Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Archaeology on Land and Water

This post concludes an account of two weeks in February when we had visiting land and water based archaeologists undertaking survey and training work on the island:  

We’ve just come to the end of a fabulous two weeks looking at the archaeology of Norfolk Island thanks to our five visiting archaeologists. We had the land covered with Dr Martin Gibbs, Dr Brad Duncan and Natalie Blake undertaking the Norfolk Island Archaeological Survey, and Andy Viduka and Amer Khan looked at our underwater heritage.

The land sites surveyed using three radar techniques were the Landing Place at Kingston including down to the area in front of Munnas, Emily’s Grave behind Emily Bay, the Cascade burial site and the original Melanesian Mission cemetery. Other areas that they visited to make initial observations and GPS readings were the range of properties that make up the Cascade Agricultural and Longridge Agricultural Stations. Due to the loss of days with wet weather and some equipment problems we didn’t get to cover quite as much terrain with the radars as originally envisaged. Each site is also complex with a variety of historical and current information available. While that may be a bit frustrating in the short term, it has meant that Martin and Brad are very keen to map out an on-going program of work to more fully cover the island and work on a funding program to do so. As a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology with the University of Sydney, Martin will be doing his best to see how the university can become involved in future work.

The land Survey radar results won’t be fully known until after the radar readings get thoroughly analysed by the team using a number of software applications back on the mainland. However there were enough anomalies (a word we’ve learnt to use to describe changes in the squiggly lines of the radar readings!) in the readings to give hope of some good results across the sites. Good results may include identification of what could be building structures or graves from cemetery areas as well an understanding about which previous buildings were ‘robbed’ of stone to build later structures that now leave only a caved in imprint on the radar. The remains of the Longridge and Cascade Agricultural Stations in particular really excited the team. While we didn’t get to investigate Phillipsburgh in detail it also remains as a large area to follow-up on.

By mid May the Museum will have mounted an exhibition on the whole survey which will include all the results and we will also publicise them in the paper as they become available. For Brad, Martin and Natalie they now face a busy few months processing and writing up the results into a report.

On Tuesday night Martin, Brad and Andy very generously gave a public presentation. Brad showed how he works with geo-referencing which gives real world co-ordinates and spatial references to historical maps. Knowing with good proximity where buildings shown on a 1795 map are on the ground today, obviously aids decisions about where to carry out radar activity. Andy talked about the value of knowing about our maritime heritage and the importance of recording the stories that surround our maritime objects.

Martin gave a fascinating presentation on Pitcairn Island as Cultural Landscape based on his thinking after visiting and carrying out archaeological digs on Pitcairn in the late 1990s. He states “…it will be suggested that when viewing the Bounty arrivals as a colonizing population, the perceptions and reactions of the Polynesian participants almost certainly included responses to a spiritual realm within the Pitcairn landscape that was most likely undetectable and incomprehensible to the Europeans.  In particular… especially in the early years the Polynesians were engaged in a constant series of negotiations within the spiritual and natural realms”. His presentation also gave an insight into the breadth of archaeology – its not just about finding buried remains but the whole landscape of a place, how and why people historically and currently respond to it.

Meanwhile, on the water and on-shore, Andy and Amer worked with members of the Norfolk Island Maritime Association (NIMAA). There were a number of dives to try and locate the position of known Admiralty anchors, a session on oral history and looking at how to measure up a wreck on the sea floor. Andy and Amer spoke to a number of people in the community about our maritime heritage, building up an awareness of our islands maritime culture. Andy also provided information to the Police on their role as Inspectors under the Historic Shipwrecks Act and to the museum on filling the Australian National Shipwreck Data Base.

The work of the last few weeks won’t stop here. The museum is very keen to continue supporting NIMAA and community members in their pursuits to identify and protect our historic shipwrecks heritage. On land, we will continue to work with Brad and Martin to see how we can establish long term archaeological projects that will work to help us understand more about the remains under our very feet and the stories of the people who live and have lived on our island. 

We extend our sincere thanks to Brad, Martin and Natalie for sharing so much with us over the last few weeks. We sincerely look forward to working with them all again. Thanks also to Andy and Amer for returning to the island to keep us and NIMAA members focused on our maritime heritage. It’s been a fabulous two weeks at the Norfolk Island Museum!

1 comment:

  1. It was an interesting post about archaeology and I would say that land Survey radar results would not be fully known until after the radar readings get thoroughly analyzed by the surveyor team using a number of software applications back on the mainland.