Rounding out the 2013 field season


29 November 2013

The archaeology team recently completed the 2013 field season at the Q station. Aided by survey documentation made by archaeologist Wendy Thorpe in 1983, the team spent several months recording inscriptions at five sites around the Wharf precinct of Spring Cove. The work involved relocating hundreds of historic inscriptions and thoroughly documenting their current condition. This process involved several different techniques. To begin with we made extensive notes about each of the inscriptions we located. This includes, for example, a description of the inscription’s content, such as names and dates. We also identified how we think the inscription was made, as well as certain stylistic features such as whether the inscription has a border, or includes a motif like a flag. In time this level of detail will allow us to distinguish if there are patterns in the inscription assemblage that tell us more about why they were made and what their makers sought to communicate. Already we have begun to see that there were certain conventions in the kind of information people chose to convey as well as consistencies in the way that information was composed.

new inscription

Another important recording technique we applied was to sketch the inscription that we saw before us. This often surprised people who have visited us on site, because drawing is often considered to be a personal and subjective skill. We have found that drawing the inscriptions ensures that we take the time to look closely at each inscription. Also by recreating the inscription in pencil and paper with our own hands, we have the opportunity to think about different facets of the inscription such as which marks may have come first, how the size of the letters may change and whether the inscription goes with or against the ‘grain’ of the rock itself. This sort of detail is often overlooked if you only take a photograph. However photography remains an important tool at our disposal and with the benefit of a modern digital SLR camera we have already taken several thousand high-resolution photographs.

tree inscription

One of the most notable aspects of the engravings is how they appear to change according to the angle of the sunlight, at different times of day. In the morning some inscriptions may be very visible, whereas others are particularly clear in the late afternoon. Spending several months on site has allowed us to capture each of the inscriptions ‘in their best light’. In our next field season we will also be taking photographs under the low light conditions of early evening and experimenting with other photography-based techniques, such as polynomial texture mapping (PTM).

The other tools we use in recording the inscriptions include digital photography with a scale, detailed mapping using a variety of equipment such as GPS and total station. We have also commenced using a 3D laser scanner to record some of the inscriptions and the context of their sandstone surfaces.

All in all it has been a successful first field year with the team rerecording over 400 inscriptions and locating several inscriptions that have not been documented previously. These include a number of carvings made into the trees that line Quarantine Beach.