Thesis abstract ‘Deep Structures: An Examination of Deliberate Watercraft Abandonment in Australia’

19th November 2013

Nathan Richards

PhD, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, Adelaide, September 2002

This thesis is an examination of deliberately discarded watercraft in Australia. It represents a comparative, non-particularist approach that seeks to understand abandoned vessels within a diverse theoretical framework. This view sees the remains of abandoned watercraft as an important component of Australian maritime heritage with the potential to shed light on a number of areas.

A database of over 1500 discarded and demolished watercraft sites, containing over 6000 primary and secondary historical records, and information from archaeological inspections was collated. This data was used to assess degree of correlation between discard activities and economic, social and technological events. The logistics of discard, as reflected in commentaries describing discard procedures, and as seen in the discernible signatures of these events in the archaeological record were observed during the examination and survey of over 120 beached and submerged abandoned watercraft all over Australia. This information was used to illustrate the causal mechanisms between landscape, economic trends, regulatory frameworks and cultural site formation processes associated with harm minimisation, placement assurance, salvage and discard activities.

This combination of historical and archaeological data illustrates that discard events and demolition activities are intimately connected to economic trends, and technological developments throughout the many phases in the life history of a vessel. Additionally, this illustrates that abandoned watercraft are not only a prominent part of the Australian landscape, but also have theoretical consequences for how we see the relationship between the archaeological and historical record.

Richards, N.
Thesis abstract 'Deep Structures: An Examination of Deliberate Watercraft Abandonment in Australia'
Thesis Abstracts
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