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Geophysical and archaeological investigations of Baker’s Flat, a nineteenth century historic Irish site in South Australia

  • Kelsey M. LoweEmail author
  • Susan Arthure
  • Lynley A. Wallis
  • Josh Feinberg
Original Paper

Abstract

The Irish settlement of Baker’s Flat, located in the rural heart of South Australia near the town of Kapunda, was occupied from the mid-nineteenth century for about 90 years. Although little archaeological work has been carried out in Australia specifically on Irish communities, Baker’s Flat is of particular interest because it potentially operated as a traditional Irish clachan, an informal clustering of farm dwellings and outbuildings, and home in this instance to the Irish immigrants who worked in the nearby copper mine. The site was cleared for farming purposes in the 1950s, and little recordation of the dwellings and settlement exist today, aside from a single 1890s map. Owing to the demolition and landscape modification, it was unclear whether any intact subsurface deposits still existed. Therefore, this site was ideal for deploying two geophysical methods, ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and magnetic gradiometry, to assess the presence of subsurface remains and explore the spatial layout of the site. Our results, when compared with those obtained from surface surveys and targeted archaeological excavation, revealed numerous subsurface features and helped to confirm that Baker’s Flat was built in the style of a traditional Irish clachan. This study also demonstrated that magnetic gradiometer was the better geophysical method for mapping this settlement as the nature of the geology (shallow bedrock) and construction of the houses (built within the bedrock) limited the utility of GPR.

Keywords

Australia historical archaeology Baker’s Flat Historic Irish site Magnetic gradiometry GPR 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Jordan Ralph and Simon O’Reilley for their assistance with the geophysical surveys—their help allowed us to complete the survey within the allocated timeframe. Dale Hampel generously provided access to the land. Rob Koch provided surveying support. Our thanks also to the Kapunda community for ongoing support, and especially Peter and Jenny Swann, Fr Mark Sexton and Andrew Philpott. A Flinders University staff and student field crew participated in the 2016 and 2017 excavations, and were integral to successful completion of the fieldwork, with special thanks to Heather Burke, Cherrie De Leiuen, Bob Stone and Meg Haas. Susan Arthure’s research is supported through an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social ScienceThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.College of Humanities, Arts and Social SciencesFlinders UniversityBedford ParkAustralia
  3. 3.Nulungu Research InstituteUniversity of Notre Dame AustraliaBroomeAustralia
  4. 4.Wallis Heritage ConsultingBrightonAustralia
  5. 5.Institute for Rock Magnetism, Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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