Review of ‘Salvage Excavation of Six Sites along Caddies, Seconds Ponds, Smalls and Cattai Creeks in the Rouse Hill Development Area, NSW’ by Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd

01st June 2008

Salvage Excavation of Six Sites along Caddies, Seconds Ponds, Smalls and Cattai Creeks in the Rouse Hill Development Area, NSW by Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd, Australian Archaeological Consultancy Monograph Series 1, Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc., St Lucia, 2005, xxx+488 pp., ISBN 0 9590310 1 4.

Fiona Hook

Archae-aus Pty Ltd, PO Box 177, South Fremantle WA 6162, Australia

The publishing of grey literature has long been a talking point in Australian cultural resource management (CRM) archaeology and this book is the first in the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc.’s (AACAI) Australian Archaeological Consultancy Monograph Series with the aim of ‘providing examples of best practice consultancy reports in archaeology and cultural heritage management’ (p.ii). The volume is a small but heftily edited version of Jo McDonald and Beth White’s (2001) consulting report prepared for the Rouse Hill Infrastructure Consortium. Set out as 13 chapters, the book details the results of the salvage excavation of six sites with the main research aim of investigating landscape and material culture relationships. Additional research aims included relating results to other studies in the Rouse Hill areas as well as the wider Cumberland Plain and investigating technological organisation of specific identified activities such as knapping floors. The excavation programme was the result of a series of surveys and test pitting excavations.

The first three chapters place the project and the Rouse Hill Development Area into context, including a discussion of the Indigenous involvement in the project. Chapters 4 and 5 outline the field, laboratory and analytical methods, as well detailing the rationale behind the flaked stone artefact investigation. While one of the aims of publishing grey literature is to provide the wider archaeological public with the results of CRM projects, Chapters 1 to 5 provide both students and CRM practitioners with examples of why and how such analyses are conducted in the first place. The lack of discussion concerning the design of the testing phase prior to detailed open area excavation is disappointing. A section on the design of the testing phase was included in the original report as part of Appendix 5, but no appendices are included in the published form.

The results of the excavation programme for each site are presented in Chapters 7 to 11. These chapters detail the soils and stratigraphy within each excavation. In all sites the only cultural material recovered were flaked stone artefacts, hence the heavy emphasis on technological analysis. The recovered artefact assemblage was analysed in terms of raw material and reduction technology. I was surprised at the lack of detailed, scaled technical plans for the excavations. Site plans do not show topography, nor is it shown how the stratigraphy of the more complex sites relates to topography, nor how topography relates to artefact distribution.

The excavated artefact assemblages are then discussed collectively in terms of: artefact densities and landscape, raw material uses and inter- and intra-site spatial patterning, technological strategies, and settlement organisation. The final chapter discusses the results of the excavations in relation to the wider Eastern Sydney region. The project results fit within the temporal, spatial and technological aspects of the Eastern Sydney regional sequence and allow the reader to fully comprehend the depth of research conducted at Rouse Hill.

While I understand the cost imperatives involved in reducing a large A4 technical report into a B5 book, the size of the text and illustrations is sometimes frustratingly small. Particularly difficult are the black and white graphs. Either size reduction or the conversion from colour or greyscale to black and white makes many graphs impossible to read (see for example Figure 0.6). However, many of these issues are mitigated by the availability of the monograph as a free downloadable file on the AACAI website (www.aacai.com.au). It is also problematic that the appendices have not been included, presumably for reasons of space, since they are referred to in the text. Notwithstanding these small matters, this book provides a long-awaited example of detailed research focussed CRM project, and should become standard reading for CRM practitioners and students.

Fiona Hook
Review of ‘Salvage Excavation of Six Sites along Caddies, Seconds Ponds, Smalls and Cattai Creeks in the Rouse Hill Development Area, NSW’ by Jo McDonald Cultural Heritage Management Pty Ltd
June 2008
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