Archaeo-Geophysics – Mapping The Magnetic, Resistive and Electromagnetic Past A geophysical study of Indigenous Earth Mounds at Calperum Nature Reserve, South Australia

Author: David Ross

Ross, David, 2019 Archaeo-Geophysics – Mapping The Magnetic, Resistive and Electromagnetic Past A geophysical study of Indigenous Earth Mounds at Calperum Nature Reserve, South Australia , Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Earth mounds are an abundant archaeological site type within the Riverland region of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Within the Riverland region this site type has been understudied compared with the earth mounds of Victoria and New South Wales. This thesis represents the first archaeo-geophysical study of its kind, not only within this region, but Australia wide where there has been little research on cultural mounded features. Those few studies that have been conducted have not gone beyond just identifying the location of the feature.

The main goal of this research is to determine if geophysical techniques can provide information about earth mounds and associated features in order to answer archaeological questions about them and the population that built them. The research is important as the geophysical methodologies presented will guide future geophysical research on earth mounds. It will demonstrate what and how much archaeological information can be derived from each of the geophysical techniques and their respective relative effectiveness’s.

In order to provide some insight into the cultural activity occuring at these sites a section of Hunchee Creek within Calperum Station was chosen to conduct an extensive geophysical research program. Three separate geophysical methods were chosen to non-invasively and non-destructively survey the interior and surrounding subsurface in order to answer archaeological questions. They were resistivity, magnetics and GPR, and each site was topographically surveyed and aerial imagery was acquired by drone and georeferenced to provide a high degree of spatial accuracy.

The detection of buried earth ovens within the mounds and surface scatters of heating elements deflating from the top of the mounds suggest that these site were re-use cooking facilities. Magnetic responses from four suspected earth ovens when compared to two partially uncovered ovens containing clay balls were found to be of similar magnitudes. This would suggest that all mounds earth ovens still buried in situ are composed of the same material. The GPR and resistivity survyes were able to determine the earth mounds lateral, vertical extents and stratigraphy. This information provided an insight into site use size, re-use, and frequency. The geophysics data quadrants were topographically surveyed and combined with other Flinders University students’ archaeological survey data which led to a combined archaeological interpretation methodolgy approach that others conducting similar studies should adopt in the future.

Further geophysical research will be required in the future to see if the trends within this small section of Hunchee Creek are regionally and inter-state consistent.

Keywords: Earth mounds, earth ovens, GPR, ERT, magnetics, Australia, Holocene

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2019
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Mick Morrison