales. As he writes: ‘The linking of face designs and some vessel forms with deities or ancestors, and the possible use of cylinder stands as sound-producing instruments open opportunities for viewing at least some Lapita spaces as focal points of ceremonial or religious activity that required close association with the sea and comparative isolation from land’ (p.62) (I agree with his idea of ceramic percussion instruments, and Specht will be interested to know that the ECB ceramics include more than one example of ceramic drums, as yet unpublished). Specht’s chapter, while primarily a ‘thought-piece’, deserves serious consideration.
Most of the chapters in the long middle section of the volume present new data on Lapita sites, their geomorphological settings, and their chronology, based on recent and continuing fieldwork. I found the chapter by Specht and Torrence on the Willaumez Peninsula of New Britain especially noteworthy, as they have taken advantage of landscape-scale commercial plantation development to look at the distribution of pottery-bearing deposits over a substantial inland area previously under jungle and not amenable to archaeological survey. Their test excavations revealed numerous localities with dentate-stamped and other ceramics situated on a paleosol developed on the W-K2 volcanic ash, and hence documenting quite rapid recolonisation of this landscape following the massive eruption around 3480–3200 BP. Felgate’s chapter (left curiously unfinished …) offers a view of a quite different kind of Lapita landscape, the littoral fringe of New Georgia, where late Lapita ceramics have been found in thoroughly subtidal geomorphological contexts. Thus from both the inland terrain of the Willaumez to the reef flats of the Roviana Lagoon, it is evident that survey and excavation of Lapita sites must confront a diversity of challenging archaeological environments. For Tongatapu, Dickinson demonstrates how careful palaeoenvironmental reconstruction is essential to understanding the distribution of Lapita sites in the early first millennium BC. As Dickinson rightly points out, this kind of work ‘underscores the value of coordinated archaeological and geological investigations in Pacific Oceania’ (p.184). Farther north in the Tongan archipelago, Burley reports on his efforts to locate Lapita and later Polynesian Plainware sites in Vava‘u. The relatively low density of sites, in spite of systematic efforts to find them, leads Burley to the tentative conclusion that Vava‘u may have been a ‘frontier periphery’ of the Lapita world, a concept he hints may also apply to Samoa (p.196).
A final set of chapters deals primarily with Lapita ceramics. Wal Ambrose follows up on his earlier research into the nature of dentate stamping to argue (contra Simon Best) that a roulette was not used for the quick application of designs. This reinforces the idea that Lapita pottery decoration was highly labour intensive, and hence an ‘important social investment’ (p.220). Following the line of investigation of the social meanings of Lapita pottery, Scarlett Chiu puts forward a detailed analysis of Lapita face motifs from the Reef-Santa Cruz and New Caledonia Site 13A contexts, showing that differences in face motifs between sites are real (i.e. reflecting choices made by potters) and not artefacts of sampling strategy. She then continues to advance her compelling argument that face motifs signified particular house-based social groups. As Chiu writes, ‘by using these highly regarded symbols, with firm control over image innovation and reproduction, Lapita peoples were generating social hierarchy across their social and economic networks, while at the same time transforming themselves and the symbolic system’ (p.260).
To conclude, Oceanic Explorations nicely encapsulates the ongoing state of play in Lapita studies. Space limits have precluded me from discussing every chapter in the volume, and I have touched only on those I found the most interesting or innovative. This volume demonstrates that even as active field projects continue to provide new data, investigators are also continually reassessing the significance of well-known sites and collections to push the boundaries of our understanding of this remarkable archaeological phenomenon we call Lapita. The editors are to be congratulated in bringing out the proceedings of this latest Lapita conference in a timely manner.
Review of ‘Rock Art of the Kimberley: Proceedings of the Kimberley Society Rock Art Seminar Held at The University of Western Australia, Perth, 10 September 2005’ edited by Mike Donaldson and Kevin Kenneally
Rock Art of the Kimberley: Proceedings of the Kimberley Society Rock Art Seminar Held at The University of Western Australia, Perth, 10 September 2005 edited by Mike Donaldson and Kevin Kenneally. Kimberley Society, Perth, 2007, x+158pp, ISBN 978-0-9587130-1-6.
Paul S.C. Taçon
School of Arts, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, PMB 50, Gold Coast Mail Centre Qld 9726, Australia
It is always wonderful to see new books on Kimberley rock art, especially when they are full of colour pictures. Rock Art of the Kimberley is packed with superb images, including pictures of rock art not published elsewhere. The book is a proceedings volume, in this case of the Kimberley Society Rock Art Seminar which took place in 2005. There are eight chapters by a diverse range of authors followed by a ‘Discussion’ chapter. The Kimberley Society president and geologist Mike Donaldson sets the scene with an introduction and overview of Kimberley rock art. Donny Woolagoodja, a Worrorra elder and artist, then illustrates how Kimberley rock art has long been an inspiration for contemporary Aboriginal painting. Next, geologist Jim Ross, who has an interest in human evolution, gives a rather one-sided overview of the peopling of Australia and modern human origins. Archaeologist Sue O’Connor then focuses in on the Kimberley region to discuss changes in interpretations of the Aboriginal occupation of the area. Finally we get a focused chapter on what the book is all about, Kimberley rock art, by rock art researcher David Welch, who concentrates on Gwion Gwion or ‘Bradshaw’ paintings. Anthropologist Ian Crawford follows on with reminiscences of 1960s fieldwork related to his classic The Art of the Wandjina (1968) publication. A totally irrelevant chapter on natural deterioration of Pilbara (not Kimberley) rock art hastened by bacteria, by anthropologist Denis Callaghan, follows. This chapter would have best been left out of the volume. The final proper chapter looks at rock art in Kimberley limestone ranges and is by geologist Phillip Playford. At the end, there is a very brief ‘Discussion’ chapter which is simply a verbatim transcript of questions, comments and responses after the papers were presented during the seminar. Disappointingly, there is no proper ‘Discussion’ at all.
The book is not much more than an edited record of the seminar and, in my opinion, would have benefited greatly from better editing. It is extremely irritating to read a chapter full of statements made by authors while they were interacting with their live audience. For instance, statements like ‘David Welch is going to talk about these fascinating figures …’ (p.15) or ‘The title of my talk is a bit different …’ (p.59) or ‘What I would like to do in today’s talk is …’ (p.63) is extremely annoying to read when such comments appear frequently throughout printed chapter texts. Indeed, the book really suffers as a consequence, appearing amateurish and awkward. Callaghan’s chapter should never have been included in the publication and all chapters would have benefited from rewriting. David Welch’s chapter is by far the best and it includes some of his most outstanding research results. Donny, Woolagoodja, Sue O’Connor, Phillip Playford and Ian Crawford also produced good and informative chapters. Others provide excellent contextual information and all chapters have great pictures.
I highly recommend the book to students and interested members of the general public as it will provide lots of useful information. Others will appreciate the pictures and in this regard it is a welcome addition to the slowly growing number of books on Australian rock art.
Crawford, I. 1968 The Art of the Wandjina: Aboriginal Cave Paintings in Kimberley, Western Australia. Melbourne: OxfordUniversity Press.
Review of ‘The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq’ edited by Peter Stone and Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly
Dan T. Potts
Department of Archaeology, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney NSW 2006, Australia
The looting of the Iraq Museum in April, 2003, aroused unprecedented scorn and outrage, most of which was directed against the Coalition forces for not protecting it, rather than the looters themselves. This book details the sorry tales of warnings to the US State Department by American academics with detailed knowledge of sites and monuments that required protection in the build-up to the invasion and visits by foreign academics and UNESCO bureaucrats to the looted museum. It then goes on to investigative efforts by US forces charged with recovering the looted antiquities. The suspicion surrounding Donny George and Jaber Ibrahim, Chairman of the State Board of Antiquities, is also dealt with as well as the subsequent large-scale looting of sites in Iraq and post-war attempts by INTERPOL and other agencies to stem the tide of Iraqi antiquities hitting the market. It all makes for depressing reading, to put it mildly.
Nevertheless, the looting of the Iraq Museum is a part of history around which much misinformation has swirled in the popular media. Although it was in some respects a seemingly inconsequential event in a war which has left hundreds of thousands dead, it must surely rank as one of the greatest cultural heritage calamities in history and, as such, deserves careful study. The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq, is therefore a very welcome addition to the literature on this dark episode and should be of interest not only to archaeologists and museum or heritage specialists, but to criminologists and law enforcement officers as well.
The 28 chapters in the volume are written by a wide-range of authors, including specialists in Mesopotamian archaeology, Iraqi bureaucrats, museologists, opponents of the antiquities trade, cultural property lawyers, journalists, police officers, UN officials and others. The multiplicity of authors with differing areas of expertise and perspectives gives this book far greater authority and less bias than two other works that have appeared already on the same subject, namely A.M.H. Schuster and M. Polk’s, The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia (Harry Abrams, 2005) and M. Bogdanos’, Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine’s Passion to Recover the World’s Greatest Stolen Treasures (Bloomsbury, 2005). The title of the latter volume, alone, hints at a sensationalism and a degree of hubris that is distasteful, particularly for anyone who visited Baghdad shortly after the looting occurred.
There are many solid contributions in this volume by people who played an active part in the events that unfolded following the looting of the Iraq Museum. Particularly significant in this regard are the chapters by Donny George (‘The looting of the Iraq National Museum’), Matthew Bogdanos (‘Thieves of Baghdad’), John Russell (‘Inside the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority]) and Ugo Zottin (‘Italian Carabineers and the protection of Iraqi cultural heritage’). Less satisfying are the accounts by authors detailing what their national committees or institutions did for the Iraqis. It is too apparent that, notwithstanding perfectly generous motives, the efforts of the British Museum, the German government and the French Institute of the Near East (IFPO) reflect a lingering desire amongst some academics in those countries to assert the sort of dominance in Mesopotamian scholarship that was a fact of life in the years of the Mandate following World War I and the pre-1991 Gulf War era. Scholarly dominance in non-Western fields and colonialism have a nasty history of co-habitation, and there are plenty of signs about that for some, scholarly efforts in a field like Mesopotamian studies still constitute a source of (misplaced) national pride.
One of the strengths of this volume, however, is the fact that it deals not only with the looting of the Iraq Museum, but with looting in the countryside at archaeological sites, and with the looting of libraries and art museums that received far less publicity than the archaeological museum. The only defect in this otherwise admirable collection is the absence of an index. With such a wealth of data, the utility of this volume would have been immeasurably enhanced if the editors or publisher had bothered to provide one. The lack of an index makes it far more difficult to cross-check statements made concerning the same events in the works of different contributors. Otherwise, this volume can be warmly recommended to anyone interested in the sordid tale of Iraq’s rape in the wake of the latest, and almost certainly not the last, Gulf War.
Bogdanos, M. 2005 Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine’s Passion for Ancient Civilizations and the Journey to Recover the World’s Greatest Stolen Treasures. New York: Bloomsbury.
Schuster, A.M.H. and M. Polk (eds) 2005 The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
Keveoki 1: Exploring the hiri ceramics trade at a short-lived village site near the Vailala River, Papua New Guinea
Investigations at the newly discovered, once-coastal but now inland archaeological village site of Keveoki 1 allows us to characterise the nature and antiquity of ancestral hiri trade ceramics around 450–500 cal. BP in the recipient Vailala River-Kea Kea villages of the Gulf Province of the southern coast of Papua New Guinea. This paper reports on the decorated ceramics from Keveoki 1, where a drainage channel cut in 2004 revealed a short-lived village site with a rich, stratified ceramic assemblage. It represents a rare account of the ceramic assemblage from a short duration village on a relic beach ridge in southern Papua New Guinea, and contributes to ongoing attempts to refine ceramic sequences in the recipient (western) end of the hiri system of long-distance maritime trade. Because of the presence of a single occupational period of a few decades at most, short duration sites such as Keveoki 1 allow for chronological refinement of ceramic conventions in a way that multilevel sites usually cannot, owing to the lack of stratigraphic mixing between chronologically separate ceramic assemblages in the former.Image caption: Keveoki 1, showing drainage channel after heavy rains, with magnetometer survey in progress (published in Australian Archaeology 68:12).
‘The truth will out’: Recycling of packing timber to construct a 19th century Australian coffin
Glenys McGowan and Jon Prangnell
Professional wood species identification of timber from a lead-lined coffin excavated from the North Brisbane Burial Ground, Brisbane, confirmed the wood as being Pinus sibirica, a native of northern Asia and Russia, and its presence likely represents the reuse of wood from a packing case originally used to import goods to the colony.
Review of ‘Port Essington: The Historical Archaeology of a North Australian Nineteenth-Century Military Outpost’ by Jim Allen
Port Essington: The Historical Archaeology of a North Australian Nineteenth-Century Military Outpost by Jim Allen. Studies in Australasian Historical Archaeology 1, University of Sydney Press, Sydney, 2008, xvi+141 pp., ISBN 9781920898878.
Charles E. Orser Jr
New York State Museum, Cultural Education Center, Albany NY 12230, USA
Like many archaeologists of my generation, I first encountered Jim Allen’s work on Port Essington in World Archaeology in 1973. The article became considerably more widely read by historical archaeologists after being reprinted in Robert Schuyler’s Historical Archaeology: A Guide to Substantive and Theoretical Contributions (1978). I remember being impressed by Allen’s use of the word ‘imperialism’ because I was not aware of any other archaeologist using such interesting language at the time. Allen’s article left me wanting to know more about Australian archaeology because it seemed that important things were going to come from there. I never had the opportunity to read Allen’s full report so I was absolutely delighted to learn that the Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology had published it all these many years later. Australian archaeology can claim this work, but in truth it constitutes a founding document for all historical archaeology.
The monograph is composed of three parts. A foreword by Tim Murray and a retrospective introduction by Allen preface the report. Both help to contextualise the work, but in obviously different ways. Murray notes that Allen’s was the first doctoral dissertation in Australian archaeology, but deplores that for 20 years Australian archaeologists were not able to live up to the promise Allen had demonstrated. I would qualify Murray’s comment by noting that the same holds true for all historical archaeology. American historical archaeologists, who are often erroneously given too much credit, were not writing about imperialism or the British Empire for just about as long. In fact, American archaeologists – perhaps in the early twenty-first century more mindful of imperialism and its costs than ever before – are only now starting to investigate such subjects, and often with considerable trepidation. Allen’s work at Port Essington glaringly disproves that American historical archaeologists were more theoretically sophisticated and methodologically refined than archaeologists elsewhere.
Allen’s retrospective introduction is a must-read. In Allen’s mixture of personal recollection and theoretical observation we are afforded substantive insights into the workings of the thoughtful archaeological mind. Rarely are archaeologists so willing to revisit their earlier work, to question their ideas, and to contemplate what they may have done differently if they only had more experience. Allen was a true pioneer, and his handling of the research at Port Essington, though understandably dated in some respects, reads as remarkably fresh and innovative.
Historical archaeologists with a critical eye will judge his artefact analysis as especially dated because of his use of information that has been long superseded (which Allen readily acknowledges). Even so, his handling of the material culture is as refined as was then possible. I learned historic-period ceramics from Arnold Pilling – beginning the same year that Allen’s article appeared in World Archaeology – and so reading Allen’s comments on Pilling’s ceramic terms brought back memories. It also made me mindful of the environment in which historical archaeology was practiced in the late 1960s and early 1970s as well as the nascent level of Pilling’s pioneering research on nineteenth century European ceramics. Most historical archaeologists are probably not aware of Pilling’s contributions to historical archaeology and so this reprint will once again highlight his important achievements. What is remarkable about Allen’s handling of the data is that rather than blindly stumbling through the analysis and making a series of amateurish mistakes (as many might have done at the time), he sought out the advice of scholars throughout the English-speaking world who were engaged in similar research. He learned from them and used the developing lexicon of the historical archaeology of the late 1960s. Allen was clearly cognisant of the intellectual trends in historical archaeology and was conversant with the growing theoretical literature.
Allen provides a thorough historical context for life at Port Essington in the final three chapters of the book. He admits in his new introduction that he missed a few historical sources that were subsequently made available, but his historical narrative does not suffer for the omissions. And, rather than concentrating only on the English settlement as many historical archaeologists might have done, Allen presents a multicultural history, one in which the British realised that they were not alone in the region. They feared colonial incursions by the Dutch and the French, even as they interacted with trepang fishermen from Macassar. The historical and archaeological sources combine to prove that not all meetings between Europeans were hostile. The discovery of glass seals from French wine bottles substantiates the peaceful dinner between French visitors and British officers in 1839.
Allen’s chapter on the political background of Port Essington further extends the historical narrative and explains how the conditions at the port deteriorated as the British monarchy modified its imperial plans in the region. Allen also outlines the circumstances of daily life at the port in a manner that is still relevant today. His sensitivity to the tropical environment, the hurricane of 1839, and the impact of malaria provide a biocultural context that informed historical archaeologists will admire and should replicate today. His comments on the tyranny of isolation are consistent with contemporary research, as are his observations on multicultural contact.
In a final chapter, Allen provides interesting comments about the state of Australian historical archaeology in the late 1960s. At that time, historical archaeologists still found it necessary to justify their research, and so Allen briefly mentions the controversies then current in the field. Particularly trenchant is his observation that in the worst examples of historical archaeology ‘the archaeology and the history of a site … [are] written up totally independent of the relationship of one upon the other’ (p.133). Historical archaeologists still wrestle with this problem, with many of them continuing the practice that Allen so correctly decries. Like Allen when he was writing this monograph, many historical archaeologists are still learning how to integrate archaeological and historical sources of information.
This is an important monograph for many reasons, and historical archaeologists in Australia and elsewhere would be wise to obtain a copy and read it. Readers will be offered rare insights into the intellectual process of doing archaeology and will learn a good deal about a remote outpost of empire. At the same time, Allen’s observations on the state of early historical archaeology are enlightening and important for young historical archaeologists to understand. The Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology has shown wisdom in selecting Allen’s monograph as the first in their new series.
Schuyler, R.L. (ed.) 1978 Historical Archaeology: A Guide to Substantive and Theoretical Contributions. Farmingdale, NY: Baywood.
Remote sensing in an urban Australian setting: An example from Dr H.J. Foley Rest Park, Sydney
The application of remote sensing techniques to Australian historical archaeological sites is becoming increasingly popular, given the increased need for focused excavation strategies or non-invasive investigations. Despite this, many archaeologists remain unconvinced of the potential of these techniques or misunderstand their capabilities. Three commonly-used techniques—resistivity, magnetometry and ground-penetrating radar—were applied to the site of the 1820s Hereford House in urban Sydney, now used as the Dr H.J. Foley Rest Park. Given the urban setting and multiple magnetic sources, magnetometry proved to be of limited use, although resistivity and ground-penetrating radar provided detailed information on subsurface archaeological structural remains. Excavation showed a high correlation with the remote sensing results.
Image caption: Resistivity survey results (published in Australian Archaeology 68:48).
The contribution of heritage surveys towards understanding the broader cultural landscape of the Weipa Bauxite Plateau
Five years of intensive cultural heritage surveys conducted as part of Rio Tinto Alcan’s cultural heritage management programme on the bauxite plateau at Weipa (Figure 1) have resulted in the recording of several site types not previously reported from the area. Whereas previous archaeological work focused almost exclusively on the shell matrix sites common to the coastal environments bordering the plateau (e.g. Bailey 1975, 1977), surface distributions of stone artefacts, scarred trees and earth mounds have now been identified across much of the region. We report results of the surveys and discuss the implications of these for our understanding of the broader cultural landscape of the WeipaPeninsula. The assemblage of sites from across the plateau indicates a complex, multitemporal cultural landscape that presents further avenues for collaborative research with Traditional Owners.Image caption: The Weipa Bauxite Plateau study area (published in Australian Archaeology 68:52).
The Deterioration of Human Remains and Artefacts in the Cemetery Environment
PhD, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, December 2007
In 2000–2002, a salvage excavation was conducted on the site of the old North Brisbane Burial Ground, situated 1.6km from the centre of Brisbane. This cemetery operated between 1843 and 1875 and received some 5000 interments. In keeping with Victorian era funerary tradition, the deceased were interred in wooden coffins covered inside and out with fabric, and fitted with cast iron coffin handles and pressed metal decorations. After the closure of the North Brisbane Burial Ground, it remained neglected and overgrown for 30 years, after which it was resumed by the government and incorporated into a larger land package subsequently used for sporting facilities. Part of this area was also used as a municipal landfill and effluent disposal site for over 40 years. The latest redevelopment in 2000–2002 disturbed 397 graves from the original Burial Ground, and a salvage excavation was conducted to remove the exposed burials. Human remains, coffin wood, textiles and metal artefacts were found to be in a surprisingly poor state of preservation after only 160 years of burial. By the time of excavation, 54% of human remains, 6% of coffin wood, 77% of textiles and 22% of metal coffin furniture had completely disappeared from the archaeological record.
This thesis set out to discover why the human remains and artefacts excavated from the North Brisbane Burial Ground were so poorly preserved. A detailed taphonomic study of the North Brisbane Burial Ground was conducted, including a thorough analysis of soil conditions before, during and after the period of the Burial Ground’s operation up until the time of excavation, and an analysis of the types of degradation affecting the human remains and artefacts excavated from the site. Mathematical equations usually employed in the field of engineering were applied to the Burial Ground site to calculate soil temperature for different depths and groundcover situations throughout the 160 year history of the site, and to calculate the force exerted on coffins and human remains by different depths of overburden. It was determined that the factors responsible for the advanced decomposition of the archaeological assemblage at the North Brisbane Burial Ground site were: soil temperature; soil pH; chemical attack; high soil salt content; fluctuations in groundwater level; the continual addition of micro-organisms to the soil profile; continual disturbance of the soil; and the excessive weight of overburden. While some of these factors could be partly related to climate or the natural environment, most were a direct result of human activity and urban development in the period after the Burial Ground was resumed. The identification of the factors responsible for the degradation of archaeological materials at the North Brisbane Burial Ground has shown that changes in soil conditions caused by a range of human activities are the major determinants of whether human remains and artefacts are preserved or destroyed. A greater understanding of these processes allows more informed decisions to be made regarding the management of inhumation cemetery sites influenced by ongoing urban development.
Su Solomon (1940-2008)
Midwife, Anthropologist, Taphonomist, Mother and Friend
Judith Field, Denise Donlon, Dominic Hanlon, Edmund Hanlon, Rachel Hanlon, Cassie Thornley and Sarah Martin
Su Solomon passed away in April 2008, after a short illness. The shock of her passing has not faded; her contribution to so many people’s lives and the intellectual contribution to the discipline of archaeology in Australia will be felt for a long time. Her legacy was celebrated in a session in her honour at the 2008 Australian Archaeological Association Annual Conference at Noosa. Su was born just after the start of World War II. Her father, a member of the ‘dambusters’ team, was killed during this famous campaign in 1943, so Su’s only images of him were gleaned from an archived film of the pre-raid briefing session. Her mother Olga, and later her step-father Roy and step-uncle Laurie, created a loving and caring household that included many of Su’s aunts and cousins.
Su completed her Registered Nurse Certificate at Sydney Hospital in 1959, and after working in England and inland Australia she returned to Sydney to do midwifery at the Mater Hospital, graduating in 1964. For the next 12 years Su worked in hospitals around Sydney, married and had three children.
In the mid-1970s the family moved to the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney where, among other activities, Su worked as a Domicillary Midwife along various reaches of the river. The house was accessible only by water; the children travelled by small boat to school and Su became an active member of the river community.
The Hawkesbury River area is rich in Aboriginal cultural materials, including rock art (both paintings and engravings), middens and stone tools. Their presence in her environment sparked Su’s interest in archaeology and in 1982 she enrolled in archaeology at the University of New England (UNE). After graduating in 1986 Su taught courses in archaeology while pursuing her research interest in faunal remains and taphonomy, combining a relentless drive to find ways of understanding the past with a very clear sense that life was for living and, above all, that it be enjoyed. Sometimes, bizarrely, these coincided, as she took delight in recovering tiger scats from Dubbo Zoo to examine the effects of animal gnawing and digestion on bone.
In 1987 Su began postgraduate studies at UNE, studying the taphonomy of kangaroo bones left by professional shooters on claypans near Tibooburra. She interviewed the shooters (in Tibooburra pubs) about their activities and applied the insights gained from the information they provided to studies of open sites on the Peery Lake lunette. Su met many Paakantyi people during this time, and she undertook a number of interviews with Paakantyi women about their methods of food preparation, cooking, eating and discard. In addition, and to Su’s delight, Badger Bates cooked kangaroo tail in the ashes and showed the archaeologists how to split the vertebrae to extract the marrow. All of this helped Su with her archaeological research; the Peery Lake sites were a challenge because at that time very little archaeological work had considered the taphonomy of open sites in deserts, and there is no doubt that Su’s work in this area was years ahead of her time.
In 1989 Su accompanied a Harvard Field School to Koobi Fora, on eastern Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. The area is desolate and a long way from Nairobi. One of the students was bitten by a poisonous snake and Su, with the aid of two colleagues, kept him alive during an horrendous 10 hour road trip, using standard resuscitation techniques. He finally recovered after treatment with antivenene, but would not have survived without Su’s intervention.
Su was a great cook and enjoyed hosting informal dinners for colleagues and friends; her parties overflowed with laughter. She also cooked kangaroos in the backyard for analysis, dragging her children along to ‘hunt’ for road kills. The garage and laundry became a testament to her love of bones.
In the early 1990s, Su was appointed as a remote area nurse with the Kalgoorlie Aboriginal Medical Service. She travelled into the Great Sandy Desert to set up a primary care facility for southern Pitjantjara people at Tjuntjuntjarra. Su lived in a caravan opposite the small building that housed her clinic and bathroom. The people lived in shelters constructed from local materials and building waste. Su learned much of the local language – surprising herself one day when she realised she was speaking it. As a member of the community she took part in ceremonies, all the while recording everything she did in one of her many diaries.
Su worked virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week whilst in the Western Desert; her only medical backup was the Royal Flying Doctor Service. When she needed to get away she would drive a few kilometres to a small ephemeral lake, ringed with mallee trees, where she could be alone. She loved the desert with its vibrant colours, brilliant starry nights, and deep silence.
Su read widely and was interested in the personal stories, spiritual beliefs and rituals of those for whom she cared, whether in the city or desert. She enveloped herself in a range of loves: archaeology, Judaism, religion in general, and free thought and as a result she had many friends from a range of backgrounds. She continued to follow her interests even when she was working in the Western Desert. She researched the unobvious but essential, such as how women managed to share a small rabbit between five people by cooking it in the ashes, then smashing it into pulp and dividing the pulped meat, blood, bone, guts and brains into shares. Su’s ‘nurse anthropologist’ insights into the health and diet of the desert people were unique.
The increasing fragility of her mother, and her own declining health brought Su back to Sydney where the last position she held was in a post-natal ward at the Royal Hospital for Women, reassuring and encouraging new mothers. She was depressed when ill health forced her to give up nursing altogether.
After her mother Olga passed away Su moved to Armidale. The internet opened up Su’s world at this time and she joined online lists and discussion groups in prehistory and actively participated in the debates. As chronic poor health curtailed her outside activities she discovered and developed an interest in genealogy. She constructed a ‘tree’ with some 2000 branches and twigs and generously devoted time to helping the many family contacts and friends she found online. Her last publication was with another researcher in the British Family Tree magazine.
Her contribution to archaeology will never be fully appreciated as so much of her work is unpublished, but that which she did publish is well-cited and of course appears in the basic text on taphonomy that all students (and researchers) dive into from time to time, Lee Lyman’s Vertebrate Taphonomy. Although she did not complete her postgraduate studies, she continued researching and teaching aspects of taphonomy, as well as mentoring students.
Su was a real force amongst the archaeologists who knew her. She demanded intellectual honesty and called a spade a ‘bloody shovel’. She had a fierce loyalty for her friends and received loyalty from them in return. Su lived her life fully, rich, diverse and certainly not mundane. Su Solomon truly deserved the accolade of being ‘larger than life!’. Su is survived by her Uncle Laurie, children Rachel, Edmund and Dominic and grandchildren Neil, Amy, Kimberly and Sarah.
Review of ‘Cave Art: A Guide to the Decorated Ice Age Caves of Europe’ by Paul Bahn
School of Humanities, University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351, Australia
This is a very useful book for travellers to Europe. It provides sufficient details for the visitor to get to some of the significant sites with paintings and engravings attributed to the Upper Palaeolithic of Western Europe. Without field testing, it is not clear that it will always be enough information, but there are also web addresses and phone numbers to make access easier. I suspect this is probably a good place to start for a tour of Upper Palaeolithic art. Unfortunately, for most tourists just interested in the art, the text contains many technical terms used by Upper Palaeolithic archaeologists in Europe without any attempt to make life easier for them (other than referring to the Pleistocene as the Ice Ages). This is a pity because it means that an otherwise useful book will baffle some of its buyers. The question that must arise for readers in Australia is whether there is a suitable equivalent for those wishing to visit significant Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander rock art sites. Perhaps it would be timely to emulate this and replace Josephine Flood’s (1990) The Riches of Ancient Australia.
Paul Bahn is a well-qualified author and the first chapter of the book provides a generally well-balanced introduction to the art, the history of our knowledge of it, and some of the current issues. I think there have been some valuable recent additions to our understanding of the historical context of the discovery of rock art which might have informed this discussion (e.g. Moro Abadia 2006). In the absence of reference to such recent work, there is a sense that the author is still fighting battles from a time when he first studied about Upper Palaeolithic art. I am not sure that modern visitors to French and Spanish caves (or indeed scholars) really need to know much about the failed attempts to identify structure that were fashionable in the 1960s.
Bahn, himself, has some well-known views about some of the sites discussed here. For the intended audience of non-specialists, it would be as well to see to what extent his views are represented in a balanced way in this book. For example, he says that ‘serious doubts persist about the attribution of all the incredibly sophisticated paintings of the cave of Chauvet to this early period’ (p.18). The situation is that Bahn himself has drawn attention to the fact that all of the dates from Chauvet were obtained from the same laboratory (Pettitt and Bahn 2003) and the case has been answered (Valladas and Clottes 2003). There may or may not be a problem, but for it to be a problem, for the doubts to persist, Bahn must be arguing for collusion between the laboratory and the archaeological researchers, and at least a hint of dishonesty. The important point for this book is that the reader must accept Bahn’s word that there is a controversy, for there are no references to the dispute, and Chauvet, because it cannot be visited, does not feature in the guide (it is not even on the map). This is a weakness in Bahn’s text.
There is a curiosity in the Introduction: Bahn states that it is a privilege to be able to see the art because there are so few sites. This stands in contrast with the arguments about the significance of the rock art of the Dampier Archipelago arising from its abundance. I fancy that in both instances there is some poorly thought-out special pleading. Such issues are complex and go to the heart of the value of cultural heritage and the reasons for protecting it.
In short, should you buy it? Well, if you plan to visit decorated caves it does have really useful details for visiting (though I wonder at the value of putting entrance prices in – it will ensure that the book dates quickly). If you want a broad understanding of the art to go with your visit, the book probably falls short.
Flood, J. 1990 The Riches of Ancient Australia: A Journey into Prehistory. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.
Moro Abadia, O. 2006 Arts, crafts and Paleolithic art. Journal of Social Archaeology 6:119–141.
Pettitt, P. and P. Bahn 2003 Current problems in dating Palaeolithic cave art: Candamo and Chauvet. Antiquity 77:134–141.
Valladas, H. and J. Clottes 2003 Style, Chauvet and radiocarbon. Antiquity 77:142–145.
Review of ‘Archaeology and the Media’ edited by Timothy Clack and Marcus Brittain
Hilary du Cros
Institute for Tourism Studies, Colina de Mong-Há, Macao, China
Recently there seems to be a growth of interest in popular culture and archaeology. Almost simultaneously, two books have been published on archaeology and the media with a heavy emphasis on the topic of film production. Archaeology and the Media is the result of a conference in the United Kingdom and is complemented by another Left Coast Press book Box Office Archaeology: Refining Hollywood’s Portrayals of the Past edited by Schablitsky (2007) on Hollywood’s role in building the popular image of archaeology internationally. Whether this book is also the result of a conference is difficult to say; however, it also seems to have a heavy preponderance of contributors and material from one country too given its title.
Clack and Brittain’s book, through no fault of its own, is very Brit-centric. Only three chapters try to deal with media/archaeology relationships outside of the UK in any detail. However, the title and marketing promise of the book is misleading in that it would seem to encourage the view that it has a worldwide perspective on the topic. This is an increasingly common problem with publishers, who push the authors to agree to more general sounding titles. However, with little case material and reference to cultural attitudes to the media of countries outside of Europe, it does seem dishonest. On the plus side, this book is rarely dull. The only time the attention is tempted to wander is when yet another regurgitation of the history of archaeology in British TV is presented. No doubt some closer editing could have circumvented this small problem of duplication in four of the chapters.
The key themes of the book are the impact of the media on archaeology and the reverse, education versus entertainment, and an examination of how new media are offering opportunities to reach new audiences and enhance archaeological interpretation. It is no accident then that well-known archaeological authority on the last theme, Michael Shanks, is left to close the book. He does this well and with more clarity than the editors introduce it. It may be possible that the editors are trying to do too much in their introduction in setting the scene for these important themes rather than letting the chapters speak a little more for themselves.
After the introduction, the book is a relatively quick read with 13 short chapters and no epilogue. The first two chapters have the most entertaining and accessible style, because they have the easiest task of them all – presenting archaeologists’ experiences of the media (albeit mostly in a British context). Popular culture and archaeology authority, Cornelius Holtorf, is in his element outlining how dress makes the archaeologist in his chapter on how archaeologists clothe themselves and the media’s interpretations of the various styles. Although it is not all his own work (there is a reference to a photograph gallery on the internet established by David Webb), it does show how the media and audiences can interpret simple things as field clothes in these situations. However, most of this is about male archaeologists and who is most like Indiana Jones to the media. Maybe, an analysis of why female archaeologists do not dress like Lara Croft will have to wait for another book!
Peter Fowler’s chapter on his personal experiences of the media through mostly radio follows on well from Holtorf’s and includes some provocative views on education versus entertainment. He is positive about television’s role in reaching many different audiences, despite some recent horrors such as Hidden Treasure, which is a show about owners of metal detectors and their finds. However, the question is left hanging with regard to how to compete with such programmes and how to draw people away from practices, such as metal detecting, which have a destructive impact on sites.
The role of some of the more extreme emanations of popular culture on archaeology is picked up in the next chapter by Kulik with some mention finally of Von Däniken. Not that anyone was waiting for it with bated breath, but it would seem really odd if the old adversaries of archaeology did not appear. Every country has one or more after all! The interview in Chapter 5 with Brian Fagan and Francis Pryor lifts the lid off the Brit-centricity to some extent as they explore their experiences and opinions of the media. The different format also brings a more informal tone to the work and some good advice to prospective media interviewees – use common sense and do not get too carried away!
Finn’s chapter is the only attempt by the book to link archaeology to another discipline. A discussion follows of how archaeology and the art of photography collaborated for an exhibition on the bogland landscape associated with Lindow Man in Cheshire. The figures with it could have been more informative or indicative of the exhibition. It is hard to judge from this chapter how successful this approach would be in another context. Strangely, this is followed by a very quantitative chapter by Benz and Liedmeier on archaeology and the German press.
Northumbrian archaeologist Jon Price is in good form talking about his collaboration with Belgian archaeologists and the television production company Maya Vision on portraying the excavation of a Great War (World War I) site on the Somme. He notes that ultimately there were some differences in the interpretation of events as they occurred on the excavation, as he says, ‘the single biggest problem for the media was that we kept finding bodies … the result was that we generated our own story which we took elsewhere’ (p.181). Presumably, despite the fact that this was carried out on an old battlefield, the producers wanted to base it more round artefacts (many of which are similar to those in the audience’s private collections and seem less tragic) rather than the grimmer realities of war.
‘Screening Biases’ is a cryptically named chapter that has a general waffle about many issues related to archaeology and media trying to discern how differing agendas can meet. In that respect, it does take the issue from Price’s chapter a little further. Taylor is correct, however, when he states, ‘that a television audience, like a student audience, would take what it wanted and understand what it was prepared to grasp’ (p.191). He advocates that both archaeologists and the media should try and tackle the darker side to the past anyway and leave it to the audience to decide. As for Stern’s chapter on ‘Wonderworlds’, it is also provoking in another way with some discussion of German representations of prehistoric sex in cinematography. This is also an excuse for some rather bizarre figures (10.1 is a still photo from a 1927 silent film where cavewomen flounce around without nipples).
After this, ‘Faking it’ seems to be an appropriate title for the chapter by Piccini, who directly addresses a key theme in visual archaeology regarding the representation of truth. It also is the only chapter to look squarely at archaeological documentaries. Realist discourse on documentary making is nothing new (Hughes 1991; Nichols 1991), but very few times does it deal directly with archaeology – a subject where the temptation is to romanticise issues (du Cros 2002).
Uncomfortable truths are dealt with well by Renshaw in her chapter on the representations of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War. Once again it is refreshing to have a case study from outside the UK. Different cultures have different attitudes to death and representation in the media. For instance, the Sichuan earthquake tragedy is haunting the media in Macao and Hong Kong (as this piece is being written), as Chinese journalists and their audience seems to have an almost unlimited tolerance for corpse shots. At the moment, one of the main streets of Macao has a building covered in such posters of the dead where donations are also being collected for earthquake aid for the living. The Spanish experience of the mass grave excavation is more in line with this kind of iconography than that described in Price’s chapter.
Finally, the digital age is explored in some detail in Gardner’s chapter on the ancient world in video game representation. Fighting and farming is the subject of increasingly complex computer role playing games that could be more absorbing than Second Life given a bit more imagination and archaeological/anthropological input. Gardner encourages other archaeologists to engage more with digital media in order to reach a greater audience, all of which echoes what Michael Astin said to Fowler about television; ‘there needs to be a way to draw a larger audience into the conversation’ (p.94).
Overall, this book is a useful contribution to the debates on the key issues it tackles and it does raise many interesting questions about how archaeology and the media engage, which should be taken further in research and practice.
du Cros, H. 2002 Much More than Stones and Bones: Australian Archaeology in the Late Twentieth Century. Melbourne: MelbourneUniversity Press.
Hughes, P. 1991 True grit: Documentary – fact or fiction? In J. Yule (ed.), The Big Picture: Documentary Film-Making in Australia, pp.103–106. Melbourne: National Centre for Australian Studies, MonashUniversity.
Nichols, B. 1991 Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Indiana: IndianaUniversity Press.
Schablitsky, J.M. (ed.) 2007 Box Office Archaeology: Refining Hollywood’s Portrayals of the Past. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.
Alternative Interpretive Landscapes: Representations of Archaeology in Australian Poetry
Emma M. Ward
BA(Hons), School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, May 2008
In this thesis I use content analysis to explore representations of archaeology in alternative media production of poetry in Australia. Studies into how archaeology is perceived by the Australian public reveal a number of stereotypes about the discipline and those who practice it. These stereotypes have been demonstrated to be prevalent within media depictions of archaeology. Previous research into archaeology in the media has focused on mainstream media production, leaving alternative media representations of archaeology poorly understood. Alternative media offer a means of production to individuals and organisations outside the traditional power structures of the corporate media industry and academic or private archaeological practice, providing a broader cross-section of the community with the means to contribute to archaeological knowledge and dialogues. This study analyses a dataset of 64 Australian poems about, or relating to, archaeology. Analysis revealed that stereotypes and misconceptions about archaeology are reinforced through this form of media production, specifically that there is no archaeology of note in Australia, that archaeology is all about digging, that archaeologists are interested in rocks and that all archaeologists are male and either eccentric or an explorer.
Review of ‘The Origins and Spread of Domestic Plants in Southwest Asia and Europe’ edited by Sue Colledge and James Conolly
School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Clayton Vic. 3800, Australia
The archaeobotanical research assembled in this beautifully presented and large-format volume is simply staggering. The aim of the editors was to compile a synthesis of regional studies that document the initial domestication of plants in Southwest Asia and subsequent diffusion to Northwestern, Central and Eastern Europe. The editors should be applauded for their impressive efforts. Although there are some glaring omissions, namely the archaeobotanical evidence of early agriculture in Turkey and France, these are acknowledged and were beyond the control of the editors. Furthermore, these omissions are quickly forgotten once you immerse yourself in the wealth of data presented.
The detailed regional syntheses that constitute the core of this volume are preceded by a series of framing, or introductory, contributions. A Foreword (Shennan) and an Introduction (Colledge and Conolly) provide some background to the volume and the conference from which it was derived; they also acknowledge the enormous contribution to this research field of Gordon Hillman, to whom this volume is dedicated. Significantly, in the introduction, the editors elicit five common themes that emerge from the regional syntheses, and which are of general relevance:
1. Regional variations in crop use: The suite of crop plants cultivated varied spatially, with a marked reduction in crop diversity from Southwest Asia to Northwestern Europe.
2. Origins and uses of secondary domesticates: Various plants were locally and regionally brought under cultivation and domesticated at different times outside Southwest Asia.
3. Use of wild taxon: Wild food plants, including fruits, seeds, nuts and roots, were variably important for subsistence alongside domesticated cereals.
4. Weed ecology: The ecologies of weed taxa provide a means to understand local, within-field, environments and associated cultivation practices in the past.
5. Impact of methodological advances: The systematisation of archaeobotanical research enables the comparison of datasets from widely dispersed regions.
The first substantive chapter of the volume is conceptual and written by the late Andrew Sherratt. He sought to open discursive space by looking beyond cereals in our understanding of agricultural emergence, transformation and diffusion in Southwest Asia and Northwestern Europe, as well as by examining the conceptual and terminological baggage of the ‘Neolithic’. The following two regional syntheses, both in Southwest Asia, also raise points of general interest to the reader. George Willcox considers the transition to farming to have been a gradual process in Southwest Asia generally, as exemplified by a fragmentary archaeological record reconstructed from ‘a discontinuous chronological sequence from a few widely dispersed sites’ (p.32) covering 3500 years in the EuphratesValley. Michael Charles reflects on the taphonomic biases of the archaeobotanical record, most significantly the over-representation of cereals through differential preservation with respect to softer plant parts and through the incorporation of fodder into dung.
Subsequent regional syntheses are arranged in approximate chronological order, namely in terms of the timing of the earliest domesticates and agriculture as recorded in archaeobotanical assemblages. This order is not strictly followed here, primarily because there is insufficient space in this review to give each individual regional synthesis justice. Indeed, given the readership of this journal, many of the details are not relevant. Of most significance, the volume brings to light vast amounts of poorly known data from Central and Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria (Marinova), Romania (Monah), Hungary (Gyulai), Slovakia (Hajnalová) and Poland (Lityńska-Zając; Bieniek). These regional syntheses chronologically and, to a degree, geographically interdigitate with the better-known chronological scenarios of domesticate dispersal from Southwest Asia to Cyprus and Crete (Colledge and Conolly), and the Aegean (Valamoti and Kotsakis), with subsequent dispersals to: Italy (Rottoli and Pessina) and Spain (Buxó; Peña-Chocarro; Peña); Austria (Kohler-Schneider), Switzerland (Jacomet) and Germany (Kreuz); and, the Netherlands (Bakels), Germany (Kroll), southern Scandinavia (Robinson) and Britain (Stevens; Jones and Rowley-Conwy).
To take the extraction of common themes further than the editors, a major idea resonating through many regional summaries of archaeobotanical assemblages associated with early agricultural practices is the variable deployment of ‘indigenous’ (namely, emergence in situ) and ‘introduced’ (namely, diffused from elsewhere) food plants and technologies within specific historical contexts. Food plants include primary and secondary domesticates, as well as wild foods, and technologies include cultivation and processing practices. People in different places and at different times assembled, both advertently and inadvertently, a specific form of agriculture based on a repertoire of food plants and cultivation technologies including both indigenous and introduced components; through time, these forms of agriculture were structured by both environmental and social contexts, and were subsequently transformed in regionally specific ways.
Of related relevance, social networks connected these far-flung regions before the advent and diffusion of agriculture from Southwest Asia. As Sherratt hints, these networks structured the ways in which domesticates and agricultural practices diffused and were adopted. Thus, agriculture may not have just spread outwards from a centre, rather it variably emerged through a mosaic of pre-existing interactions and practices. Again, there is a need for balance in the emphasis between a Neolithic wave (introduced) and in situ Mesolithic transformation (indigenous). Perhaps, an inability to reconcile the dualistic terms of this debate, within individual regions and pan-regionally, indicates that the whole frame of reference needs to be reconceptualised.
Despite the apparent strangeness of this region to many readers of this journal, there are many points of relevance to researchers in Australia and Oceania, particularly the latter region. These include:
- the enviable nature of the relatively systematic archaeobotanical records (in comparison to those for Australia and New Guinea) for understanding plant exploitation and the emergence of early agriculture;
- the association, or otherwise, between archaeobotanical evidence for plant domesticates and archaeological evidence for early agricultural practices;
- the fragmentary nature of the archaeological record of early agricultural practices, even in regions which have been intensively studied compared to other regions of the world (such as New Guinea);
- the lack of transparency in understanding the social processes that lie behind the archaeobotanical records; and,
- the limitations of a dualistic framework, namely balancing diffusionary versus in situ contributions to local and regional (pre)histories.
At one level, it is perversely reassuring to know that, given the wealth of evidence in the regions covered by this volume, there are no ‘ready-at-hand’ and transparent, historical interpretations to account for the observed phenomena. On the other hand, it is sobering to compare the quality and quantity of archaeobotanical data for Southwest Asia and Europe to the paltry evidence so far accumulated for Sahul. We have a long way to go …
Review of ‘Mungo over Millennia: The Willandra Landscape and its People’ edited by Helen Lawrence
Centre for Archaeological Research, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia
This booklet on the Willandra landscape and its people deserves to be far more widely known. The target audience is the general public and high school students and it was produced for the Mungo Festival in September 2007, with financial support from the New South WalesNational Parks and Wildlife Division, Department of Environment and Conservation. To quote Jim Bowler’s back cover blurb on this world heritage region: ‘The discovery of 40,000 year old human burials in ice age landscapes of semi-arid western NSW opened a new chapter in our understanding of this land and its ancient occupants. Formerly the province of scientists and the local indigenous community, these discoveries are explored here engaging a new audience of popular understanding. This booklet delivers a message to all Australians’.
The publication includes contributions by the three local traditional owner groups, the Mutthi Mutthi, Ngiyampaa and Paakantyi, and short chapters by six scientists. Some chapters were written specifically for the booklet, while others were prepared by the compiler, Helen Lawrence. Key references are cited at the end of each chapter and there is also a brief bibliography at the end of the booklet.
The first chapter, ‘Golden Decade of Australian Prehistoric Research’ is based on John Mulvaney’s account of Australian archaeology in the 1960s, culminating in the discovery by Jim Bowler of Mungo Lady, the world’s oldest known cremation. The following two chapters provide a useful, up-to-date synthesis of Bowler’s work, describing the ice age landscape and discovery of the Mungo people. Then attention swings to the cultural material excavated by John Mulvaney, Wilfred Shawcross and others, again a valuable summary of a vast amount of research.
The next chapter is on ‘Human Origins and the Mungo Connection’ and was contributed by Michael Westaway, who negotiates with skill and sensitivity controversial topics such as the ‘Out of Africa versus Multiregional Model’ and the robust/gracile debate. He gives Alan Thorne’s views a fair hearing but concludes that ‘few researchers these days would suggest that they [the Willandra fossil humans] represent two distinct populations’ (p.28). Instead, ‘Out of Africa supporters argue that the variation within the human fossil sequence in the Willandra region represents the extremes of a homogeneous population across Australia. They contend that the variation between the two populations was a result of micro-evolutionary change and differences that we usually see between males and females – males being more heavily built (or robust) and females being more lightly built (or gracile)’ (p.28). However, the picture is complex and there is at least one robust female in the Willandra series – WLH 45 – whose pelvis shape shows that the individual is a female.
The discussion of biological anthropology is continued later but next comes a short section on ‘Footprints on the Sands of Time’. These ancient footprints were first discovered by Mary Pappin junior of the Mutthi-Mutthi people. They provide a striking cover to the booklet and a two-page centrefold. There are at least 450 footprints following 23 discernible track-ways of men, women and children. They have been dated to 20,000 years old (by dating a quartz fraction by OSL) and recorded by members of the three traditional tribal groups and by Steve Webb, Matthew Cupper and Richard Robins.
There follows Jeannette Hope’s chapter on ‘Megafauna and other Fossils’ with a useful list of Willandra faunal remains. This is an informative account of megafauna in western New South Wales, which poses several intriguing unanswered questions – why is there so little megafauna at the Willandra? Is it a question of preservation? Why is Diprotodon, so common in inland Australia, absent but Zygomaturus, a wetter habitat species, present?
The chapter by Steve Webb on ‘The Pathology and Ecology of Ice Age Willandra People’ continues the story. I found this to be one of the most valuable sections of this booklet, since it summarises for the general public a great deal of material Webb has previously published only in scientific journal articles and academic treatises – The Willandra Lakes Hominids (1989) and The Palaeopathology of Australian Aborigines (1995). The WillandraLakes human collection now consists of 160 individuals and Webb’s study has revealed both tremendous skeletal variation of the Ice Age people and their general good health and active lifestyle.
Mungo Man (WLH 3) features largely in both Westaway and Webb’s chapters, together with photographs of his grave, skull and mandible, and both he and Mungo Lady (WLH 1) are now dated to about 40,000 years. However, the gracile form of WLH 3 has led some archaeologists to doubt his masculinity. It is worthwhile therefore to quote Webb when I questioned him recently on this – ‘Take it from me, WLH 3 is male, and I have examined it many times. The pelvis shows that the angle of the sciatic notch (a definitive feature of the sex of any skeleton) is male.’ Other evidence is his large femur head and his estimated height of 170cm (5ft 7 inches) in contrast to Mungo Lady’s estimated 148cm (4ft 10 inches) Furthermore, ‘he suffered from severe osteoarthritis of the right elbow. This is likely to have been the result of a lifetime’s use of the spear thrower or woomera’ (p.42).
Not only does ‘woomera or atlatl elbow’ make it clear that WLH 3 was male, but it also is remarkable evidence that 40,000 years ago Aboriginal Australians were using spear throwers. Webb has been convinced of this for a decade, but his findings have been tucked away in scientific works and not publicised. Just to make absolutely sure, I asked Webb if the same osteoarthritis could be produced by spear throwing without use of a woomera, as was the case in Tasmania. His answer was an unequivocal ‘no’. It seems that simple spear throwing does not cause this distinctive elbow destruction because most of the forces are concentrated in the shoulder joint. Webb has compared the elbows of those who did not use spear throwers with those who did, and has found that only the latter have the particular wear and extensive destruction of the head of the radius. So, it seems clear that Australia has the oldest known spear throwers in the world!
The final short chapters are devoted to ‘Caring for the Willandra’, ‘Development of a Keeping Place’, ‘Working Together’ by Mary Pappin senior, poems and art works by other Willandra Indigenous people, ‘Joint Management in Mungo National Park’ and formation of the Three Traditional Tribal Groups (3TTG) Elders Council. Michael Westaway was then Executive Officer for the WillandraLakes region and worked very closely with the Elders Council. Westaway made a huge contribution to the final stages of production of Mungo over Millennia, but the initial inspiration came from a 2004 visit to Mungo by Helen Lawrence, when she was shown round by local elders. This is Lawrence’s seventh book. After a career in physiotherapy, she completed as a mature age student an external degree in archaeology and palaeoanthropology at the University of New England in 2000. Since then she has written several books for the general public, notably Making Friends with Fossils – How to Find your Way Through the Maze of Human Origins (2003); Call of the Black Cockatoo (a novel based on Tasmanian Aboriginal archaeology) (2004); Eve’s Family Tree – Further Scrutiny of Human Origins (2005); and finally, Mungo Over Millennia (2006). All were published by Maygog Publishing, Hobart, where she now works as editor. At the ripe age of 81, Helen Lawrence is an inspiration to all of us to keep on keeping on!
This booklet is a perfect introduction for anyone planning a visit to MungoNational Park. It is not a guidebook, but tours by Indigenous rangers are available and a ‘keeping place’ education and research centre is being developed that will essentially act as a regional museum operated by the Elders Council. Here it is possible to view the excellent CD Lake Mungo – Window to Australia’s Past produced by Jim Bowler.
Webb, S. 1989 The Willandra Lakes Hominids. Canberra: Department of Prehistory, ResearchSchool of Pacific Studies, AustralianNationalUniversity.
Webb, S. 1995 Palaeopathology of Aboriginal Australians: Health and Disease Across a Hunter-Gatherer continent. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.
Review of ‘A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse Legacies of the Cold War’ edited by John Schofield and Wayne Cocroft
JCIS Consultants, PO Box 2397, Burwood North NSW 2134, Australia
This edited volume aims to provide a critical assessment of the places, events and things that together constitute the contemporary archaeology of the Cold War. It is odd to be confronted with a book on the archaeology of a period of time that one has lived through. It is even odder to read in the introduction by the editors that ‘this is exclusively northern hemisphere heritage in a way’ (p.13) leaving us southerners to ponder the ways in which a global conflict would not leave a heritage for us in the south, especially in a nation which was so supportive of the USA notably through involvement in the Vietnam War. Actually we all know it did leave a legacy from Maralinga to contemporary popular culture, the Cold War runs through our history leaving, as the authors describe, a diverse range of material culture and cultural values towards studying the past. It’s just that the editors seem fixated in their own hemisphere.
The editors attempt to justify the inclusion of papers discussing film, video and music as part of the archaeological record of the period by claiming the full range of material expressions of the Cold War is archaeology. They rely on a rather inconclusive quotation from Lord Renfrew to support their argument. My view is that by drawing in such a wide-range of perspectives, the value of the understanding that archaeology provides is lost amongst all the videographers and museum curators. It is up to the reader’s taste to decide or even worry about whether this is an important issue or not.
It is also interesting that there is no mention of archaeology’s active role in the Cold War in supporting each side’s ideology and in some cases with archaeologists allegedly taking a more active role (in the tradition of Woolley and Lawrence). I would have thought in a volume aiming at a critical assessment this might have been the first port of call.
What this edited volume seeks to address is the documentation and deconstruction (something neither side achieved) of the diverse legacies of the Cold War and to explore the ownership and relevance of the past to a range of communities and interest groups. So if you are looking for an archaeological typology of atomic bombs it isn’t in this book. But if you are interested in a broader, more generalised view, of the Cold War, the 16 chapters and the introduction in this book provide much of interest.
Unfortunately some of the papers provide little of the critical assessment claimed by the editors. Vining’s paper on women’s uniforms is little more than description; Hacker’s ‘Reflections on nuclear submarines …’ (pp.273-284), describes the production of a museum exhibit rather than anything much to do with actual nuclear submarines. Beazley’s paper describes the politics surrounding the World Heritage listing of Hiroshima which seemed to me to be less about the Cold War and more about the legacy of World War II.
I am not sure how to review Kyriaakides paper describing two musical performances relating to the Cold War which are available on the web for our edification? As you would guess they are very modern – frankly Dylan and Hendrix, in my opinion, made much better contributions on the topic (because they had a greater sense of the times and could play a bit). How this is in any way archaeology beats me. Similarly the chapter on ‘Filming the End of the Cold War’ by Steingrover and that on the silence of the photograph by Watson are interesting, but they merely discuss the production of the works rather anything archaeological or much in-depth on the Cold War.
There are two papers which in effect describe video and photographic recording of RAF Spadeadam and a Russian base in Germany, Forst Zinna. These are interesting but really not substantive insights largely because they are not detailed enough and are strangely insufficiently contextualised.
There is more of interest in the papers on military bases (Cocroft), the Cold War reflected through domesticity (Buchli) and on the various protest camps: Greenham Common (Fiorato) and the Nevada Peace Camp (Beck, Drollinger and Schofield). In these papers the authors engage with both Cold war ideology and its opposition and material culture to reach a point where the archaeological remains on the sites can at least begin to be interpreted. I found these papers the most satisfying in the volume.
The Australian contribution is as one might expect by Gorman on outer space and by Smith discussing the US and French atomic bomb tests in the Pacific.
Overall, I found this book did not live up to its claim of providing a critical assessment, deconstruction or of being in some way archaeology. Too many papers were papers about doing other things such as writing a broad scale study or making a video and not enough about the Cold War. Those that are more substantive at least provide a beginning to the beginning of a study that no doubt will continue over the next century. Perhaps the books should have been described as a series of heritage studies rather than archaeology as the papers fit better into that semi-literate genre. Nevertheless the archaeology of the Cold War has to start somewhere and this volume does pose some interesting challenges for archaeology. It is cautiously recommended.
Andrée Jeanne Rosenfeld (1934–2008)
Sometimes giants are softly spoken. Sometimes they are not very tall. Sometimes they do not tower, because they have created a field of towers. Such was the case with Andrée Jeanne Rosenfeld.
Andrée was born in Belgium in 1934, five years before the start of World War II. She had a younger brother, Jean, who became a research scientist. Her mother, Dr Yvonne Rosenfeld (née Cambressier) was one of the first women in Europe to obtain a PhD in physics. Yvonne was a great photographer, with a wonderful sense of light and composition, and bequeathed to her daughter a fine aesthetic sense. Andrée’s father, Professor Léon Rosenfeld, was a world-renowned physicist, founder of the journal Nuclear Physics, and a colleague and friend of Niels Bohr who shared his investigations of quantum theory. In 1940 Léon Rosenfeld accepted the Chair of Theoretical Physics and Mechanics at Utrecht University, which he held until 1947. When the Nazis invaded Holland he gave seminars secretly in his home to Jewish students and he supervised young Jewish scholars, including Abraham Pais, the American physicist and biographer of Alfred Einstein, who had to submit his thesis by 14 July 1941, after which date the Nazis had decreed that no Jewish scholar could be granted a doctorate.Image caption: Andrée Rosenfeld at Early Man Rockshelter, Cape York Peninsula, 1974 (photograph by Darrel Lewis, published in Australian Archaeology 68:84).
The primary language of the Rosenfeld family home was French, though they were also fluent speakers of Dutch and, later, Danish and English, and in the 1970s Andrée became proficient in Spanish. Her upbringing was middle-class, middle-century European – cultured, ordered, under-stated. Andrée carried these qualities with her all her life.
After the war, the family moved to Manchester in England. Both Andrée and Jean followed their father into science. Andrée enrolled in a Master of Science, later upgraded to a PhD. Her thesis topic was the sedimentology of caves, consistent with her scientific interests, but it did not satisfy her interest in the human dimensions of the past. Though she did not pursue this line of research, the scientific training informed her subsequent work.
Andrée accepted a post as a curator at the British Museum in London, and gave guest lectures for the Department of Anthropology, University College London (UCL). She was an enthusiastic and accomplished teacher, who mentored young scholars who would later become leaders in the anthropology and archaeology of art, including Howard Morphy, of the Australian National University (ANU), and Robert Layton, of Durham University. In collaboration with Peter Ucko, Andrée was a major force in the establishment of material culture studies at the Institute of Archaeology at UCL and, later, in her own right at the ANU. At UCL, she undertook ‘practiceled research’ that involved marvellous and memorable experiments, including the digging of earth ovens and the brewing of beer, and at the ANU she integrated ethnographic dimensions into the study of art, including an Iban weaver as a scholar in residence.
Andrée’s first book, The Inorganic Raw Materials of Antiquity (Rosenfeld 1965), was a seminal exploration of the importance of raw materials in terms of their source and transportation to the sites where they were used. In this book, Andrée provided critical demonstrations that Egyptian expeditions were mounted to Sinai to obtain supplies of turquoise and tin and that lapis lazuli occurred in restricted areas in Western Asia and flowed along trade routes from these points. While subsequent studies have shown the value of this area of research, Andrée’s role was that of trailblazer.
While she was in the United Kingdom, Andrée and her then partner Peter Ucko produced the classic Palaeolithic Cave Art (Ucko and Rosenfeld 1967), a volume which has not been surpassed, and which is still quoted extensively, over 40 years later.
When she came to Australia in 1972, Andrée had an established international reputation in archaeology. In 1973, she accepted a post at the newly-established Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the ANU, and taught courses in the Archaeology of Art, Material Culture and the Prehistory of Australia. She remained a member of this Department until her retirement in 1997. During this period she established rock art research at the ANU and actively promoted it as a serious field of research in Australia.
After her appointment at the ANU Andrée initiated a number of projects that were critical to the development of archaeology in Australia. She undertook ground-breaking excavations at the Early Man site in Cape York Peninsula (Figure 1) that related rock art to changes in excavated evidence and produced the first firm demonstration of the Pleistocene antiquity of Aboriginal rock art (Rosenfeld et al. 1981). A little later, she undertook a study for the Australian Heritage Commission, Rock Art Conservation in Australia (Rosenfeld 1985), the book she enjoyed writing the most, which laid the groundwork for rock art conservation in Australia. In 1988, she convened a session at the First Congress of the Australian Rock Art Research Association in Darwin, which produced a major book on the subject (Bahn and Rosenfeld 1991).
At the ANU Andrée was supervisor and/or mentor to many of the current generation of rock art researchers, including Mike Morwood, Jo McDonald, Kelvin Officer, Darrell Lewis, Paul Taçon and Ursula Frederick. In recognition of her service the ANU is establishing the Andrée Rosenfeld Foundation Chair of Rock Art Research, and her former students and friends are making a serious attempt to establish an International Centre of Rock Art Research in Australia.
Andrée’s work transcended the divide between the Humanities and Science. At the celebration of her life in Canberra on 6 March 2009, her friend and colleague, Mike Smith, mentioned that she had once described rock art research as a field with ‘a lunatic core and a sane fringe’. Andrée’s steadying influence on this subdiscipline, and her application of scientific rigour to the archaeological study of art produced substantive outcomes for the discipline, both nationally and internationally.
Andrée retired from the ANU in 1997 and then moved to Rathdowney in Queensland, where she developed her interest in designing and producing textiles. Her notes on this material demonstrate the blend of scientist and humanist. She always had dogs and usually a cat, and at Rathdowney she added donkeys that she saved from the knackery. Her mind was always active and she made some wonderful new friendships in retirement, not only with textile makers and members of the local community, but also with new researchers who sought her wisdom, such as June Ross, of the University of New England. Andrée’s influence went far.
Her smooth adjustment to retirement was due to the quality of her personal life. She told me once that she never worked on a Sunday, and she always advocated keeping a sensible balance between personal and professional lives. While Andrée enjoyed the good things of life, she did not accumulate possessions mindlessly. Her friend and colleague, Mary-Jane Mountain, said that Andrée discarded one item of clothing whenever she bought a new garment. Over five decades these two were joined by a deep friendship, regularly cemented by a love of ‘creamy, sticky cakes, strong coffee and ice-cream’.
Andrée Rosenfeld’s passing leaves a beloved son, Bill, and grandchildren who gave her great pleasure in her latter years. However, there are many, many people whose lives were touched by Andrée. I am glad to be among them. I shall remember her for her elegance, grace, sharp intellect, intellectual generosity and kindness. In his obituary for Leon Rosenfeld, G.E. Brown (1974) states that Rosenfeld contributed more substantially and influentially than he would allow people to say. Like father, like daughter.
Bahn, P. and A. Rosenfeld (eds) 1991 Rock Art and Prehistory: Papers Presented to Symposium G of the AURA Congress, Darwin 1988. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
Brown, G.E. 1974 Leon Rosenfeld. Nuclear Physics B 83(1):i-viii. Rosenfeld, A. 1965 The Inorganic Raw Materials of Antiquity. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Rosenfeld, A., D. Horton and J. Winter 1981 Early Man in North Queensland. Terra Australis 6. Canberra: Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University.
Rosenfeld, A. 1985 Rock Art Conservation in Australia. Special Australian Heritage Publication 2. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.
Ucko, P. and A. Rosenfeld 1967 Palaeolithic Cave Art. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Review of ‘Salvage Excavation of Human Skeletal Remains at Ocean and Octavia Streets, Narrabeen, Site#45-6-2747’ by Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd
Salvage Excavation of Human Skeletal Remains at Ocean and Octavia Streets, Narrabeen, Site#45-6-2747 by Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd. Australian Archaeological Consultancy Monograph Series 2, Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc., St Lucia, 2008, 59 pp., ISBN 9780959031027.
Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland Mail Centre, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
This monograph is the second in a series by the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc. and reports on the excavation of a male skeleton found partly under a bus shelter in Narrabeen, New South Wales. The AACAI monograph series is designed for consultant archaeologists as examples of best practice and so, as is evident here, the format follows the consultancy report with appendices of the relevant information. This format is no doubt very valuable for consultants as a model to follow. In some respects, it does not work so well for a monograph.
The monograph starts with a summary which is repeated in Chapter 1. This chapter deals with the background to the investigation, followed by a discussion of the environmental context (Chapter 2) which includes a very interesting description of the environment as it would have been. However, there is an anomaly between the estimated date of the soil based on its formation characteristics and the date of the skeleton. It would have been good to see some resolution or discussion of this in the text.
The regional archaeological context is presented in Chapter 3. This begins with ethnohistoric evidence. There is no introduction to this explaining why particular pieces of information are included, so it feels like a slightly random collection of information: the sex division of fishing, use of shell artefacts, clan organisation and ceremonies. There is also a more extensive and informative discussion on spears where it would have been good to have illustrations of the types discussed. However, this is the difference between the constraints of a consultancy report and a monograph. Ceremonies are also described with a particular focus on tooth avulsion, although, as the authors point out, the evidence is inconclusive. Absence of avulsion might be significant or merely indicative that the practice was not as widespread as suggested or more temporally defined. It is hard to rely on ethnohistoric sources in these respects. What is being noted is potentially the unusual given an emphasis in early years of European observations to discern ‘rules’ and hence variability is often downplayed. As Meehan’s (1971) thesis indicates, while there is inter-regional variation this is often swamped by intra-regional variability.
The fieldwork is clearly and fully described in Chapter 4. The circumstances were not that straightforward because of the built infrastructure, the initial disturbance, and the location of the remains partly under a bus shelter.
The human remains are described in Chapter 5 and this represents a good technical description of human remains using standardised techniques by Denise Donlon. It would have been good to see the inventory tabled or a diagram showing the degree of preservation. The authors note the missing right femur, but it is hard to work out the significance of this when it is not clear how much of the innominate is also missing. The missing femur is a mystery because judging by the position of the upper body it looks like the body was rolled onto its right side so that the bone was more likely to be underneath than above (where it could have been more easily removed post-death).
The burial position as present in Figure 2 is difficult to interpret (vertical levels would have helped). The left scapula is moved relative to the left humerus, the right clavicle is displaced to the left of the body. The authors argue that burning brush was placed on the burial as it was flung down and, given the extent of movement, it is quite possible that the body was not buried for some time after that. The range of displacement of the head and upper girdle is not consistent with the remains being surrounded by soil at the time of initial interment (Duday 2006). More consideration of this would possibly support the argument for this being an unceremonious death.
The lack of reconstructive illustrations also makes it hard for the reader to interpret the very careful written descriptions of trauma and backed artefacts.
What is to be commended is the presentation of the results in such detail including the stable isotope analysis of the bone. It is not explained how the change came about in the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council from initially not allowing dating (as seen in the initial research design, Appendix A) and the final decision to do so.
The monograph is fascinating and present the background to the description of the remains reported in Antiquity (McDonald et al. 2007). My only wish would have been that more diagrams had been included and the actual measurements undertaken. I think this could have helped in the interpretation.
The monograph does raise two issues. Here the human remains are published because of their uniqueness, but how are these individual osteobiographies going to address broader archaeological research questions? The other issue that the report illustrates is the lack of archaeological research undertaken in Australia, not just on human remains. For instance, there are no background isotope values available so that the results of the dietary analysis cannot be interpreted beyond broad generalisations, and the references for the SydneyBasin sequence are only Attenbrow and McDonald. This is not a complaint about the monograph, but a worry about the state of the discipline. On the other hand, the publication of a monograph on human remains is a matter for some optimism on the state of play.
Duday, H. 2006 L’Archeolothanatolgie ou l’archeologie de la mort. In R. Gowland and C. Knusel (eds), The Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains, pp.30–56. Oxford: Oxbow.
McDonald, J.J., D. Donlon, J.H. Field, R.L.K. Fullagar, J.B. Coltrain, P. Mitchell and M. Rawson 2007 The first archaeological evidence for death by spearing in Australia. Antiquity 81:877-885.
Meehan, B. 1971 The Form, Distribution and Antiquity of Australian Aboriginal Mortuary Practices. Unpublished MA thesis, University of Sydney, Sydney.
Between the Desert and the Gulf: Evolutionary Anthropology and Aboriginal Prehistory in the Riversleigh/Lawnhill Region, Northern Australia
PhD, Department of Archaeology, University of Sydney, March 2007
This thesis applies an evolutionary approach to the regional prehistory of the Riversleigh/Lawn Hill region of northern Australia. The research examines (i) the timing of colonisation of Australia and (ii) the nature of subsequent arid zone settlement and adaptation. Both of these research concerns are addressed through development of a regional settlement and subsistence model that is based within an overall framework of evolutionary theory and specifically from various models used by Human Behavioral Ecology (HBE). Using this approach this research presents new regional archaeological data and develops (i) a new model of north Australian Pleistocene settlement relating to Lake/Gulf of Carpentaria and (ii) an evaluation of competing models of Aboriginal subsistence during different climatic phases, with a specific focus on the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM).
The model of settlement and subsistence for the study region sets out expected responses of hunter-gatherers to large scale climatic changes over the last 40,000 years. These expectations are evaluated by quantifying changes in the nature of flaked stone technology, and in the frequency and range of faunal remains in archaeological sites.
I argue that climate change forced modifications to hunter-gatherer behaviours that are evident in the archaeological record. Significant behavioural changes occurred during the LGM, and included refuge occupation along the Gregory River, specialisation in resources of low rank and conservatism in lithic reduction strategies. During improved climatic conditions, residential mobility increased, and subsistence expanded in range to include more high-ranked resources, and lithic reduction altered to include new forms. Similar more subtle changes to settlement and subsistence are also evident during the early and mid-Holocene periods.
Results support a ‘short’ 40,000–45,000 year chronology of Aboriginal colonisation of Australia and a biogeographic model of LGM settlement that included refuge occupation of the Gregory River corridor, but probably not Lawn Hill. The biogeographic model used stresses the importance of the HBE approach, and an emphasis on developing detailed local and regional archaeological chronologies.
The results of this research show that although further refined data concerning the palaeoenvironmental record is needed, the functional approach of Human Behavioural Ecology is a valuable methodology for examinations of the archaeological record, providing theoretical rigor to local scale studies that can contribute to regional and more general models of human behaviour.
Review of ‘The Stone Mirror: A Novel of the Neolithic’ by Rob Swigart
Andrew S. Fairbairn
School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia Qld 4072, Australia
Rob Swigart’s The Stone Mirror: A Novel of the Neolithic is a fictional narrative focused on the archaeology of the fictitious site of Aynalı Tepe, a Neolithic occupation mound in Central Turkey. Based on the leviathan excavation project at Çatalhöyük, Swigart’s narrative is presented in 18 well-written chapters alternating between a modern excavation (chapters headed ‘Now’) and life in the ancient settlement (chapters headed ‘Then’). The contemporary excavation is led he charismatic Bryson Jones, archaeologist and well-connected, documentary-TV celebrity, with his team of archaeologists led by a real ‘digger’ in the form of Satchi Bennett. We follow the story of the excavation as it struggles against its own fame, ingrained bureaucracy in the form of government representative Özgür Tasköprülüzâe and the machinations of antiquities dealer Rolf Butcher. Aynalı Tepe’s archaeology is peeled away from survey to its third season when the plastered head, known as Alice, provides a feeding frenzy for the world’s press, archaeologists and mother goddess worshipers, eagerly encouraged by a savvy Jones. Needless to say, things do not go to plan, and an entertaining story unfolds including discovery, cynical greed and ethics. The title refers to the obsidian polished mirrors found at Çatalhöyük, surely one of the great oddities of the ancient world, which in this case end up forming Alice’s eyes.
Meanwhile, in the Neolithic, the story is centred on the life of Shelsan, his partner Mala and their family including Little Boren, whose initiation on a trip to the obsidian source at Göllü dağ provides a pivotal moment in the family’s life and that of the settlement. We find a world reconstructed for us from archaeological research in the Konya Basin (Çatalhöyük, Pınarbaşı) and western Cappadocia (Aşıklı Höyük and Göllü dağ/Nenezi dağ), and the author includes many key archaeological themes in his narrative, including trade, subsistence practice, religion, death, identity, gender roles and the chewy topic of the connection between environmental and cultural change. This is an unfamiliar world, where connections between people in distant places are fragmented, where death is an ever-present and accepted part of life, spirits walk, ancestors form a palpable presence and any unknown person presents a threat. Things are not all well in the world, as a lack of rain and depleted wild animal stocks present a challenge to those, such as the inhabitants of Aynalı Tepe and their hunter-gatherer friends, who have not yet fully converted their lifeways to agricultural production. There are tensions within the settlement, where personal ambition and rigid lineage rules lead to murder and fragmentation, and where politics, belief, identity and economy all play their part in the political world. Personalities and lineages are intimately linked with the buildings that form the focus of contemporary archaeological endeavour, with many peculiar aspects of Southwest Asian Neolithic houses – the repeated building phases, burials under the floors and decoration – being integrated into the lifeways of the protagonists.
As you would expect, the parallel narratives are connected, but not in a forced manner, with the Neolithic narrative explaining the significance and meaning of some of the static archaeological evidence exposed by the fictional dig team, and introducing some pleasing metaphysical influences – all implied – to the latter stages of the plot. Locating the action in a fictional site similar to, and indeed inhabiting the same fictional world with, Çatalhöyük allows the author to draw on the information from that site while allowing him the freedom to give Aynalı Tepe its own past and interesting archaeological present without fear of libel. I wondered whether the proposed project would indeed raise funding given its proximity to the funding sink of Çatalhöyük.
The Neolithic passages are worthy and textured acts of interpretation, providing plenty of food for thought on the limits of archaeological inference. As a sucker for historical fiction and a fan of this type of archaeological writing – used to great effect in more academic-focused works such as Mark Edmond’s (1999) outstanding Ancestral Geographies of the Neolithic and various chapters in Ian Hodder’s (2006) Çatalhöyük Perspectives – I enjoyed the complex picture of life presented. As one who has been fortunate enough to work on several Neolithic sites mentioned in the text, the account provided another way of visualising and exploring some of the many unanswered questions about the period and place. This type of work is all about getting inside the past and trying to understand ancient times from a human, embodied, perspective. It is not for everyone and I can hear the cries of ‘how can you prove that’ from the empiricist corner of the room, but much of Swigart’s book is all about the challenges of contemporary archaeological theory at an ontological and epistemological level. The Neolithic narrative is not pure fantasy and baseless speculation – it is framed by science-based research and this provides the perfect space for discussing what we are really trying to do. The research is well done and includes many of the interpretations that have emerged from a huge archaeological effort at Çatalhöyük and elsewhere. Some of the interpretations I disagree with – I do not believe that farming was of secondary subsistence significance at Çatalhöyük even though this has been repeated so many times it now seems to be treated as fact – but all are founded on scholarly works that can be followed up via the concise but relevant bibliography. Some of the scenarios really provided food for thought and my favourite was the visit of Shelsan and Boren to an abandoned Aşıklı Höyük – not named but clear from the description – a large settlement pre-dating Çatalhöyük in western Cappadocia. Comparative chronology has never been so vividly portrayed. I also enjoyed how the flow of the seasons, affecting everything from residential mobility to gathering activities, was woven into the story, a subject I have mused on myself for Çatalhöyük (Fairbairn et al. 2006). Seasonality is one of the many areas of the past poorly served by traditional academic prose and numerous others – belief, medicine, social structure – are dealt with effectively.
The contemporary story helped to serve up the Neolithic, but acted as a valuable, if at times deliberately stereotypical, play about the intricacies of contemporary archaeological practice, including the endless political and ethical hurdles that we have to confront. Director Bryson Jones is of uncertain ethical standing, being obsessed by media attention, accepting potentially tainted money for his dig from a secret donor, and able to provide some ‘ethically challenged’ solutions to the loss of the all important Alice. Realist or rascal? That story in itself is clearly designed to open a door into the shadier side of antiquities dealing and has a nice twist in the tail that opens all manner of speculations on the role and motivations of Jones, his sponsor and the dealer Rolf Butcher. The tensions between archaeological theory and practice, personified in the form of director and ‘digger’, an obvious and increasingly tired theme clearly derived from Hodder’s influence on the book, are explored in a thankfully unlaboured way. Chapter 7 provides a nice viewpoint on how different people may interpret and view the past, especially those beyond the academy. Among those with a ‘take’ on the finds are the mother goddess worshipers, whose interludes are entertaining and serve to illustrate the role of archaeology, in this case in the form of Maria Gimbutas and followers, in ongoing religious debate. Having direct experience of some goddess worshipers at Çatalhöyük, Swigart’s treatment of their personalities, ideas and motivations is both accurate and kind.
To quickly deal with technical matters, the volume is handsome, produced on high quality paper graced by two attractive and complementary fonts, with each chapter headed by a stamp seal impression placed in the top corner of the page. A striking wall painting graces the cover, curiously from Ain Ghazal in Jordan and not one of the many from Çatalhöyük, and with a glossary completes an attractive package. There are a few typos, but generally the text has been carefully edited.
Overall, I enjoyed this book in which the author provides a crisp, accessible and enjoyable archaeological text based on solid research and covering many of the current obsessions of Anglo-American archaeologists. It would have been easy to get lost in the vast outpourings of archaeologists in this region, but Swiggart manages to avoid turgidity and allows the reader space to both enjoy the plot and ask questions. There was a lot of humour in the book – the passage concerning the naming of Alice in Chapter 7 made me laugh out loud – and I suspect I could recognise friends from the Çatalhöyük project in Swiggart’s Aynalı diggers. Using a different narrative form, we see many of the tensions and personalities portrayed in Michael Balter’s (2006) The Goddess and the Bull and the two provide a valuable source for exploring contemporary archaeology is all of its uncertain complexity. The Stone Mirror is a unique and valuable addition to the growing Çatalhöyük/Neolithic library, allowing difficult contemporary scenarios, unavailable to Balter, to be played out in a fictional parallel world. It also provides an easy entry point to interpretations of this period and would prepare newcomers well for more academic synthesis such as Hodder’s (2006b) excellent The Leopard’s Tale.
The author’s preface states that The Stone Mirror is an attempt at a narrative-based archaeology text book and I contemplated this aim as, coincidentally, I revised and started teaching in my university’s introductory archaeology course. While the book lacks many of the methodological and theoretical details required of text books, the scope of subject matter and the synthetic treatment of past and present make the book a potentially invaluable teaching tool. The fact that interpretations can be followed up in the detailed academic texts produced by Hodder’s team and others in the region mean that there are limitless possibilities for discussion sessions and class research exercises on everything from dating methods to ethics. The book’s structure, at first slightly puzzling with chapters split into named subsections, provides perfect bite-sized vignettes for tutorial or lecture components. I could see the volume being used alongside a more standard text book as the fuel for tutorial sessions. Incidentally, a dramatisation, perhaps in spoken form would allow even more teaching possibilities and could make use of some of the dramatic Neolithic scenes. For Australian universities, the specific geographical content, focused on Southwest Asia, may limit the book’s usefulness in those departments with an Australasian focus, however, I recommend it as a must for university libraries. As ever, the over-inflated Australian list price at $47.99 may also limit sales, especially to cash-strapped undergraduates. How this can be a fair reflection of the book’s value at a time when the US list price is $21.99 and the exchange rate of 1.1 Australian dollars to the US dollar – that means the equivalent price is in fact AU$25 – is beyond my comprehension. I suspect interested parties should explore the anti-intuitive savings of international delivery.
Balter, M. 2006 The Goddess and the Bull. Çatalhöyük: An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.
Edmonds, M. 1999 Ancestral Geographies of the Neolithic: Landscapes, Monuments and Memory. London: Routledge.
Fairbairn, A., E. Asouti, N. Russell and J. Swogger 2006. Seasonality. In I. Hodder (ed.), Çatalhöyük Perspectives: Themes from the 1995-1999 Seasons, pp.93–108. Cambridge/Ankara: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research/British Institute of Archaeology in Ankara.
Hodder, I. (ed.) 2006a Çatalhöyük Perspectives: Themes from the 1995–1999 Seasons. Cambridge/Ankara: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research/British Institute of Archaeology in Ankara.
Hodder, I. 2006b The Leopard’s Tale: Revealing the Mysteries of Çatalhöyük. London: Thames and Hudson.
Review of ‘Otoliths of Common Australian Temperate Fish: A Photographic Guide’ by Dianne Furlani, Rosemary Gales and David Pemberton
School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia Qld 4072, Australia
This is one of those volumes that was developed and written with little concern for the goals and interests of archaeology, yet is immensely valuable in our pursuits to understand prehistoric diet, subsistence practices, ecological relationships of people to their prey, sustainability of fisheries, seasonality, and, in some cases, ideology. So what lies at the intersection of these topics that we spend much of our time investigating? The humble otolith. Measuring from a couple of millimeters to rarely exceeding 15mm, otoliths are generally round to oblong slivers of calcium carbonate that are found in pairs in the neurocranium of vertebrates; sagittal otoliths are the largest and most often used for study. Their size, shape and architectural features permit identification to fish species. As otoliths can survive the gastrointestinal acids of sea mammals and whales and, indeed, the gizzards of seabirds, otoliths are essential for determining the diet of these animals as well as cephalopods and penguins. Marine scientists Furlani, Gales and Pemberton have spent decades investigating predator-prey relationships and the ecology and interactions of predators with commercial fishers as ‘the ability to identify trophic linkages through identification of prey remains is a significant tool in increasing our understanding of ecosystem functioning and the effects of perturbations on our marine environment’ (p.4). The authors of this volume have done a great service to archaeology by providing a guide to otoliths of fish species that occur predominately in the temperature waters of southeast Australia. The volume looks at some 141 species, from 68 families and 15 orders and covers a broad range of taxa, but not all species in this region. A number of the illustrated families have importance to archaeology: whiting (Sillaginidae), bream and snapper (Sparidae), perch (Serranidae, Sebastidae), cods (Moridae), wrasse (Labridae) and mullet (Mugilidae).
Species in the guide are arranged by phylogenetic sequence. Fish length and weight are recorded for each specimen. A simple linear regression describes the relationship of otolith length and weight to fish length and weight (p.4), which is of great value for determining the size of human prey. For the uninitiated, otolith terminology is clearly set out (pp.5-8) noting important landmarks used for identification and general shapes that are encompassed by the collection. Excellent scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images are presented for each described taxon. Importantly, the volume illustrates ontological changes for select species; for example, the marked differences of otoliths from a 96mm and 263mm flounder (p.181) that could make identification difficult without this crucial information. The SEM images are clear and detailed and they all come with a 1mm scale bar making comparisons across the volume much easier. Smaller photographs of each species are presented in the systematic species list facilitating identification. Included here is the family, genus, species and common name; otolith image, then page number locating the full otolith description, morphometry (otolith dimensions, sample size and regression data), distribution and ecology and predator-prey information.
Archaeologists have made forays into otolith analysis. Some 25 years ago Balme (1983) provided a comprehensive study of golden perch (Maguaria ambigua) and cod (Maccullochella sp.) otoliths estimating the size of fish caught to infer prehistoric fishing strategies near lakes and rivers of New South Wales. Otoliths have also been used to increase the diversity of identified fish in Torres Strait assemblages (Crouch et al. 2007:57). Farther afield, new records of important food fish in Hawaii have been identified with otoliths in the absence of identifiable bones (Weisler 1993). Despite these encouraging results, the interest in otolith identification has been slow to take hold. Imagine what archaeologists may be able to contribute by analysing a stratified and well-dated assemblage of fish otoliths. As the incremental growth-bands record water temperature history, determining the values for oxygen isotopes in otoliths can contribute to the debate on global warming with long-term historical data during human habitation. The humble otolith, then, may well contribute information fundamental to our discipline. Consequently, this volume deserves a place in every university library across the nation and in archaeology laboratories that specialise in fish identification in the region covered.
Balme, J. 1983 Prehistoric fishing in the Lower Darling, Western New South Wales. In C. Grigson and J. Clutton-Brock (eds), Animals and Archaeology: Vol. 2: Shell Middens, Fishes and Birds, pp.19–32. BAR International Series 183. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.
Crouch, J., I.J. McNiven, B. David, C. Rowe and M. Weisler 2007 Berberass: Marine resource specialization and environmental change in Torres Strait during the past 4000 years. Archaeology in Oceania 42(2):49–64.
Weisler, M.I. 1993 The importance of fish otoliths in PacificIsland archaeofaunal analysis. New Zealand Journal of Archaeology 15:131–159.