I’m going to try and cram a lot in today because I’ve been procrastinating and need to make up for that, both on the blog and in study.
What have I been up to? Well I got my reports done for both Sydney and Maritime classes. The last one was horrible to do, though easier than the Sydney report. I guess the Sydney report was more intensive since for the Sydney report I’d picked a church site that had a rectory, stables, cemetery and school associated with it, and for the Maritime report I picked a pool. There was less to do, and the information I found on trove was more relevent, probably because typing in ‘Campbelltown + chapel’ gets you a tonne of irrelevence and ‘Bronte + Baths’ gets you what you want. In any case, I definitely feel like I gained some researching skills from doing these assignments, though I think I’ll probably lose points on the Maritime report when he realises I didn’t even visit the site in person.
I know! I know! Terrible. I wanted to. I even asked for an extension so that I could. And then I had the panic attacks and it all unravelled from there. But it got done, so there’s that.
Since then I’ve mainly been trying to catch up on all the reading that I hadn’t gotten done thanks to my badly-organised report writing. I’m trying to get it all done as quickly as I can, partly because I have exams in two weeks and not a lot of free days I can use to study (more on that later), and partly because I finally got back into playing Skyrim and I want to kill necromancers and level up my Nord Warrior who I regret naming Kristina because Skaadi is way cooler.
Anyway, I digress. This week’s catch-up has been (amazingly) focusing on readings I was meant to do recently. I have a clear conscience for having not gotten the readings done last week when I was meant to because I was sick with the Worst Cold Ever, and so was my lecturer (seriously, I thought I had meningitis). So classes got cancelled and I got a free pass to play Skyrim all week.
The readings this have been really fascinating for me, especially because they were both written by the lecturer himself (Martin Gibbs, if I haven’t mentioned that). His way of communicating matches perfectly with mine so for once in my damn life I find I have a lecturer I can actually listen to AND read along with and not want to stab chopsticks into my eyes or ears.
The first was Behavioual Models of Crisis Response as a Tool for Archaeological Interpretation (that’s a link to a Wiley Online Library source so you’ll need a way to log in). The gist of the article is clear in the name. It’s a study of the psychological progression of crisis management and how that is expressed archaeologically, and he uses the Batavia as his examples throughout.
I feel terrible saying this as an Australian, but I didn’t know much at all about the Batavia. I’m blaming the education system, since if I’d had even an inkling of the story as a child I would have been all over it like a rash. Basically a Dutch East India Trading Company ship is sailing in the Indian Ocean, mistakes waves washing over shoals to be moonlight reflecting off the ocean surface and smashes into rocks and reef 60km off WA. Most people survive the wreck (about 250) and end up on Beacon Island. After a few days of crap hunting the Captain and Senior Officers get into one of the rescue boats and sail three thousand kilometres to Jakarta. In an open boat. Balls of steel, right there.
When they get back to Beacon Island, they find that the junior officers they’d left in charge had been somewhat pessimistic (some would say realistic) about their rescue chances, and had instituted a form of law that we’ll call “Do Whatever I Say, Now Bend Over and Give Me Your Money As Well.” They stole, raped and murdered their way through the rest of the survivors until there was only 73 people left of the 198 that the officers had left behind. The survivors had been separated into groups and their camps had been divided so that people couldn’t band together to overthrow the officers. All so that they could retake the rescue ship and run away with the gold and silver that the Batavia had been carrying.
That’s Pirates of the Carribbean stuff. It’s pure gold to a kid. Why did I not hear about it until now?
I’d heard of the ship. I’d heard it was wrecked. I even heard something about mutiny, but that’s it.
Come on history teachers, why hide the good stuff?
OK. The second article is slightly less Disney and more academic, but really quite interesting:
The Archaeology of Crisis: Shipwreck Survivor Camps in Australasia (that’s a jstor link for which you will need a log-in). Again, the gist of the article is in the name. It’s pretty fascinating when you look at the different variables that affect the creation of survival camps. Obviously there are physical factors: cliffs, currents, waves, cargo and valuables, the way the ship was wrecked… But you don’t tend to consider the social or psychologial factors: authority systems and how they change or stay stable after a wreck, likelihood of rescue, social bonds such as family or work groups… I’m only part way through this one so I can’t write a good summary for it, but it’s what prompted me to write another blog post (apart from the nagging in my head). It’s already interesting enough that I want to share it with everyone, so click on that link and read it. I especially like that a lot of what Martin writes tends to be general. It’s not country-specific to the point that people from other parts of the world would find it irrelevent. It’s wide enough that anyone doing Maritime archaeology should read it, and contains local examples that make it clearer to Australian archaeologists who are probably familiar with them and can visualise what he’s saying.
And finally, what am I up to this week? Well as I said before, I don’t have a lot of spare days to study in. That’s because this weekend I’ll be doing The Big Dig. The Big Dig is an ongoing excavation at the Youth Hostel in The Rocks, Sydney. As most Australians know, The Rocks was one of the first areas of our country to be colonised (for want of a better word) by Europeans. The First Fleet settled here (among other places) and created a town, then a city, from the bush. The poorest people and convicts lived in The Rocks, but although we think of their poverty as pretty abject, the finds at the Rocks can be astonishing sometimes. Valuable crockery which was clearly new, not passed down for years, luxury items, work tools that show productivity and employment, even education tools for children.
The weekend will involve hands-on archaeology of both the digging and sorting kind, plus museum visits, movies, and pizza. It should be a brilliant experience and I’m already completely freaking out.
I will report on it once I’m back. Ish.