The relationship between spatial patterns and people’s behaviour at Zagora

by Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum web producer

Kristen Mann surveys her trench

Kristen Mann at Zagora in 2013. © PHM; photo by Irma Havlicek


Kristen Mann was Trench Supervisor of Excavation Area 4 in 2013 and will be again this year. Kristen is doing PhD research, the main thrust of which relates to ‘spatial patterning of behaviour’ – that is, how the layout of buildings, rooms, spaces in and between buildings, pathways, communal spaces, etc. influences people’s behaviour.

Kristen is interrogating the layout and configuration of spaces at Zagora to try to understand how people lived there three thousand years ago, and to determine how archaeologists may be able to interpret behaviour from household arrangements.

Kristen is interested in access and use of space, and how people moved through and around the buildings and the settlement.

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A great team: Adela Sobotkova and Petra Janouchova

As a follow up to the post about satellite remote sensing, I thought I’d add a post about Adela and Petra’s respective paths (qualifications and experience) which led to their remote sensing work. This post is derived from the interview I conducted with Adela and Petra at Batsi in October 2013.

Adela Sobotkova on the pathway, pointing towards Zagora

Adela Sobotkova on the pathway, pointing towards Zagora. Photo by Petra Janouchova

Adela: I took Remote Sensing classes at University. I learned how to use the ERDAS Imagine software, and then I have practised a lot. It takes about one semester to learn to work with the software, and to grasp the basic physics and optics of how it works.

My training is in Archaeology. The remote sensing is a secondary interest. It’s a hobby and it’s also a technical expertise that I’ve found very useful for my own focus area which is, methodologically, I’m a survey archeologist. My main approach is landscape archaeology. I’m interested in regional study, regional investigations, and any methods that can help me assess large areas quickly and efficiently.

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Satellite remote sensing for the Zagora Archaeological Project

by Irma Havlickova, Powerhouse Museum Web Producer
and Dr Adela Sobotkova, Archaeologist and Satellite Remote Sensing Specialist

Petra Janouchova and Adela Sobotkova working in the Zagora office at Batsi

From left: Petra Janouchova and Dr Adela Sobotkova working in the Zagora office at Batsi in 2013. Photo by Irma Havlicek; © PHM

One of the techniques used during the Zagora Archaeological Project in 2013 was satellite remote sensing. This is the analysis of one or more photographs taken from a satellite to indicate where further exploration is likely to be most productive. In the case of the Zagora Archaeological Project, remote sensing was conducted in a radius of five kilometres around the site of Zagora, to look for evidence of archaeological remains or geological features in the environs of Zagora, further exploration of which may reveal more about the Zagora settlement.

Satellite remote sensing was conducted around Zagora in 2013 by Dr Adela Sobotkova (Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), managing the Zagora remote sensing) and her colleague, Petra Janouchova, (Ancient History PhD student at the Charles University in Prague, and Adela’s assistant).

Satellite remote sensing is a developing field as the quality of both satellite photography and the analysis software improves.

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New processes at Zagora in 2013: flotation of marine debris and seeds

Roza pouring a bag of soil from one of the excavation areas into the first phase of wet sieving

Maria-Roza Beshara pours a bag of sample soil debris from one of the excavated occupation levels into the flotation tank. © PHM; photo by Irma Havlicek

by Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Web Producer

For the first time at Zagora in 2013, soil samples were collected and processed through flotation in order to recover organic remains to find the charred, small, light material which floats to the surface of the water. This process had not been developed 40 years ago when the excavations of the 1960s and 70s took place at Zagora.

Organic plant material such as wood and plants decomposes over time, so such material from the period of the Zagora settlement no longer exists. If it has been burnt and transformed into charcoal, it can survive thousands of years which makes it extremely valuable in providing information about the kinds of plants which occurred at particular locations at different times.

The existence or absence of organic material such as tiny fish bones, shell fragments, seeds and charcoal in occupation deposits can provide evidence of ancient diet and domestic and industrial economy and activities at Zagora. We can also learn about the general environmental conditions in which the Zagoreans lived because organic material can inform us about plants that aren’t exploitable by humans but still throw light on the climatic and other environmental conditions there at that time. Fragments of heavier material such as obsidian, slag and pottery sherds can also be found through this process. If sampling for organic remains had not been undertaken, this information would be permanently lost.

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Another Archaeologist Q&A – Adela Sobotkova

by Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Web Producer

Adela Sobotkova on the pathway, pointing towards Zagora

Adela Sobotkova on the pathway, pointing towards Zagora. Photo by Petra Janouchova

I’ve added a new Q&A by Dr Adela Sobotkova to the Archaeologist Q&As. Adela describes her path from her early interest in archaeology at the age of ten, inspired by the book, ‘Dream of Troy’ by Arnold C. Brackman to her position now as a Research Associate at the University of New South Wales.

Adela touches on the satellite remote sensing work she did at Zagora with her colleague, Petra Janouchova. Her post portrays the hard work but also the great fun that can be had in archaeology.

And congratulations to Adela and her partner, Shawn Ross, on the birth of their baby, Vivienne, in December.

Petra Janouchova – Zagora 2013 volunteer

Trowel tales and true – Petra Janouchova

by Petra Janouchova,
Archaeologist

Petra Janouchova

Petra Janouchova. Photo by Irma Havlicek; © PHM

[Petra Janouchova worked at Zagora during the 2013 season, assisting Adela Sobotkova with satellite remote sensing (about which a post is being developed). Petra kindly agreed to answer my 'Trowel tales and true' questions, to provide a glimpse into her perspective on archaeology.]

Why did you want to work on Zagora?

I used to read about Zagora in my textbooks and it never occurred me that I would be one day able to come and work here. So when Adela (Dr Adela Sobotkova, from the University of New South Wales) asked me to come with her to do the Remote Sensing project at Zagora in 2013, I didn’t hesitate for a second.

I think that the site is amazing and and there is still so much to reveal in the future. It has enormous potential and I am lucky to be part of it at least for a short period.

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Archaeological activities for children in Sydney

Artefacts found during the Fort Phillip excavationsby Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Web Producer

If you’re in Sydney and wondering what to do with the children in your care these school holidays, why not give them an opportunity to explore an archaeologically themed activity? There are great programs these holidays at Sydney Observatory and the Nicholson Museum. The objects pictured at right were excavated from Fort Phillip at Sydney Observatory.

Sydney Observatory

Children's archaeology program at Sydney ObservatorySydney Observatory (up on Observatory Hill in Millers Point, just above The Rocks in Sydney) offers not only astronomy and meteorological exhibits and programs but also popular hands-on archaeological activities, linked to the archaeological work undertaken in recent years at Fort Phillip, within Sydney Observatory grounds. The excavations revealed substantial, intact foundations of the Fort (built in 1804-1806) and its bomb-proof chamber.

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New Archaeologist Q&A – Archondia Thanos

by Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Web Producer

Dr Archondia Thanos

Dr Archondia Thanos

Check out the entry of Dr Archondia Thanos, Honorary Research Associate and Lecturer at the University of Sydney in our Archaeology Q&As, giving her perspective of archaeology as a career.

Here’s a glimpse:

“Archaeology examines all aspects of the human condition. That is why it appeals to so many people. It allows us to understand the human journey through time, what has brought us to this particular point of our story as entities of the world and where we may end up hundreds of years from now. It is a great teacher. The future always seems to have happened before to some degree.”

Archaeology and the Powerhouse Museum – an ancient association

Archaeology display at the Powerhouse Museum

Archaeology display at the Powerhouse Museum, outside the Coles Theatre (between levels 1 and 2 of the Museum), from October 2013. End date not set. Photo by Irma Havlicek; © PHM

Archaeology and museums both rely on objects (also known as artefacts or examples of material culture) to understand people and societies better. By examining and researching material culture, we enrich human knowledge about people, cultures, societies and history. We can learn about societal and technological developments and use this knowledge to help more wisely chart our own course into the future.

Powerhouse Museum curator and archaeologist, Paul Donnelly (and my Powerhouse parter in the Zagora Archaeological Project), arranged for a display (pictured at right) at the Powerhouse Museum to introduce visitors to the Zagora project and to raise awareness about the particularly close association of the Powerhouse with archaeology.

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Damien Stone – Zagora 2013 volunteer

Trowel tales and true – Damien Stone

by Damien Stone,
Archaeologist

Damien Stone at Zagora in 2013

Damien Stone at Zagora in 2013. Photo by Irma Havlicek; © PHM

Having finished my undergraduate degree in Archaeology earlier this year, I thought it was about time I went on my first excavation. With keenness I purchased my first trowel, affectionately naming it Enkidu (after the protagonist’s friend of the Gilgamesh Epic), and applied for the Zagora excavation.

Previous to this, being a volunteer with the conservation and collection management team at Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum, I have been blessed with the opportunity to have handled artefacts from various civilisations, though these have all long been removed from their original context.

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