Archaeological artificial sites (Issue 40, 2010

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Students and staff at the artificial site

Archaeology students at La Trobe University will soon be stepping back in time without having to leave the campus, with a simulated dig held right on the Melbourne Campus grounds of La Trobe University. Third year students will have the opportunity to get hands on experience excavating an artificial site.


‘The students will learn essential excavation, recording, analytical and report-writing techniques,’ says course coordinator, David Thomas. ‘They’ll get to try everything from sticking a trowel in the ground to attempting to make sense of what they dig up’.

The project – known as a TARDIS (Teaching Archaeological Research Discipline In Simulation) will function with replicas from several periods throughout human civilisation, which are buried in layers for students to uncover methodically. The project is a collaborative effort, which has seen numerous La Trobe staff and postgraduates contribute by each creating a different layer reflecting their expertise. The concept builds on the original idea devised at the University of Queensland, and is in its second year at La Trobe, after beginning in 2009 under the instruction of Professor David Frankel.

‘Last year, students started excavating a Colonial Australia layer. As that phase of the site nears completion, we’ll start exposing a Mayan Mesoamerica layer. In the future, students will have the opportunity to explore Bronze Age Cyprus, Neolithic China, and prehistoric layers from Jordan, Australia and Africa,’ David Thomas explains.

The simulated dig will help give students the skills and experience they will need when they go into the field, either in the world of contract archaeology, or as fourth year Honours students at La Trobe, excavating at Ned’s Corner, 100km west of Mildura.

The digs will take place over two weekends, on 4-5 and 11-12 September. A blog will be updated regularly with images and accounts of the students’ experiences.