Last week I was at the Australian Archaeological Association annual conference held at Terrigal, NSW.  You know archaeologists, a group of adventurous individuals, doing really adventurous things. I admit it isn’t Vin Diesel but this is somewhat the real life of an archaeologist. When they are not in the field archaeologists spend most of their time writing about being int he field and a part of their time telling other archaeologists what they have been doing.

AAA was three jam packed days of the latest in archaeological research in Australia. What was significant was that this year it was held in conjunction with the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council. The conference theme was Interwoven: Indigenous and Western Knowledge in Archaeology and Heritage. This theme was chosen to celebrate the growing trend in Australian archaeology for Indigenous knowledge to be incorporated in western ways of understanding the archaeological and heritage record.

There were a wide range of sessions from those concerned with incorporating traditional knowledge into the science of zooarchaeology to the interweaving of archaeological and cultural connections in the mid-north coast area of NSW to a session on translating archaeology into education. Have a look at the Facebook event page.

What I think was really important was there was a focus on how the research that was being undertaken was contributing to communities, to people. There was too much happening for me to do credit to everything. I found the session on Coastal Subsistence in Australia to be brilliant. The work being done to re-visualize submerged landscapes is awesome. Literally, 3D graphics of landscapes that were submerged thousands of years ago are being generated. Another favourite was the session on The Clarence and Richmond River Valleys. I am a landscape geek from way back so seeing how these cultural landscapes and the stories and sites in them are related worked for me. But my pick was the work being done in geophysics and the way that the results from Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) are impacting management of important archaeological sites and the real world benefits for the Aboriginal communities that are the traditional owners of these lands blew me away. There was also a session on Australian Heritage Legislation. Okay, not as sexy as GPR or cultural landscapes but really important in looking at ways we here in Australia are going to look after and manage our cultural heritage into the future.

People think that archaeology is a discipline that exists in the past. Although its roots are firmly in the past, the once was; archaeology in Australia is at its core a discipline that represents the stories and culture of the people who are here today. Don’t believe me? The Aboriginal shell midden that gets excavated and tells us how people thousands of years ago subsisted is still an important part of the living culture of its current traditional owners. It represents a link with the past. More than likely it is a burial site; a place where people today can engage with their ancestors. And with archaeologists working with the community the protection and management of such a site can provide a sense of social cohesion, an opportunity for a new generation to understand their past, an opportunity to learn new skills and have a hands on role in protecting their future.

Generally when archaeologists gather in groups it is either a face melting good time and at least one person gets high.

However when I woke up on Friday morning Terrigal didn’t look anything like this so it couldn’t have been too big a night.

Coming up next on Heritage Gest….

They listed what or the 5 things you wouldn’t guess were heritage listed in NSW.

Talk Soon.

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