Retracing my steps


It is a few weeks since I last posted, but my archaeological pursuits have been going forward (I’ll get to the title of the post later). In August I was invited to give a talk to a mixed class of years 5 to 7 at Clarendon Primary School, as they were planning a trip to the Naracoorte Caves in South Australia. Rather than try and recall my one semester of palaeontology from 10 years ago I gave an introduction to archaeology. The kids at Clarendon PS are lucky, having a teacher who is interested in archaeology and had already given them some experience excavating and recording the school sandpit. Consequently my presentation went down really well, and also went well into recess time due to the number of questions the students came up with. It was a real thrill giving a talk to such an interested audience, and the questions were all serious and well thought out! Thanks kids!

I have also taken another step forward with the PhD, giving my confirmation seminar on the 1st of this month. I’m still waiting on the feedback, but was really pleased with my presentation. It probably helped that I had stood in for my supervisor at a lecture and seminar just prior to my own seminar: it acted as a good warm up! So with that out of the way, I decided it was time to take a step back from the PhD and get on with another project of some importance to my academic pursuits: getting published. It was time to retrace my steps back to my honours thesis which I completed in 2008.


Rather than just re-write the whole paper I am going to focus on one part of it. The original thesis was an attempt to analyse the development of recording techniques in Australia looking for distinctive styles and the amount of information embedded in the illustration. While the major part of the thesis is concerned with this, it had a couple of flaws that didn’t excite the examiners. Fortunately the other section dealing with the history of section drawings did!  As I have discovered, the process of preparing this for publication isn’t just a matter of dressing it up a bit.

Re-reading something I wrote eight years ago as an undergraduate has made me realise how much my writing and research skills have developed. It has also made me aware of how much more I expect of myself in terms of my writing. So what seemed like a minor revision has turned into a moderately complex research project in its own right. It has, however,  given me the opportunity to delve back into the past and revisit some of the earlier archaeological reports of people like Pitt Rivers and Flinders Petrie. It has also given me the chance to explore the works of archaeologists who had escaped my notice earlier including Lartet and Christy who documented the Cro-Magnon culture in France (1865), and Max Uhle a German archaeologist who excavated the Emeryville shell mound in California (1907).

This task has been made all the more interesting, and much easier through the ongoing digitisation of works that are now in the public domain, including those referred to above. I find it fascinating to be able to browse through the images of the original texts absorbing some of the their character, battling with archaic forms, and having to consciously decide whether I need to read f or ff as s or ss! Where would you find a recent scientific work opening with a line like “Most Serene Grand Duke:” as  Nicolas Steno’s Prodromus does? Steno’s work enunciating some of the principles of geology that still hold true today was written in 1668 and dedicated to his patron, Grand Duke Ferdinand II of Tuscany,

So retracing my steps back to 2008 has actually led me back down the road of deferred signifiers (see my previous post) to the 17th century. It’s now time to turn around and journey back to the future and hopefully, in my next post, report on the completion of my article.



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