IT was like an episode of the popular TV series Time Team, except the setting was a site north of Tyrendarra, the time frame was three weeks, not three days, and there was no Tony Robinson madly dashing from trench to trench.
For the past three weeks, a team of archaeology students fromMonashUniversity’s Clayton campus has been busily uncovering artefacts at a Gunditjmara stone home site on the Kurtonitj property between Tyrendarra and Homerton.
Led by Professor Ian McNiven, whose expertise is indigenous archaeology, the team has already made some worthwhile discoveries.
“Just this week we found a flint that had been brought here from the coast, probably before contact with the colonists,” Prof McNiven said.
“This shows considerable interaction between coastal and inland sites. We also found burnt bone fragments in the fire pit, offering insights into their diet.
“The stone house we are investigating is in good shape, indicating it probably dates from the early colonial period of the 1830s/40s.
“Another interesting find was a stash of nails hidden under a floor inside the house. We think the occupants planned to come back for them later, perhaps for trade, but never did. The mystery is why.”
Working closely with traditional owners, Prof McNiven said Gunditjmara historical records showed the house could have used by a family or by indigenous men as a base during their armed struggle against people they saw as invaders.
“It was a very violent time,” he said. “There was a guerrilla war going on.”
Prof McNiven said there is no other place inAustraliawith such a density of indigenous stone homes, all made possible by the abundant lava rocks that cover the district.