Under the Boards: The Study of Archaeological Site Formation Processes at the Commissariat Store Site, Brisbane

01st June 2007

Karen Murphy

BA(Hons), School of Social Science, University of Queensland, October 2003

The study of archaeological site formation processes, although commonly undertaken in prehistoric sites, is only carried out in historical archaeological sites in a limited way. Understanding the processes which formed the archaeological record of a site is an important first step towards developing justifiable inferences about past behaviour and past societies regardless of the age of the site. This thesis identifies and examines the cultural and non-cultural processes that formed the archaeological record at the Commissariat Store, Brisbane, Australia.

The history of the site, from its construction in 1829 as part of the Moreton Bay penal settlement to the present, is examined and the expected impacts and processes on the archaeological record are identified. The archaeological evidence from the salvage excavation of the site undertaken in 1978–1979 is analysed to identify the cultural and non-cultural site formation processes.

This study identified the presence of the cultural formation processes of discard, loss, abandonment and reuse from an examination of the historical and archaeological evidence. Non-cultural formation processes at work in the site include faunal turbation, floral turbation, flooding and aqua turbation. This research also identified deficiencies in Schiffer’s model for identifying and categorising cultural formation processes. The activity of construction of the site’s drainage system did not clearly fit within a single type of formation process. Water as a formation agent is only discussed in the literature as a non-cultural formation process, while at this site water can be seen as a cultural formation process. This thesis demonstrates the value and importance of understanding site formation processes as a firm basis for future interpretation of the archaeology of the Commissariat Store site.

Karen Murphy
Under the Boards: The Study of Archaeological Site Formation Processes at the Commissariat Store Site, Brisbane
June 2007
Thesis Abstracts
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