By Mandy Atkinson

I have been lucky enough to have worked as a consultant archaeologist since completing my undergraduate and since that time have been working only in Aboriginal cultural heritage management. In a consultant’s world, you walk a lot, there’s nasty bugs and spikey bushes at every turn and there’s always more work to do than there is time to do it, quite a contrast to the friendly field school!

A ‘red dirt’ excavation in western NSW

With a view to enhance my professional skill set, I decided I should try my hand at historical archaeology… and brush up on my field skills while I was there. I drove from Sydney, NSW to the Seven Stars Hotel historical archaeological site at Redbanks, SA, via Condobolin and Lake Cargelligo (as I had work to do on the way). For 1500km I was bursting with excitement and enthusiasm at the prospect of a new ‘archaeology experience’.

I will confess I was completely underwhelmed for the first few days and actually found it much more difficult than I care to admit. On the first transect I caught myself walking past numerous artefacts. Why? Usually I would consider pieces of glass, ceramics and nails as background scatter impeding my ability to discover Aboriginal cultural heritage material.  So I turned around and re-did 20m or so of transect, hopefully unnoticed and concentrating intensely.

Redbanks, South Australia

After I few days of great company and learning a few new ‘tricks’ I started to warm up to the idea historical archaeology and to the site, which may have once been a pub.  I was impressed by a few interesting artefacts, found the working conditions beyond fantastic and was completely baffled by the ‘site boundary’ (and still I am!). All in all, it was a wonderful introduction to historical archaeology however my passion is still, and will always, be for Indigenous archaeology.

In my haste to start a new job, the next day and about 800km away, I left my backpack with all required field gear in Redbanks. Not the best way to start a new job! I must thank the backpack rescue team; Heather for posting it right away and John the station manager for driving 200km into town to pick it up for me!

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