The section drawing and Australian archaeological practice

22nd April 2013

Jonathan Marshallsay

BArchaeology(Hons), Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, October 2008

Archaeology is centred on the visual. The archaeologist’s research is intrinsically bound to analysis of the visual evidence of past cultures. Therefore it is not surprising that great stress has been placed on the use of the visual as a means of recording archaeology, and of presenting the findings of archaeological research, creating in the process objects of knowledge. These objects are themselves artefacts that can be used to study the material culture of archaeology.

Through the study of section drawings of Australian Indigenous sites, this thesis does just that. It firstly considers the development of stratigraphy from its beginnings as an element of geology to its inclusion as a mainstream practice within archaeology, and secondly, in its application to the context of Australian archaeological practice. Analysis of the components of the drawing is undertaken to identify the encoding and highlighting practices embedded in the production of the illustration. In addition, the relationship between the text and the image is evaluated to discover how information is provided by the two media.

Results not only provide an insight into the ways in which the section drawing is used, but also provide an insight into the way that the construction of knowledge is developed in the context of Indigenous Australian archaeology. Significant to the construction of knowledge is the devaluation of the section drawing over time, especially since 1990. There has been a marked movement to textual presentation of information and as a result the section drawing has become a symbolic entity in the context of the archaeological report. The results suggest that this may be due to changing priorities in Australian research. When research focused on establishing the time depth of Indigenous occupation of Australia the section was of value in visualising this, consequently the illustration carried more information and coding. As research interests have changed, so too has the value of the section drawing.

Jonathon Marshallsay
The section drawing and Australian archaeological practice
June 2010
Thesis Abstracts
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