Digging in the archaeology collection

Nick Hadnutt, Curator, Archaeology, Queensland Museum During a routine audit of the Museum’s ancient stone tools, I happened across a stone axe with some interesting text upon. Investigating the text connected me with a World War 1 hero. One of the roles of a curator is to investigate and research the collections they are responsible for in order to better understand them. In doing so, … Continue reading Digging in the archaeology collection

What do archaeologists do when there is a global pandemic?

Dr Geraldine Mate, Acting Program Head, Cultures and Histories Program, Queensland Museum and Sciencentre   What do you do when you can’t go into the field due to Pandemic? The answer is stay home! But that doesn’t mean archaeologists stop work… This year was to be the year of archaeological fieldwork for our team. At the moment Queensland Museum is involved in some really exciting … Continue reading What do archaeologists do when there is a global pandemic?

Collecting antiquities during wartime – the First World War Antiquities Project

Written by Mr James Donaldson (Museum Manager and Curator, R.D. Milns Antiquities Museum, The University of Queensland) and Dr Brit Asmussen (Acting Principal Curator, Cultures and Histories, Queensland Museum) Queensland Museum and The RD Milns Antiquities Museum, University of Queensland, are collaborating on a research partnership to learn more about the antiquities collecting activities of Australian WW1 personnel.  Soldiers and collectors The collection of souvenirs … Continue reading Collecting antiquities during wartime – the First World War Antiquities Project

Uncovering Pacific Pasts: Histories of archaeology in Oceania

As part of the Collective Biography of Archaeology in the Pacific (CBAP) Project (led by the Australian National University in Canberra), the Museum of Tropical Queensland is currently participating in the worldwide exhibition, Uncovering Pacific Pasts: Histories of archaeology in Oceania. The collaborative display is featured in over 30 collecting institutions around the world, and explores the ideas, people and networks that were pivotal in … Continue reading Uncovering Pacific Pasts: Histories of archaeology in Oceania

Re-imagining Pandora

This blog post is part of an ongoing series titled Connecting with Collections. The series offers readers a peek inside collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, highlighting objects and their stories. In 1790, HMS Pandora sailed out of England with a clear mission: to find the HMS Bounty and its 25 mutineers. Pandora reached Tahiti in March 1791, and captured 14 of the mutineers, … Continue reading Re-imagining Pandora

Well, that’s a pickle!

This blog post is part of an ongoing series titled Connecting with Collections. The series offers readers a peek inside collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, highlighting objects and their stories Sometimes when working with the collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, you see an object that just makes you stop in your tracks. The object featured today is one that really made … Continue reading Well, that’s a pickle!

A compass gimbal from Mermaid

Written by Carl Tanner, compiled by Dr Madeline Fowler

The final part of a blog series written by undergraduate students at James Cook University, who undertook research on objects in the Museum of Tropical Queensland’s maritime archaeology collection as part of the 2017 topic AR3008 Boats and Beaches.

The shipwreck

HMCS Mermaid was built at the Howrah Dry Docks on the Hooghly River in Calcutta, India, in 1816, by the shipwrights Thompson (Phipps 1840:108, 123). Built out of Indian teak, it was iron-fastened and clad in copper sheathing along the keel (Hosty 2009:17). Designed as a cutter, it was originally rigged as a one-masted ship, but was refitted later into an armed, two-masted schooner (Hosty 2009:17; ANSD 2017). The ship displaced 83-85 gross registered tons, was 17m in length, 5.48-5.6m in beam and had a draught of 2.7m (Hosty 2009:17; Phipps 1840:123; ANSD 2017).

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A porthole from Gothenburg

Written by Tia Eagleson, compiled by Dr Madeline Fowler

Part of a blog series written by undergraduate students at James Cook University, who undertook research on objects in the Museum of Tropical Queensland’s maritime archaeology collection as part of the 2017 topic AR3008 Boats and Beaches.

 The shipwreck

The site of the Gothenburg wreck is in Flinders Passage, North QLD (Latitude: -19.37 Longitude: 148.06). Gothenburg was built in the UK in 1854 by Mr. John Scott Russel. The vessel, a twin-screw steamer, has numerous features in view at the site of the wreck which are indicative of the build of the ship. These consist of two compound single screw engines each with 60 individual horsepower, two decks and three masts and a female figurehead with an elliptical shaped stern. The dimensions of the ship were 59.92m in length, 8.6m in width and 3.23m in depth. Overall, the vessel weighed approximately 737 tonnes. This shipwreck is identified as number 2563 (Australian National Shipwreck Database; Central Queensland Herald 1931:13).

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Copper-alloy sheathing from Coolangatta

Written by Caroline Mercer, compiled by Dr Madeline Fowler

Part 3 of a blog series written by undergraduate students at James Cook University, who undertook research on objects in the Museum of Tropical Queensland’s maritime archaeology collection as part of the 2017 topic AR3008 Boats and Beaches.

The shipwreck

Coolangatta was built by John Brinksell in 1843 in Shoalhaven, New South Wales (NSW) (Davidson 2014). It was commissioned and owned by Alexander Berry, who named the brigantine sailing vessel after his property in the area (Potts 2010). The boat’s life was largely spent transporting goods up and down the eastern coast of Australia, bringing materials such as coal to the north and most often returning to Sydney with a cargo of timber (Potts 2010). At the time of the wrecking of Coolangatta, it had recently delivered coal to Brisbane and was starting its return trip back to Sydney when it was wrecked. On 19 August 1846, Coolangatta was driven ashore during a gale as it attempted to enter the Tweed River (Davidson 2014). The ship was abandoned by the crew and Captain Steele, after it was stripped of any removable gear and rigging (Davidson 2014). A couple of months later there was an attempt to repair the vessel, with Brinksell being brought up from NSW to repair the damage on the port side (Davidson 2014). However, shortly after the wreck was lifted onto rollers, another gale forced it into a worse position and the keel broke, ending any hopes of repairing the ship (Potts 2010).

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A sperm sewing machine oil bottle from Aarhus

Written by Tate Devantier-Thomas, compiled by Dr Madeline Fowler

This is part of a blog series written by undergraduate students at James Cook University, who undertook research on objects in the Museum of Tropical Queensland’s maritime archaeology collection as part of the 2017 topic AR3008 Boats and Beaches. Continue reading “A sperm sewing machine oil bottle from Aarhus”

An earthenware bottle from Yongala

Written by Robyn Blucher, compiled by Dr Madeline Fowler

This is Part 1 of a blog series written by undergraduate students at James Cook University, who undertook research on objects in the Museum of Tropical Queensland’s maritime archaeology collection as part of the 2017 topic AR3008 Boats and Beaches. Continue reading “An earthenware bottle from Yongala”

The Maritime Archaeology Collection: Part 2 Islands and Reefs

Written by Dr Maddy Fowler, Museum of Tropical Queensland

Following from Part 1 Shipwrecks, which detailed the 17 named shipwrecks represented by artefacts in the Museum of Tropical Queensland collection, Part 2 explores objects discovered at islands and reefs that are not ascribed to a known shipwreck. With the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia’s greatest ship-traps, lying off the Queensland coast, it is unsurprising that shipwreck material occurs on many of the islands, reefs and cays both there and further offshore in the Coral Sea.

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The Wreck of the Foam and the Queensland Labour Trade

Written by Dr Stephen Beck,  Honorary Officer (Volunteer) with the Cultures and History Program at Queensland Museum.

The wreck of the Foam provides amazing archaeological insights into the conduct of the Queensland labour trade, the process by which it operated and the effect of contact, trade and exchange between different cultures.   The Foam has the unique status of being the only known wreck on the Great Barrier Reef of a Queensland labour vessel that was actively engaged in the labour trade at the time of its demise.   Thus, the Foam, together with its wreck site, has provided archaeological insights into life on board a labour vessel, both for the returning Islanders and the European crew, at a specific time in the Queensland labour trade.
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Lagoon Creek Shearer’s Strike Camp

Written by Nicholas Hadnutt, Curator, Archaeology.

In the 1890’s, work relations in Australia were a hot topic. Working conditions and wages were at an all-time low for shearers and they were preparing to fight for their rights. The Queensland wool industry was rapidly growing and shearers and pastoralists were seeking to define fair working conditions. Unfortunately, the opinions of the two groups as to what constituted reasonable working conditions were poles apart and conflict was looming. By 1890, shearers and other labourers began forming unions to better represent their rights, including a key requirement that pastoralists only employed union members. The pastoralists reacted by coming together nationally to create a shearing and labouring agreement of their own. The wealthy pastoralists were expecting a fight and were working together to defeat the union movement.
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The Maritime Archaeology Collection: Part 1 Shipwrecks

Written by Dr Maddy Fowler, Museum of Tropical Queensland

As the recently appointed Senior Curator Maritime Archaeology, I have faced the challenge of familiarising myself with the maritime archaeology collection, predominantly housed at the Museum of Tropical Queensland. The HMS Pandora artefacts are justifiably the most well-known of this collection, due to both their international value and significance, and their substantial quantity. The collection, however, also includes artefacts from at least 16 other named shipwrecks located across Queensland’s coast and rivers. The maritime archaeology collection can therefore be seen as a cross-section or a sample of the total shipwreck resource in the State, and a brief analysis of these sites can inform significance and research potential.
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19th century Australia: grog and salad dressing?

Written by Nick Hadnutt , Curator, Archaeology.

Many of the artefacts recovered from historical archaeology sites in Australia are essentially the same types of material. Any researcher investigating these sites will expect to handle a range of material including various metal fragments, spent munitions, lost buttons, broken slate pencil tips, fragments of tools, bits of bridles and horse gear, lost coins and tokens, pieces of fabric, discarded leather material and ceramics. Amongst the most common objects are those made of glass: either whole vessels or as fragments. In fact, so much glass material is recovered from sites, it could be easy to assume 19th century Australians lived on a diet of alcohol and salad dressing, simply from the kinds of bottles we find most often.
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Meaning in Maps

Written by Dr Geraldine Mate, Principal Curator, Industry, History and Technology.

It’s a nerdy boast, I know, but I love maps! Colourful touristy maps, contour maps, historic maps with wheat, sugar and gold country blithely shaded out, hand-drawn maps with names of people as important as names of places, and even the busy cadastral maps – dimensioned and officially (officiously?) denoting gazetted reserves, roadways, property boundaries and survey points. They all somehow convey a little bit about the landscape they depict. So what do maps have to do with archaeology?
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Shine a Light

Written by David Parkhill, Assistant Collection Manager, Archaeology.

The need to extend daylight hours, for either pleasure or the day to day business of living, or earning that living, has always been with us. Before the advent of electricity, allowing a room to be illuminated with the simple flick of a switch, light was generally achieved by the use of either a candle or a lamp.  Candles, while being a far cheaper alternative to pottery oil lamps, did not provide the same amount of light, nor could the light be adjusted by trimming the wick, as was the case with lamps.

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Classical antiquities find a modern home

Written by Dave Parkhill
Assistant Collection Manager, Archaeology, Cultures and Histories Program

In 2015 the Queensland Museum commenced an expansion of the Secret Sacred Room at the South Bank campus. As part of this process, the majority of archaeological artefacts remaining at South Bank were relocated to the Queensland Museum Annexe at Hendra. The archaeological objects remaining at Southbank consisted mainly of the antiquities collection. From terracotta lamps to glass beakers; from mummified birds to spearheads, the antiquities collection is comprised of over 950 pieces, and includes artefacts from cultures as geographically and chronologically diverse as Egypt, Rome, Britain, Greece, and Cyprus.
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National Archaeology Week at Queensland Museum

Written by Senior Curator of Archaeology, Dr Brit Asmussen, Curator of archaeology Nick Hadnutt and Principal Curator Science and Technology, Dr Geraldine Mate

Archaeology staff at the Queensland Museum (QM) has taken the opportunity to create a program for National Archaeology Week (NAW) for many years. National Archaeology Week was born in 2001, and aims to increase public awareness of Australian archaeology and the work of Australian archaeologists both at home and abroad, and to promote the importance of protecting Australia’s unique archaeological heritage. Held in the third week of May, this exciting nationwide program of events and activities included public lectures, seminars, exhibits, demonstration excavations and displays.
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