Brigid Gallagher

Excavations at First Mission Station (1814) and Prehistoric Garden Island - Digging the Dirt

Feb 22, 2012

A very important part of being an archaeologist is to leave the theory books at the desk, and go out into the field.  Whilst grounded in science, archaeology is underpinned by an understanding or a willingness to understand and appreciate culture, society and politics of past human inhabitants.  Archaeological fieldwork and excavation is integral as it provides the raw data for analysis,  but the process itself requires time to gain confidence to dig through the layers, and understand the significance and potential of each layer.  This week and last, Otago and Auckland University students have been out experiencing excavation, for many the first time, with University staff and other archaeological professionals. The two field schools have been investigating two very different historical and cultural landscapes in the North Island – but each equally interesting for different reasons. Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to visit either of these excavations but like anybody else with access to the internet, I have been … Read More

Minimise the Pain! Archaeological field work techniques, Part 2 - Digging the Dirt

Feb 17, 2012

In Part 2 of my crib sheet to help the aches and pains of archaeological fieldwork…                    3.  Hoeing – it is all in the abs! Forget the gym, this is the ultimate abdominal work out.  Whilst hoeing looks as though it is another shoulder and arm action, to get effective hoeing in anything other than sand, its the abs that need to take the brunt of it.  At the end of a good session of hoeing your arms should be aching from your triceps down to the wrist, and the stomach muscles even worse.  The hoe edge should be parallel with the ground, then with a small forceful down ward pressure drag back…clenching the stomach  muscles and triceps to keep the hoe from bouncing up again.  It may only mean a few mm’s are scraped away but the effect should be a clean surface over a larger area very soon.  Working … Read More

Minimise the Pain! Archaeological field work techniques, Part 1 - Digging the Dirt

Feb 16, 2012

In December my youngest daughter turned 2. Whilst this is not so extraordinary, for me it feels we are at a major milestone…a point where she is making the transition from my baby, to my little girl.  She suddenly says everything at full volume, punctuates her feelings with a very big, growly ‘NOOOO’ and when you try to help her she responds ‘me do it’, with the hint of a whine. She also loves her time at day care, has a best friend to whose house she is quite happy to play at without mum or dad, and at least knows what the toilet is, and what she ‘should’ be doing on it. So while she is quite happy to be racing ahead into the next big adventure in her young life, its also forcing me into the next phase … Read More

Victoria Park Tunnel Pistol found Not Guilty - Digging the Dirt

Nov 17, 2011

Earlier this year I wrote ‘Criminal minds brings archaeology into mainstream news’ as I was amused by the insight into mainstream media mentality.  The possibility of an unsolved ‘ancient’ murder catapulted the archaeology being conducted as part of the Victoria Park Tunnel development into the NZ Herald, rather than the story of Auckland’s early occupants being the driving force. The double triggered pistol found in the bottom of a well, with the appearance of 1 trigger depressed, made national news.  This single piece of evidence was enough to turn the tide of media interest in archaeology; with the news reporters imagination being ignited by the prospect of an unsolved crime….and perhaps, danger! In the NZ Herald it was stated by one of the archaeologists involved, Dr Sarah Phear, that the pistol had been sent to a conservator for … Read More

The Self Preservation of Grass - Digging the Dirt

Nov 04, 2011

  The sun is hot outside, the cicadas are buzzing, the next door neighbour is mowing their lawn, the beginning of summer is here….              You step outside your house into the noise and heat of the day, and…. Mmmm…. that lovely smell of newly cut grass. Its fresh, green and very inviting. But the same cannot be said for the small, generally unseen members of our gardens. While we might love the smell of fresh cut grass;  insects and other ground bugs don’t have the same reaction.  This week Gerald Smith, Associate Professor at Victoria Universities Chemistry Department and Heritage Materials Science programme presented a paper to members of the New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Materials conference at the Carter Observatory in Wellington. Smith and a team of chemists and heritage professionals, including weaving and fibre expert Rangi … Read More

GeoCities site to be excavated as the ‘Digital Pompeii’ - Digging the Dirt

Oct 02, 2011

[vimeo][/vimeo] If you are you are anything like me and you cannot bear to throw anything away from your inbox…this might be the excuse you are looking for.  The now defunct GeoCities platform has been revisualised as a city map with neighbourhoods and property sites.  35 million people used GeoCities from 1999 to Oct 27 2009, and on that date the Archive Team backed up 650 gigabyte of information. And now at a team is creating an installation they are describing as “digital archaeology of the world wide web as it exploded into the 21st century”. In full view, the map is a datavisualisation showing the relative sizes of the different neighbourhoods.  While zooming in, more and more detail becomes visible, eventually showing invididual html pages and the images they contain. While browsing, nearby MIDI files are played.  The Deleted City project is … Read More

Loss of Earthquake Insurance for Heritage – SIGH! - Digging the Dirt

Sep 30, 2011

The incredibly useful and interesting eNews from NZ Archaeology’s Garry Law was in my inbox this morning when I ‘turned on’.  Top of the list is the article; Biggest Insurer of Church and Heritage site ends Earthquake Cover.  It is a New Zealand Herald report from this morning, see here I am thinking ‘SIGH’. I am not going to say much. From a business sense I can hear what the insurers are saying.  There is a lot of money in repairs and loss, especially churches and heritage, in unstable geographic areas. My biggest ‘SIGH’ is reserved yet again for the Heralds portrayal of Gerry Brownlee, and his short sightedness and apparent inability to effectively communicate or negotiate, again. The source of my massive expellation (is that a word?), Several days ago, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee accused the … Read More

Christchurch Heritage in the Media Again - Digging the Dirt

Sep 27, 2011

 Christchurch heritage is once again in the news with a number of articles published vocalising concern for the current regime of heritage building treatment and demolition.  Unfortunately it sounds all too familiar with the same debates, criticisms and problems as the first time round, voiced in the weeks after the February earthquake by professionals and advocates alike;  The speed of destruction, the lack of care given to heritage fabric during demolition, and poor long term strategies. The Press, based in Christchurch, has been the loudest voice with 3 articles in the last week, recording dismay and anger at the rate and reasons for destruction, the apparent ineffectiveness of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT), and lessons from overseas experience. One can only guess at the reason for this new burst of media awareness, but having listened … Read More

Recently appointed Archaeology Curator, Dr Louise Furey, gives the facts on New Zealand prehistory - Digging the Dirt

Sep 21, 2011

It makes a huge difference when listening to a radio broadcast if the person being interviewed sounds as though they know what they are talking about, and can communicate their thoughts across in a calm, clear and knowledgeable way. This Sunday’s interview of Dr Louise Furey, the recently appointed Curator of Archaeology at the Auckland Museum is a great example of this.  Played on the Graeme Hill show, Radio Live, the interview was varied, fascinating and a great advertisement of New Zealand national identity. Throughout the interview Louise displayed both humour, gravitas and at times moderation. Her evident high regard for New Zealand Archaeology and Maori prehistory was inspiring. For those who have read Digging the Dirt previously, Louise was the archaeologist on the Marae DIY episode which saw the restoration of Ongarahu Pa in Western Bay of … Read More

Happy Birthday Otzi - Digging the Dirt

Sep 19, 2011

Latest reconstruction of Otzi for the Otzi 20 exhibition 20 years ago today the mummified remains of a man, nicknamed Otzi, was discovered by hikers in the Italian Alps. This find has to be mentioned because it is simply fantastic and quite unique so far, and has led to many many archaeological scientists and preservation experts coming together to understand the life and culture of this one man, who lived 5,000 years ago. The days following Sept 19 1991 are also one of those periods in time that made an impact on me as a 17 year old New Zealander studying hard at Papatoetoe High School, thinking about the future, post school education… and an ancient human being discovered on the other side of the world, outside all parameters of time that the 6th form was studying that year. It … Read More