Obituary: Betty Ross

23rd January 2014

Denise Gaughwin and Mike Smith

Obituary: Betty Ross

Betty Ross (BA[Hons] ANU 1977) died in September 1994 at age 46 after a long illness.

Betty’s interest in prehistory began sometime in the late 1960s. From 1970–73 she worked at weekends as a volunteer draftsman on the Roonka excavations, run by the South Australian Museum, and some of the fine, detailed drawings of the prehistoric burials are her work. By 1971 she sported the distinctive side-tresses and independent view of events that quickly became her trademarks. The work at Roonka inspired Bet to undertake a degree in Prehistory at The Australian National University, one of a small group of South Australians who made that journey to follow their vocation. She went on to dig with Sandor Gallus at Koonalda Cave (1974), Dick Gould at the James Range East site in Central Australia (1974), John Beaton at Cathedral Cave in the central Queensland highlands (1975) and with Jim O’Connell in Central Australia (1975). Her BA Honours thesis in 1977 concerned the taphonomy of agile wallaby remains at Motupore and Collingwood Bay, Papua New Guinea. She will be remembered for her enthusiasm for the subject, her strong interest in bone taphonomy, and those freezing winter journeys in her Mini-Moke. During her time at ANU she developed a talent for stone artefact drawing, some examples of which grace Brim Hayden’s Palaeolithic Reflections. After graduating, Betty worked in the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology, The University of New England, before returning to her home state, South Australia, where she worked as a consultant archaeologist for ten years. She moved to Hobart in 1989 and for a while continued to work as a consultant. As her illness progressed she became less active in archaeology and took up swimming to ease her suffering. She was proud to show her bronze medal won at the 1994 State Masters’ Championships. This determination was the hallmark of Betty, a woman who felt strongly about her work and her ideas and was willing to argue her position well into the night. Vale Bet.

Gaughwin, D. and M. Smith
Obituary: Betty Ross
December 1994
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