Charles Seligman Beatrice Blackwood PRM Museum John Hutton Henry Balfour Edward Tylor Augustus Fox

Pitt Rivers Museum Australia collections up to 1945 statistics

1. Colonial status

[article ID:413]

Australia remains part of the Commonwealth. Until 1901 it was ultimately governed directly from the UK with each state having a large amount of control over their affairs. In 1901 the states were federated and became part of the Commonwealth of Australia:

New South Wales [NSW] - first convicts arrived 1788

Northern Territory [NT] - first British settlements 1824

NT Administered from NSW 1825

NT Administered by SA 1863

NT Becomes separate state within Federation - 1911

Queensland - first penal colony 1824

Queensland created and separated from NSW 1859

South Australia [SA] Colony established formally 1842

Tasmania - 1803 becomes penal colony and part of NSW

1825 Tasmania separate from NSW and known as Van Diemen's Land

1856 - renamed Tasmania

Western Australia [WA] - 1826 first convicts

1829 WA first free settlement and whole region declared British

Australia Story website gives a detailed timeline of political arrangements and federation.

2. List countries included in geographical region

[article ID:414]

Australia is a single country / 'continent'. I will therefore review all the States separately.

I have nominally included the Heard and Mcdonald Islands as part of Australia, these were under British control until 1947 when they passed to Australia but there are no objects from them in the collections and therefore the islands are not considered from beyond this point.

3. Total number of objects from geographical region :

[article ID:415]

18,465

Australia therefore forms 10 per cent of the global collection.

4. Total number of objects for geographical region divided into archaeological and ethnographic objects

[article ID:416]

Archaeological: 15,896

Ethnographic: 16,052

ie an enormous majority of Australian objects are not clearly divided between archaeological and ethnographic - 13,483 to be precise (73 per cent of total Australian collections prior to 1945). Items which are clearly archaeological or ethnographic are:

Archaeological: 2,413

Ethnographic: 2,569.

Basically this is due to the fact that such a huge percentage of the total Australian objects are stone tools: 15,810 objects are defined as stone tools or weapons (86 per cent of total Australian collections prior to 1945).

Because such a large percentage of these were collected when archaeology as a discipline was in its infancy it is not clear whether these were obtained in most instances from people who were still using stone tools or from archaeological investigation (or surface finds).

Compared to the global situation, Australia has very many more uncertainly categorised objects and many fewer positive ethnographic or archaeological objects percentagely.

Definitely archaeological - 2,413

Definitely ethnographic - 2,569

Ethnographic or archaeological - 13,483

5. Total number of objects obtained from each State

[article ID:417]

New South Wales - 666 objects , 469 clearly identified as archaeological, 100 as ethnographic, 97 could be either archaeological or ethnographic. 447 are stone tools.

Northern Territory - 685 objects , no artefacts are identified as clearly archaeological, 681 are identified as ethnographic and the remaining 4 as either archaeological or ethnographic. 35 artefacts are defined as stone tools.

Queensland - 636 objects , 1 item is identified as clearly archaeological, 610 are ethnographic, 25 items are either archaoelogical or ethnographic. 53 objects are stone tools

South Australia - 140 objects, no object were defined as clearly archaeological, 134 objects were identified as ethnographic, 6 were defined as not clearly archaeological or ethnographic, 37 objects are stone tools.

Tasmania - 15,026 objects. 1,911 objects are clearly labelled as archaeological, 59 artefacts as ethnographic, the remainder (13,056) could be either. 14,936 objects from Tasmania are classified as stone tools (leaving 90 non-stone tool Tasmanian artefacts a tiny percentage (1%) of the whole)

Victoria - 444 objects. 27 objects are clearly defined as archaeological, 140 as ethnographic. 277 artefacts could be either archaeological or ethnographic. 218 objects are stone tools

Western Australia - 396 objects in total. No objects are defined as archaeological, all are defined as ethnographic . 32 objects are stone tools

Torres Straits Islands - 271 objects in total, 270 are defined as ethnographic, none as archaeological and 1 object could be either.

Unknown State - 276 objects have no regional provenance (ie are blank in the regional field) 327 objects do not have any of the states listed above in the region field [I will use 276 in the statistics]

Note that there is some double counting between the States figures as in some instances some items could have been obtained in one of several states and all the states are listed on the database.

The vast majority of objects from Australia are provenanced to Tasmania (82 per cent of the whole collections prior to 1945). Of these the vast majority are stone tools from the Westlake collection (13033 artefacts, 87 per cent of Tasmanian objects up to 1945, 71 per cent of total Australian collections prior to 1945, 7 per cent of total PRM collections up to 1945). Ernest Westlake is the largest field collector and donor of Australian artefacts to the museum (see below for further information about him).

A very small total number of objects come from South Australia. The reason for this is unclear as Balfour certainly had connections in this area (with, amongst others, Stirling the amateur Director of the South Australian Museum and avid collector of Australiana).

A very high percentage of all objects in our collections from the Torres Straits Islands were received via Haddon (192, 71 per cent of total Torres Straits)

The results between the the rest of Australia and Norther Territory are very striking, this might reflect the fact that the Northern Territory [along with northern Western Australia and perhaps parts of Queensland were the last to be settled by white Europeans and therefore the collecting that was carried out at the end of the nineteenth century was carried out when traditional Aboriginal life was still possible. This is certainly true of the collections of Spencer and Gillen (carried out by 1903, 141 objects in total) etc. They collected in the area which had been settled after the development of the Overland Telegraph lines in the 1870s.

New South Wales and Victoria were the first areas in mainland Australia to be settled by Europeans and this might reflect in the fact that stone tools from these areas are defined more regularly as archaeological. It might also reflect the fact that collections from NSW and Victoria might have been carried out earlier when recording of provenance and the exact circumstances of obtaining the object were less clear.

The definition of archaeological and ethnographic items from Australia raises an interesting 'problem' which is part semantic and part ideological. Of course most Australian (and British) thinkers at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century thought that aboriginal culture was dying out and it is certainly true that Aboriginal people living a traditional lifestyle were uncommon in SE Australia by this date. Did this make it more likely that items would be retrieved from middens and surface finds and therefore defined as archaeological rather than ethnographic? Can an item obtained from a living informant which has been used by that person ever count as archaeological? But if the item is dropped and then collected does it suddenly become archaeological? Spencer and Gillen collected stone tools in Central Australia long after they had been replaced in everyday use by the European trade axe etc. However it is true that in Spencer and Gillen's publications and in their collections there are mentions of the collections of anachronisms (that is, stone tools when people had already become accustomed to using metal, or glass, technology) without this being specifically pointed out. It suited ideology at the end of the nineteenth century for Aboriginal artefacts to be defined as 'primitive' even 'Stone Age'. Objects were therefore sought which fitted this classification although in the case of Spencer and Gillen and other more subtle contributors this ideology was not swallowed wholesale and some ambiguity was reflected at least in their field notes (though sadly perhaps not in their publications or, it appears, the documentation of their collections in museums).

6. Total number of objects accessioned from each country broken down into decades [based on accession number not when collected]

[article ID:418]

Decades:

prior to 1880s - None

1880s - 652 objects

1890s - 383 objects

1900s - 840 objects

1910s - 2310 objects

1920s - 364 objects

1930s - 13,567 objects*

1940 - 1945 - 347 objects

* - the figure for the 1930s is so high because it includes the Westlake collection, the single largest collection of Australian objects in the museum (probably until present).

As can be seen the Australian pattern of acquisition does not really match the global pattern although both have a peak in the 1930s (the global peak is at least partly due to the Australian peak which is due to Westlake.

7. Total number of objects obtained from each country divided into Archaeology and Ethnology

[article ID:419]

Not applicable in single country 'continent'

8. Breakdown of total number of objects by type for each country

[article ID:420]

List of types:

Beads** - None

Clothing - 96

Figures - 51

?Music [optional 11th category] - 96

Ornaments ** - 547

Pottery - None

Religion - 189

Specimens - 158

Tools - 16,147 [of which stone tools are: 15,810]

Vessels - 32

Weapons - 1,313

There are no beads which are not also classified as ornaments from Australia. There had also been no pottery items donated from Australia by 1945. As might have been anticipated, stone tools are by far the largest single category of objects (or tools in general) and weapons the next largest (though still much smaller). The only other even vaguely significant type of object collected was ornaments. One would have to suggest again that this heavy bias towards one type of technology and artefact demonstrates European attitudes to Australian traditional culture and technology.

This graph just shows the relatively small number of objects in every type (apart from tools) from Australia compared to the global figure. As far as stone tools are concerned though the Australian total number is a significant proportion of the total stone tool count:

Australian objects all classes:

Agriculture -   6

Animalia - 167

Animal Gear -   2 

Archery Weapon - see weapon

Armour Weapon - see weapon

Bag -   63

Barkcloth -   6

Basketry -   256

Bead -   see ornaments

Body Art -   23

Box -   3

Carving - 2

Ceremonial - 207

Children - 13

Clothing - 96

Commemoration -   7

Cordage - 94

Currency - 1

Dance -   44

Death -   62

Divination Religion - see Religion

Dwelling - 1 [omitting furniture dwelling]

Fan - 2

Figure -   51

Fire -   75

Firearm Weapon -   see weapon

Fishing - 211

Food -   55

Food-gathering - see food

Furniture Dwelling -   2

Geology -   355

Headhunting - 0

Hunting -   23

Insignia -   1

Lighting -   0

Lock -   0

Marriage - 7

Mask -   6

Measurement -   4

Medicine - 49

Metallurgy - 0

Model -   8

Music - 96

Narcotic - 34

Navigation -   10

Ornament and bead - 547

Photograph -   107

Physical Anthropology 46

Picture -   25

Plant - 366

Pottery - 0

Punishment and   4

Torture -

Religion -   189

Reproduction -   16

Scientific Apparatus - 0

Signal - 0

Specimen - 158

Sport -   8

Status - 67

Technique - 20

Textile -  25

Theatre - 0

Time -   0

Toilet - 6

Tool - 16,147 [definite tools excluding double counting with weapons = 15,922]

Toy & Game - 19

Trade -   26

Transport -   9

Vessel - 32

Weapon - 1,313 [definite weapons excluding double counting with tools = 1,088]

Writing - 42

Classes

Australia

%

Total number of objects

18465

-

Agriculture

6

0

Animalia

167

0.9

Animal Gear

2

0

Bag

63

0.3

Barkcloth

6

0

Basketry

256

1.3

Body Art

23

0.1

Box

3

0

Carving

2

0

Ceremonial

207

1.1

Children

13

0

Clothing

96

0.3

Commemoration

7

0

Cordage

94

0.3

Currency

1

0

Dance

44

0.2

Death

62

0.3

Dwelling

1

0

Fan

2

0

Figure

51

0.2

Fire

75

0.4

Fishing

211

1.1

Food

55

0.2

Furniture Dwelling

2

0

Geology

355

1.9

Headhunting

0

0

Hunting

23

0.1

Insignia

1

0

Lighting

0

0

Lock

0

0

Marriage

7

0

Mask

6

0

Measurement

4

0

Medicine

49

0.2

Metallurgy

0

0

Model

8

0

Music

96

0.3

Narcotic

34

0.2

Navigation

10

0

Ornament & bead

547

2.9

Photograph

107

0.5

Physical Anthropology

46

0.2

Picture

25

0.1

Plant

366

1.9

Pottery

0

0

Punishment & Torture

4

0

Religion

189

1.0

Reproduction

16

0

Scientific Apparatus

0

0

Specimen

158

0.8

Sport

8

0

Status

67

0.4

Technique

20

0.1

Textile

25

0.1

Theatre

0

0

Time

0

0

Toilet

6

0

Toy & Game

19

0.1

Trade

26

0.1

Transport

9

0

Vessel

32

0.2

Writing

42

0.2

Definite Tool

15,922

86.2

Definite Weapon

1,088

5.8

Either tool or weapon

225

1.2

Stone tool [definite]

15,610

84.5

Percentage of tools that are stone tools

98%

-

Australian objects all classes, arranged in descending order:

Definite Tool -   15,922

definite Weapon -   1,088

Ornament and bead - 547

Plant - 366

Geology -   355

Basketry -   256

Fishing - 211

Ceremonial - 207

Religion -   189

Animalia - 167

Specimen - 158

Photograph -   107

Clothing - 96

Music - 96

Cordage - 94

Fire -   75

Status - 67

Bag -   63

Death -   62

Food -   55

Figure -   51

Medicine - 49

Physical Anthropology 46

Dance -   44

Writing - 42

Narcotic - 34

Vessel - 32

Trade -   26

Picture -   25

Textile -  25

Body Art -   23

Hunting -   23

Technique - 20

Toy & Game - 19

Reproduction -   16

Children - 13

Navigation -   10

Transport -   9

Model -   8

Sport -   8

Commemoration -   7

Marriage - 7

Agriculture -   6

Barkcloth -   6

Mask -   6

Toilet - 6

Measurement -   4

Punishment and   4

Torture -

Box -   3

Animal Gear -   2 

Carving - 2

Fan - 2

Furniture Dwelling -   2

Currency - 1

Dwelling - 1 [omitting furniture dwelling]

Insignia -   1

Headhunting - 0

Lighting -   0

Lock -   0

Metallurgy - 0

Pottery - 0

Scientific Apparatus - 0

Signal - 0

Theatre - 0

Time -   0

Up to 1945

Australian

total

no. of objects

Position

Type

No. of objects

Position

Type

No. of objects

1

Tool

68,459

1

Tool

15,922

2

Weapon

32,794

2

Weapon

1,088

3

Ornament & Bead **

21,345

3

Ornament & bead

547

4

Religion

15,125

4

Plant

366

5

Pottery

12,597

5

Geology

355

6

Figure

9,571

6

Basketry

256

7

Vessel

7,463

7

Fishing

211

8

Clothing

6,846

8

Ceremonial

207

9

Specimen

6,722

9

Religion

189

10

Music

6,038

10

Animalia

167

11

Textile

5,755

11

Specimen

158

12

Toy & Game

5,645

12

Photograph

107

13

Food

4,907

13

Clothing

96

14

Death

4,843

14

Music

96

15

Box

4,645

15

Cordage

94

16

Basketry

4,235

16

Fire

78

17

Currency

3,995

17

Status

67

18

Narcotic

3,701

18

Bag

63

19

Writing

3,670

19

Death

62

20

Measurement

3,325

20

Food

55

The top 3 types of objects are the same for Australia as they are globally up to 1945 but from there on there are probably more differences from the global picture of objects collected than for many of the other continental areas (completed so far ie for Oceania and Europe). Plant (31), Geology (25), Fishing (28), Ceremonial (27), Animalia (21), Photography (29), Cordage (46), Fire (23), Status (24) and Bag (38) items all appear in the Australian top 20 but do not appear in the global top 20, the actual positions they do occupy globally are given in brackets after each class (so it can be seens that two of the classes, Cordage and Bag) are much better represented percentagily (if there is such a word) in the Australian collections than they are globally). In addition there are more baskets in the Australian collection than globally (6th position from 16th)

Certain objects are less well represented in the Australian collections than they are globally: Religion (9 from 4), Specimen (11 from 9), Clothing (13 from 8), Music (14 from 10), Death (19 from 14) and Food (20 from 13).

Definite Tool

15,922

Definite Weapon

1,088

Either tool or weapon

225

Stone tool [definite]

15,610

Percentage of tools that are stone tools

98%

9. Is it possible to break the information down into types of collectors?

[article ID:421]

People with collections that are over 5 per cent of the total object count.

By far the most significant Australian collector for the Pitt Rivers Museum was Ernest Westlake, an English amateur archaeologist who travelled throughout Tasmania collecting stone artefacts, most of which he found himself but a few of which he obtained from other people who lived in Tasmania and were interested in collecting stone tools:

Total Westlake collection: 13,033

Objects from this total collection actually field collected by Westlake: 9,766 (75 per cent of Westlake collection)

Objects in Westlake collection collected by other people: 3,267 [examples John V. Cook, Joseph Paxton Moir etc](25 per cent of Westlake collection)

Westlake's collection came to us via his son Aubrey Westlake. Ernest Westlake was a gentleman scholar, with a great interest in geology, natural history and the development of stone tools (and eoliths). [see above for some other Westlake statistics]

5 per cent of the total Australian collection up to 1945 is approximately 900 objects. Apart from Westlake there are no other single collectors of great numerical significance in the Australian collections up to 1945, though of course a great deal of them had significance in other ways such as association with intellectual worth (Haddon, Spencer and Gillen) etc.

Of these potentially significant field collectors I have found the following:

Spencer and Gillen (or Spencer alone): 157 objects

Robert Francis Wilkins - 416 (largely items collected in the field by Harry Stockdale or Norman Hardy)

E. Clement - 206

Alfred Cort Haddon - 192

ESRC 'Relational Museum'

October 2003

inetlab, Oxfordshire, Oxford
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The financial support of this project by the ESRC is gratefully acknowledged.