Fieldwork beckons

I’m glad to report that after a seven month stint here in Adelaide I’m finally able to get back up to north Queensland to do some fieldwork. Teaching and University life is wonderful, however I do not recall a time in the past ten years where I have not had a field trip for seven months. So this is long overdue and I’m very much looking forward to the trip.

This is a quick 10 day trip to Weipa on western Cape York. It is not what most would consider to be archaeological fieldwork but instead a community liaison trip with anthropologist Dr Darlene McNaughton, who is also my partner. We’re both tying up some loose ends on the Alngith Heritage Project and laying the groundwork for a 4-6 week field trip to a place known as Waypa in June-July with the Anhatangaith people.

Ground Orchid, Weipa

The Alngith work is nearing completion. For the past two years we have been working with Alngith elders using a range of methods (oral history, archaeology, historical research) to identify places of cultural significance on their country, which is the western portion of the Weipa Peninsula. We’ve compiled information about 300 or so places and in this trip our focus is on checking that we’ve ‘got it right’, particularly for story places. It’s easy to think about these places as points on a map however one of the exciting things we’ve been able to document are some of the linkages between these places and the movement of ancestral beings (animals) through Alngith country. It’s not appropriate to go into detail, however it’s been a tremendously enjoyable and worthwhile project and it’ll be interesting to see the responses of Alngith elders when we throw up a draft ‘map’ of their country onto a projector. There will be quite a few visits to key places as well as some survey work that I need to finish off as well.

The second project is a continuation of the Weipa mission project that was funded by AIATSIS back in 2007. The Indigenous Heritage Program have provided additional funds to finish site documentation work which we plan to complete in June-July. I expect we’ll only manage a one day trip to the site, probably by boat, and the purpose of this will be to get a good photographic record of the place during the early wet season. The big priority though is to catch up with the Anhatangaith elders and discuss with them the project and how they want to go about it in terms of logistics and timing. The major field trip is some way off yet, however I’ve often found that in order to do ‘capital A’ archaeology, one needs to first do the ‘capital C’ consultation and community liaison. That’s not to say that the latter ends when the former begins; but that it’s good to begin the conversation about the project well before the fieldwork plans are set in stone, which I’ve blogged about recently.

I’ll try and get a few blog posts and photos up while we’re up there, so stay tuned!