My next assignment for my archaeology course has several options; one I mentioned before is garbage or rubbish archaeology, where by looking at rubbish deductions can be made about individuals and the society in which they lived. I did consider doing this assignment but then I had a look at the other two options.
The second option is to discuss three burials and think about how the burial took place, what the archaeology tells us about the society of the individual or the individual themselves, and how different the burials are to modern ways of interring the dead. it sounds a fascinating option, but I think I would go way over the limit of 700 words… I could do 700 words on each burial i chose… which might be Tollund Man, found in a Danish peat bog, …, and maybe the newly discovered skeletal remains of Richard III… and might be a twentieth century murder victim… I could write a whole essay on each!
So, I am settling for the third option, after much thought, and that is to describe a tomb, memorial or battlefield I hope to visit one day; now dozens of things spring to mind on this one too, but I think it will be easier for me to write less on it and keep within my 700 words. I have narrowed my thoughts to two places, the first is The Menin Gate at Ypres, which commemorates the dead of a World War I battle, including Horace Colgate, my mother-in-law’s cousin, who died when he was only 18.
The second site is more controversial, it is the Liffey Falls in Tasmania. My great-great-grandfather went to Tasmania as a business man in the 1830’s and my great-grandfather was born there; however, the European settlers who arrived and colonised the island, displaced in various ways the original Aboriginal people who lived there. Many of the tribes people died through contracting European disease, many died from starvation or being chased from their traditional hunting grounds, the last remaining Aboriginal people were gathered up and sent to a completely different island named Flinders Island by the British authorities, but many, many were killed in the so-called Black War. There are some sickening accounts of what happened between the incomers and the original people of Tasmania but it is a complicated story. Prisoners from Britain were transported there, and they probably didn’t want to be there anyway, the soldiers and prison officers who guarded them had probably been sent there too, and it was a minority of people like my family who went there because they wanted to. My family was Jewish so they were used to persecution as well.
There is no memorial to the Aboriginal people of Tasmania who were wiped out; the conflict started in 1804, and Truganini, the last Aboriginal woman died in 1876, her body was exhumed and her skeleton put on display until 1947, and eventually cremated and scattered on the sea by descendants of Aboriginal peoples. Liffey falls is the site of a massacre of tribal peoples and there is a movement to have a proper memorial erected here. However there is still traditional attitudes held by some white Tasmanians, who resist such a tribute being made… but that’s a whole different story. I would like to visit Liffey Falls, with or without a physical memorial there, and remember the native peoples who were “eradicated” by British incomers.