Having completed my Masters in Maritime Archaeology at Flinders in 2009, I began as a PhD candidate for the Deep History of Sea Country project in March of this year. In between, I’ve been working in cultural heritage management in my home country of Canada, with occasional forays into research-based digs in Europe. My particular interest is to study the formation, degradation, and erosion of archaeological features that have been subjected to one or more episodes of sea-level transgression. Understanding the effects of these phenomena will help allow us to identify archaeological features during underwater investigations in Australia.
I am in Denmark to help excavate a transgressed shell midden on the island of Hjarnø, and to study whether analyses of associated lithic materials could aid in that interpretation. Denmark is known for its approximately 500 shell middens from the Mesolithic period, and about the same number from the Neolithic. During the week prior to our excavation I visited some of the documented shell midden sites throughout Jutland in an attempt to get an idea of how these massive archaeological features might react to transgression. Of course, I also found time to visit the incredible Moesgaard Museum, for a side trip to Silkeborg to view the famous Tollund Man, and to visit numerous ship burials. There is so much amazing archaeology in Denmark, and a great place to study shell middens!
My time on Hjarnø has included many tasks. In addition to the excavation of a transgressed shell midden, I’ve been involved with using sidescan sonar for identifying underwater sediments and geology, collecting core samples for more detailed sediment assessment, the seemingly endless collection of photos for building photogrammetry models, geological observations of eroding cliff faces, and archaeological surveys of beach areas.
We’re going to finish our work on Hjarnø in the next few days, but look forward to our return next year. I’ve decided to stay in Denmark for an extra week though in order to immerse myself in the archaeological library at Mosegaard Museum. Our colleagues at Moesgaard have also invited me to participate in the excavation of a submerged log-boat, dated to around the same time period as the formation of many of the shell middens I’ve been studying.