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… the glass parasol consists of those impalpable barriers that prevent qualified women from advancing to upper-level positions and relate to gender ideologists of appropriate behaviours and gender roles enacted in activity patterns, social relations and behaviours in specific cultural settings.

We are all shaped by perceptions and stereotypes, as well as our own experience, and these can make life as a professional woman quite difficult. However, my personal experience has been that women archaeologists can have a varied, fascinating and highly satisfying career, even if we do not all become Landmark Women. Thank you. [applause]

QUESTION: I actually work here as a host in the Museum and I come from Saffron Walden so I had to be here today to listen to you talk about that. We have some objects in the national collection that are on display in the Landmarks gallery that were donated by the Saffron Walden Museum and they are Aboriginal artefacts. It says who they were collected by and taken over to the UK and have then been returned. I wondered if you knew anything about that process, whether that happened while you were there or?

MARY-JANE: There was an extensive ethnographic collection, some of which had been put there in the nineteenth century. Sue Davies and I actually went to Buckingham Palace to collect some others because the Royal Family have so many artefacts that they want to get rid of them and they pass them out in various places. I don’t remember any Aboriginal artefacts, but it wasn’t my major area of interest at that time. Sue was the ethnographer and anthropologist. I imagine that, since then, people have been through the collections much more carefully and the material has then been returned to Australia, as it should be.

QUESTION: When you were in the area in Cornwall where the rocks rained down on you because the workmen didn’t know you were there, were those buildings underground or had they had been roofed in some other way? It wasn’t clear to me.

MARY-JANE: No, the houses themselves were above ground. There were sensitive stone walls. They would have been roofed with timbers and thatch. The only underground structure was this long passage. We are not sure what was going on there. Souterrains have been found on a number of sites in Cornwall, throughout Ireland and a few in Scotland. They may have been used for storage. Some people thought they were refuges at times of attack or danger. None of the material that we got from that excavation answered the question of exactly what they were for - but certainly storage. Because the temperature is cold, they would have been very good for keeping food fresh.

QUESTION: I was visiting PNG a year before independence and I went to Port Moresby, Lae, down the Sepik River and up into the Highlands and at that stage there was quite a trade in artificial artefacts, if you know what I mean. I think the government clamped down on it later. What I was interested in is how are they preserving their heritage? Have they got a national museum?

MARY-JANE: Indeed they have the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Gallery in Port Moresby and in fact Brian Egloff, who is over there, was one of the first people to establish the national museum in Port Moresby. There was a very small museum when I first went there, but there is now an extensive museum. It’s difficult to find the staff and the qualified people to look after materials. They have very good collections. I have to say that I still have my collections from Nombe and at the moment I am not sending them back to Papua New Guinea. There are problems in finding enough staff to keep the standards of that very beautiful museum up, but there are lots of people trying to do that.

QUESTION: I think Mary-Jane is looking with trepidation on this because I had the fortune to be one of her students in one of the final courses that she taught. I have been enthralled as always - your lectures remain a landmark.

MARY-JANE: Thank you.

QUESTION: I just wondered whether you would like to talk a little bit about some of the recent analyses and perhaps collaborative work that I understand you have been doing with animal bone deposits here in Australia as well as the more recent analyses of your PNG material.

MARY-JANE: Thank you for that, Lorna. Yes, I am continuing to do some research, always with other people these days. There are various new techniques and methods which are always being employed by archaeology. The major thing I want to do is to establish that the stratigraphy that I established - I showed you one of the drawings by Win - and I tried to explain, and we had a lot of C14 dates, can be justified and that more dates can be found, because the radio carbon dates from the 1970s and 1980s are often rather suspect these days. So I need to get material that we can re-date. I am working with Tim Denham particularly to try to make sure that the whole sequence of events that I saw happening from 30,000 years ago upwards to the present is something that really is real and that the dating can be qualified and justified. If it’s wrong, that’s fine; I need to change my ideas; but we need to be able to say whether that was correct or not. [applause]

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Date published: 06 June 2014

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