Click here to see footage of an historical archaeological
excavation at 188 Gilles St, Adelaide Gilles St dig (WMV 6MB)


Historical archaeology is the study of the recent past and usually deals with the archaeology of European societies since the 15th century. In Australia this means it focusses most closely on the last 200 years of European settlement.

Historical archaeologists use archival and other documents (such as diaries, letters, maps, plans, photographs and official records), oral history interviews and archaeological methods to reconstruct what life was like for the many different groups of people who settled Australia. ‘Contact’ sites (places where Indigenous and non-Indigenous activities overlap, such as missions or station camps) are often deemed to be historical sites because they fall within the colonial time period.

The main types of historical archaeological site often reflect the different kinds of industries which have been established, such as mining, pastoralism, agriculture, commerce, whaling, or timber-getting. Ordinary domestic sites and other facets of past human behaviour, such as houses, schools, hospitals or cemeteries, are equally valuable, because they have the potential to tell us about the everyday lives of ordinary people.

Dedicated topics in historical archaeology at Flinders include:

ARCH2203: Australian Historical Artefacts
ARCH2212: Archaeology of Modern Society
ARCH8401: Historical Artefact Analysis
ARCH8806: Historical Archaeology Field School

For more information about studying historical archaeology at Flinders please contact the lecturer in charge, Associate Professor Heather Burke