From left to right: students Delphine Edwards and Hannah Kelly, and archaeology lecturer Susan Lupack. Image by Adela Sobotkova, under CC-BY-SA 2013.

Notes from the Field!

Mapping the lost mining settlements in the Blue Mountains

Macquarie University students use FAIMS to record historical heritage around the Ruined Castle

Ruined Castle, 27 April 2018: It is fall break at Macquarie University. Some students choose to rest or study for exams, others have chosen to spend a week wading through the ferns in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area in search of the remains of a 19th century shale mining village. Under the direction of Bec Parkes of Lantern Heritage and Shawn Ross of Macquarie University, the team of seven history and archaeology students have been getting up at 6 am to hike down the Golden Staircase and conduct archaeological survey. Once on site, students break up into teams of two and systematically scrutinize the ground looking for modifications on boulders, patterns in collapsed stones, scatters of glass and ceramics that indicate the location of miners’ huts. Dozens of such features are hiding under the dense canopy mere meters of the Ruined Castle treck. Upon discovery students record the location digitally, using Android tablets to capture coordinates from external GPS, and describing feature characteristics, such as materials, dimensions, finds and interpretations. All features are photographed and sketched, keeping all records integrated on the tablet. A flag is left on the ground for the official project photographer. In five days of work, students progress from knowing the word ‘survey’ to recognising and digitally recording over 250 historical features. Negotiating rugged terrain, and climbing the equivalent of 73 flights of stairs each day has been not only a fantastic way to spend the holidays, but a meaningful undertaking that generated an analysis-ready dataset that illustrates the history of industrial settlement in the Blue Mountains.