Tim Mackrell explains the setup of the Leica 3D scanner
Today was the last day of our fieldwork at Wathayn. Hard to believe that it has been nearly three weeks since we stepped out of the plane into warmth of FNQ. The “build-up” has begun and each afternoon the air is still and heavy with anticipation…but it will be another month or two before it REALLY gets humid, just about the time that Simon Holdaway and I will return for another reconnaissance trip – lucky us!!
We’ve had a great field season: 20 mounds scanned, photographed, described, mapped, excavated, logged, sampled and…photographed again, all in the space of just 16 days. A fantastic effort by the great group of workers we’ve had with us each day from Napranum: Ross, William, Douglas, Graham, Floyd, Jack, and absolute dedication and hard work from our wonderful group of student volunteers – Annelise, Casey, Bernie and Eloise. You’ve probably got to know them almost as well as we have, through this blog – I’m sure you’ll agree it’s been great to learn about this project through the personal perspectives of these budding archaeologists. Tim, the “super” tech, has been unerring in his driving of the laser scanner. Shezani Nazoordeen and Siobhan Walker from Riotinto have also played a big part in keeping everything running smoothly, making sure that our vehicles were fuelled up, the water bottle were filled, the lunches packed, and the workers picked up from Napranum every day, as well as taking part in the fieldwork. And we’ve been really pleased to have Beatrice, Caroline, Elizabeth and Steph with us every day, sorting the ever increasing mountain of shells we’ve collected from the mounds. Justin Shiner, Riotinto Specialist Archaeologist and Partner Investigator on this project, has been tireless in his efforts to manage this project, at the same time as keeping up with all of his many responsibilities. As the primary liaison person between the company, the Indigenous Traditional Owners and us, Justin’s management skills were tested to the max…and he came up trumps!
While the data (all 35 GB of it!) remains to be crunched, we will leave here with a much deeper understanding of the relationships between the physical and biological environment, and the people who lived here in the past, and constructed the mounds. There are landforms that indicate that the environment around Wathayn has markedly changed over the last few thousand years. Craig’s lines of auger holes point to one and perhaps two former shorelines, marked by low gravelly and sandy ridges, much like those found at Red Beach, on the northern shore of the Mission River, today. The innermost shoreline may even have been a low sea cliff cut into the bauxite when sea level was 1-2 meters higher than present, around 7,000 years ago. Two lines of shell mounds sit atop these geomorphic features, suggesting people were attracted to them in the past. Since then the shoreline has prograded as the estuary filled with fine grained sediments, and saltmarsh and mangroves now separate people from the open marine environment favoured by Anadara in this region. While we await confirmation of the temporal pattern of mound construction through radiocarbon dating of the charcoal and shell samples collected from the mounds, it appears that past sea level change and shoreline evolution have played a key role in determining people’s access to resources, i.e. the Anadara that ended up in the shell mounds at Wathayn.
We finished up at Wathayn with a visit from students and teachers from Western Cape College. They listened attentively while Justin, Auntie Beatrice, Simon and I waxed lyrical about Wathayn and the story that was unfolding, particularly about the environmental change over the past few thousand years. Next time they go to Red Beach, they may see it with a changed perspective!
Then back to the Community Relations building for a BBQ lunch with our Traditional Owner hosts to thank them for allowing us to work in their country. We’d also like to thank all the staff at Riotinto, especially the Community Relations people who have put up with us invading their offices for the past three weeks – life will be more peaceful here next week!
Final cleaning and packing away of equipment, checking of data files, saving and backing up the backups, labels on boxes of samples to be uplifted when we’ve left….and we’re done….till next time!!
See you all next year!!
Trish Fanning, co-director, WARPPED
9th September, 2011
They are everywhere!
In the air, in the trees, on the ground, under leaves, under rocks, in bedrooms…even in the bathrooms!
They can bite and sting you and some can kill you; some of the bigger little-critters can even eat you.
They have lots of legs, some have wings, some are hairy, some are slimy, some are scaly and some have all these attributes!
I have encountered some dead ones and lots of live ones.
Here is a run down of my top 10 little critter encounters (In no particular order)
1 ) The most exciting dead little-critter was a dark bluish grey slimy one that had recently been run over close to where we have been working, This little-critter could kill you (if his guts weren’t hanging out)
Death Factor: 5/5 Cute Factor: 2/5 Gross Factor: 3/5 Annoyance Factor: 3/5
2 ) My next in the top ten little-critters that I have meet was fat (for a critter) slimy and alive. He was hiding in my gear tent one morning; out he hopped in search of breakfast or to be breakfast (But what ever eats this little-critter will be killed by his toxic slime) I hear that some people have been known to lick there backs for fun?
Death Factor: 3/5 Cute Factor: 1/5 Gross Factor: 4/5 Annoyance Factor: 3/5
3 ) Ants with green bums, they might sound like something from a Pixar movie but these little nasties make nests in trees, and then fall out in the wind landing on the ground, they climb onto you, then bite (sort of like a pin prick) they go for places that cause most pain; like groins and behind my right ear.
There must be about one zillion of these little-critters every square meter around here. Not as bad as the bull ant apparently, they are known as meat eaters.
Death Factor: 1/5 Cute Factor: 4/5 Gross Factor: 3/5 Annoyance Factor: 5/5
4 ) The unseen menace that can bite you without pain or discomfort and I think it attacks in the night in my room. How do I know its a little critter and not a big critter? I still have my limbs and there is the odd red lumpy thing, I guess they could be spiders, but as yet I have not seen who is doing the night damage.
Death Factor: 1/5 Cute Factor: 1/5 Gross Factor: 4/5 Annoyance Factor: 3/5
5 ) Cockroaches the size of small rodents that can move not only devour food scraps but also open your fridge and empty its contents.
Death Factor: 1/5 Cute Factor: 1/5 Gross Factor: 3/5 Annoyance Factor: 4/5
6 ) A large (about 2 meters long) brown slimy one. Well I didn’t actually encounter him I only saw evidence that he was getting bigger.
There is so many little critters for him to eat I am sure he sheds his skin on a very regular basis.
Death Factor: 5/5 Cute Factor: 2/5 Gross Factor: 3/5 Annoyance Factor: 2/5
7 ) This sad little-critter lives in my bathroom tap. He plopped one day when I turned the tap on and proceeded to go down the plughole for a swim. I see him every other day and he seems to be a happy wee thing although probably sick of soapy water.
Death Factor: 0/5 Cute Factor: 5/5 Gross Factor: 0/5 Annoyance Factor: 0/5
8 ) To keep my tap dweller company is a colony of pale green geckos that keep the really litter critter population down in the bathroom.
Death Factor: 0/5 Cute Factor: 4/5 Gross Factor: 1/5 Annoyance Factor: 0/5
9 ) The coolest living critter was a really big green slimy version of the tap dweller, this one also liked to hang out in a toilets (I didn’t know frogs were like that.)
I thought it was an ornamental air freshener until I noticed it pulsing.
Death Factor: 0/5 Cute Factor: 5/5 Gross Factor: 0/5 Annoyance Factor: 0/5
10 ) Finally flying-critters. Some you hear but never see, they fly right past my ears sounding like large bumble bees, but nothing is there as I go screaming into the bush waving my hands around my head. Horse-flies that make circuits of the brim of my hat looking for a landing spot to attack your flesh. There are Dragonflies as big as small birds, very cool, especially considering that they don’t bite.
And there are a million other unidentified flying-critters that constantly harass and attack you when ever you feel that you might start to enjoy the bush.
Death Factor: 0/5 Cute Factor: 2/5 Gross Factor: 3/5 Annoyance Factor: 5/5
I finished my task of laser-scanning shell mounds today and celebrated the Weipa way by devouring freshly harvested local shell fish: Blue Bums (tasted/texture a bit like squid) and Mud Clams (like oysters but a bit chewy) both very nice and cooked in a fire.
Well this is my second tour of duty in this very hot little-critter infested land, I hope to be back again next year and continue my quest for encounters of more little- critters and maybe enjoy a Blue Bum or two along the way.
90 minutes till download complete ….
At the end of every fieldwork day we have been downloading all the data from the days total station points, E4 CFG files (basically these make a spreadsheet in Microsoft access), the 3D laser scanner, the multiple digital cameras, the DGPS and numerous sample bags. As you can probably guess this is often a very lengthy and involved process, however it is incredibly necessary.
As we are in the last few days now this process is even more involved as we have been checking and re-checking all the data to ensure there have been no errors or omissions in the data. At times this process can be quite intense and everyone has specific jobs. The most time intensive of all the data downloads would have to be the total station download; as we are currently averaging between 200-400 points a day (depending on how many times we have to change stations as our line of site is very blocked by trees). The process of downloading total station data involves copying all the points from the total stations internal memory to a USB stick and then copying them across into ArcGIS. Once at this stage the real work begins, all the points need to be read from our written record in order to associate them with their shell mound by each code point type. A code point is basically a name chosen for each point from a master list that describes what a point is, for example we have been using such codes as trenchupper, elevation section, RC shell, OSL or Scanner target. Once this process is complete we can finally start our backup download, a process also done every day.
Eloise, here in Weipa awaiting the Microsoft download time to just stop jumping and finish already.
Its full speed ahead, all hands on deck and various other maritime clichés during the last week here in Weipa. The organised chaos is proceeding at full steam with everyone well and truly locked into Archaeology mode. Our newest member, Fiona continues to collect samples from the excavated shell mounds to take into the lab in which she will carry out radio carbon dating. This method involves counting the proportions of different carbon isotopes to calculate the date of the object that contains carbon.
Today was rather mild (in North Queensland terms) although there will still episodes of scorching heat where the sun seems to find you wherever you go, something my Scandinavian skin colour doesn’t agree with. Lucky for us we have all the sun protection available to man thanks to our Rio Tinto Partners and we have all escaped sun burn. Once more we had a birthday on site, I myself turned 22 today. Unfortunately I was not treated to a tiara like our friend Eloise but i did have a cracker of a day and may celebrate at the pub with a quiet beer tonight (after work is finished). Also, the girls made me a lovely card on the way back from the field.
For a present I am charged with playing with one of my favourite gadgets tomorrow, the fluxgate gradiometer. This machine detects localised changes in the magnetic field which can correspond to buried archaeological features such as the effect of fire from a hearth. While a very useful archaeological tool the machine does look like it belongs on an episode of star trek.
Bernie the Birthday Boy
This weekend we were fortunate enough to visit another part of the region, an area called Lueang, located across the Mission River. We travelled in two 4×4 Landcruisers to the site, which was a pretty bumpy ride across an unsealed trail. We traversed empty river and stream beds, and took detours around fallen trees. The environment was burnt and ashy, the eucalypts showing signs of burning right up into the canopy, indicating a very hot fire. The purpose of the trip was to gain a better idea of the geomorphology of the region, and to potentially locate a modern analogue for palaeoenvironment sindicated by preliminary auger holes dug at Wathayn. We visited both Bouchet and Red Beach (named after the small red bauxite pisoliths which scatter the beach), and saw Anadara shell cemented into beach rock. These have been sampled for radiocarbon dating.
Another exciting aspect of the trip was to visit some of the sites which Geoff Bailey has previously visited and excavated. As we drove down onto the extensive mudflat, we saw three huge shell mounds, much larger than those we have excavated, located right next to the river. These mounds were at least 5m high, with steep sides and a flattened top. We also saw the bush turkey mound which Bailey, Chappell and Cribb excavated in 1993. This mound was originally excavated to distinguish the cultural features on the landscape from those which we naturally created (for example by storm or wave action, or animal activity). It was great to visit some of these sites, especially as Geoff was with us to explain about the historical context of the excavation and some of the theories of then and now. Sadly we bid adieu to both Geoff and Craig yesterday. So with only four days to go and one day allocated for packing up, there’s still a lot left to do. Sampling, drawing, scanning and collecting data points…but we’re on a roll and the project is looking really good. Until next time…