WHAT IS ARCHAEOLOGY?

By Francesca Gaspar, Undergraduate, University of Queensland

ARCHAEOLOGY – My first thought was Indian Jones style adventuring, being chased by boulders and having to avoid getting your heart ripped out by some black magic cult….but Archaeology seems much more than that – there’s a science, a community that builds the knowledge that our past is as important as our present. To premise, I’m not an archaeologist, I’m a journalist bunking with archaeologists at the MEMSAP field school and in the last 4 days, I’ve learned so much…

Monday, I dabbled in Experimental Archaology which I tried to make a Middle Stone Age tool. The debitage (small flakes removed while shaping at tool) flicks you in the legs and as you try not to bash your thumbs in the process, I marvel at the ingenuity of our ancestors as I fail to make anything more complicated than an Early Stone Age “knife”. Apart from studying the finer details of ancient societies, there’s also contextualising the sites which you dig and that’s where surveying becomes important.

The alst three days we learnt about Mapping and Geoarchaeology; studying the landscape, taking note of the erosion, landscape formation, and soil horizons on the hill sides.  Friday was spent pooling our resources and conducting literature and map  research focused on re-locating Chaminade I A, a Middle Stone Age site excavated by JD Clark in the mid 1960s.   Walking over the landscape, here in the shadow of Chaminade Hill, with its Mission Church and School above us, we can easily picture the archaeologists who first surveyed this landscape nearly 50 years ago.   A leisurely walk suddenly becomes a rich tapestry of history when you can visualize the recent and deep past of a place.

Sure enough, it’s not Indiana Jones, we’re not getting ourselves into trouble with the locals, there are certainly no blow darts or giant boulders… it’s better than that. It’s fixation at its finest, it’s studying science under the sun and giving our present technological advancements their context, but more on that later…

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