With new legislation, regulations and standards coming out of the bureaucratic woodwork (just like death watch beetles) constantly these days, one would assume that archaeology and heritage are doing well in Australia.
I don't think they are.
There are more Aboriginal archaeological sites being recorded than ever before.Nearly all are identified as part of predevelopment environmental approvals. Management entails salvaging some, leaving a few in reserves (very occasionally with some form of interpretation or on-going management but more often than not - not), of doing nothing - or next to nothing as the 'contingency arrangements' that rely on contractors and developers keeping an eye out.
What does not seem to be happening is the strategic planning that recognises some places have cultural values that should override other financial and land use objectives. for 20 years we have had the archaeological models, not very sophisticated, but enough to know where most of the significant Aboriginal archaeology will be found on the development fringe. We could be ground truthing and mapping these areas well in advance of development pressures, and then prepare future land use zones to ensure not just the avoidance of stone artefact scatters and the occasional scar tree, but put aside extensive tracts of landscape that represent both the values Aboriginal people placed on the land, and the scientific potential such sites may have for research-directed archaeology.
For example, a look at the pattern of recorded archaeology around Melbourne's northern fringe. (the green dots indicated recorded sites - others are along the creek but disguised by the 'sensitivity' mapping used by AAV and Geovic.
This is really a plan of development in the last 20 years. the majority of these sites have been destroyed, possibly following some salvage, and hopefully with a research question or two applied. But the environment around them is now houses, factories roads. Very rarely is there an acceptance that the cultural place is the wider landscape - the interplay between the creek, the grassy plains that were the hunting grounds and food gathering places, the stony rises that gave vantage points across the tribal territory. There are exceptions, for examples where endangered species are found, and other more sophisticated and stringent management comes into play. Galada Tamboore on Merri Creek, where basalt plains grasslands survive is a good example of how natural and cultural values can combine to give a better impression of what the landscape was like for Aboriginal people before Europeans.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Excavations at Port Arthur were just part of a large project of research and conservation in the 1980s. In this case Krystal Buckley and the late Martin Davies made a prominent contribution. the photo comes from Helen Laffin, who participated in the Commandant's residence dig.
I was not on this dig, but here is a photo from Helen Laffin of Clows Homestead excavation in 1980.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Corinella on Western Port Pay was the site of a brief convict settlement, a decade before Batman and Fawkner 'founded' Melbourne (or started arguing about which one of them did it').
Just to the east of the present town, a settlement was founded in 1826 from Sydney in response to a concern for possible French territorial claims. In that year Dumont d'Urville in command of the corvette Astrolabe examined Westernport, aroused suspicion during his scientific voyage. Authorities in Sydney had also recently received reports from explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell who mistakenly believed they had reached Westernport in 1824 (when in fact they had arrived at Corio Bay many kilometres to the west. A contingent of soldiers and 21 convicts under the command of Captain Wright was dispatched with William Hovell to assist. A small military settlement called Fort Dumaresq was established near the present-day site of Rhyll on the north coast of Phillip Island. Lack of fresh water proved a problem and the outpost was moved to Corinella then called Settlement Point.
Hovell's subsequent report claiming Westernport was unsuitable for agriculture, owing to poor soil and lack of fresh water, and the absence of any Frenchmen, led to the abandonment of the settlements in 1828. The buildings were burnt to prevent use by escaped convicts. A memorial cairn in Jamieson Street marks the site of the original settlement and another monument at the end of Smythe Street commemorates Paul Edmund de Strzelecki's exploration in 1840.
The 1826-8 Corinella was subject to extensive archaeological investigations in the early 1980s by the Victoria Archaeological Survey led by Peter Coutts. Although equivocal in its conclusions about the location and remains of the settlement, the dig established the importance of the site to Victoria's history and European settlement.
One season of excavation - I think in about 1983, is shown in some of my photos above.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
For several years the former cable tram engine house and tram shed o the corner of Toorak Road and Chapel Street South Yarra has been threatened with demolition, with a variety of developments proposed to replace it. The latest is a 38 story complex which will entirely replace the corner and with the Como centre make a 'twin pillars' entrance to Chapel Street.
Remoddled by Harry Norris in the 1930s, when the vable trams had been removed and the lines converted to electricity, the site became the Capitol Bakery. The building was further modified for the creation of the Fun Factory in about 1986, to the extent of large openings being made in the Toorak Road facade and a colonnaded passage inside the property line.
While it might be hidden behind the layers of history - this is one of a group of cable tram buildings which represent what was one of the most important public transport systems in the world - the largest cable tram system under a single operator.
We ( the residents of Melbourne, the ordinary people) don't need another class tower. Yes there will be million dollar flats for those that can afford it, and yes some other investors will make a buck, but the rest of us - the 4 1/2 million who just have to live in the city as it is, will just get congestion, shiny towers on the skyline, and a sense of loss for what was once our experience of the world around us.
Friday, May 6, 2011
The Deer Park factory was again rejected for protection in the Heritage Register. Here is a site with a unique history and buildings, where dozens of industrial accidents have left about 30 workers blown to bits. It is an example of an industry where workers being maimed or killed was factored into the production strategy, and therefore probably profit and loss accounts. Something like the coal board's annual records of thousands of tons of coal won per death.
The dangers of making explosives are expressed in the design of the factory and its components, from the spread out small buildings hidden behind blast mounds and connected by 'clean ways' (based on the 'quantity distance' tables worked out by trial and error) to the individual remote controls placed outside concrete protective walls to protect the operator.
Commenced in about 1874, the site was the only Australian maker of dynamite- like explosives, only a few years after Alfred Nobel began his Ardeer factory in Scotland.