"A place not very much better then Hades": archaeological landscapes of the Cape River gold field, North Queensland

Edgar, John Brian (2014) "A place not very much better then Hades": archaeological landscapes of the Cape River gold field, North Queensland. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

The concept of landscape has a long and continuing use in both academic and colloquial applications, including uses in archaeology. Just as the meaning of landscape has changed in other fields, landscape has taken on a variety of increasingly complex meanings in archaeology. This thesis investigates the current uses of the term landscape in archaeology, and develops a method of archaeological landscape analysis and applies it to an archaeological case study. The thesis asks;

"How does the development of an archaeological landscape contribute to understanding the social phenomenon of the gold rushes, at a nineteenth century gold field?"

This thesis follows the archaeological work of James Delle at pre and post-emancipation Jamaican coffee plantations (Delle 1998). Delle applied Edward Soja's (1989) concepts of space to create spatialities of contestation for his archaeological sites. However, while referencing landscape, Delle did not develop a specific landscape approach. Delle's spatialities are modified here to incorporate the production of three archaeological landscapes for the case study site.

The archaeological landscape is a construct developed for this thesis that integrates data obtained through archaeological methodologies with other, primarily documentary, sources. This information is organised for each landscape into three spaces; cognitive space, material space and social space. The cognitive, material and social spaces are viewed as dialectically related, and their connectivity is examined within a separate over-arching dialectic for each archaeological landscape. Finally, elements of the three archaeological landscapes, and the cognitive, material and social spaces that underpin them, are integrated as an increasingly complex matrix of relationships that reveals the flexibility and holistic nature of archaeological landscape.

The site of research is the relatively unknown and previously un-investigated nineteenth century gold field at Cape River, north Queensland. 164 sites of interest were recorded as a part of this research. Two of the sites, thought to be dwelling sites, with extensive surface scatters were surveyed and excavated. Over 5,000 artefacts were recovered from systematic collection and test excavations. Artefacts from both sites were recorded and analysed separately and a functional typology was applied to organise each assemblage and determine site function.

As a part of the social phenomenon of the gold rushes, Cape River gold field shows that colonial Australian society's approach to new gold finds were tempered in their timing and extent by experiences that were apparent both locally and colonially. Development of the field is viewed as a complex interdependence of the different needs and experience of its participants. Its varied international population and idiosyncratic individuals interacted in a multitude of spaces, wherein the spaces were transformed by activity. From these transformations we are able to deduce some of the meaning about those relationships. Archaeological landscape has shown that as a social phenomenon this gold field can best be characterised as a unique expression of place, in which local expressions of space created a mostly calm and productive gold field that instilled a level of optimism that led to the prospecting and expansion of the regional gold mining industry.

Item ID: 43169
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: archaeological sites; archaeology; archeological sites; archeology; Australia; Cape River; gold fields; gold mining; gold rush; gold rushes; goldfields; landscape; North Queensland; NQ; Pentland
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2016 02:22
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210108 Historical Archaeology (incl Industrial Archaeology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950303 Conserving Collections and Movable Cultural Heritage @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 140
Last 12 Months: 18
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