Finding the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Dr. Stepahine Dalley talks us through her theory about Sennacherib’s garden and engineering projects and how they might relate to the stories of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Available on SBS on demand until 13 September.

March 2015: Lanyon Homestead

Lanyon is an historic homestead and grazing property located on the southern outskirts of Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. It’s a fascinating place both for its history as an early homestead and as a case study for the management of historical homesteads as museums. As with many homesteads that have been occupied for long periods of time, each new head of the household at Lanyon made decisions about how they kept their house. Furnishing changed, the functions of rooms changed, rooms were added or taken away. When curating such a homestead, what story do you want to tell? Do you take everything back to one decade? Do you keep it as you have found it? The curators have gone to excruciating lengths to acquire objects and furniture that would likely have been in such a homestead during the 1860s. Where historical records and people’s memories of the place have allowed, they have tried to recreate some rooms exactly as they were during set times. I found the outcome of the two strategies very interesting.One of the things I really delighted in was the interpretation in the sheds out by the cafe – accounts from some of the people who laboured on the homestead. You can read more about the fascinating history of the homestead and its conservation management plan from the ACT’s Museums and Galleries website.

Silcrete from Lake Mungo


July 2014: Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area

Visiting the excavations at the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area and seeing fish middens, burnt hearth sediment and sun setting over the dunes of Lake Mungo. To learn more visit the My Mungo webpage.


June 2014 – Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria, downstream of the Murray-Darling river junction in New South Wales, fed by Frenchman’s Creek, an anabranch of the Murray River, flows into the Rufus River. The Lake became regulated in 1928 and is now operated by the South Australia Water Corporation on behalf of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission. The lake retained water over the last 10,000 years at a time when many of the inland lakes were drying up in this arid region.It provided an off river storage and is used to store surplus water which can then be used to regulate the flow of water into South Australia and to manage salinity. The Lake is significant as it, its lunette and the surrounding creeks and rivers, hold an important cultural and archaeological record of the last 16,000 years of human occupation, from shell middens dating to 17,000 BP to the history of the Rufus River massacre of 1841 to the Barkindji people’s continuing connection to the lake. The archaeological record includes an enormous number of Aboriginal burials, shell middens, campsites and stone artefacts. Many sites have been inundated by the water storage and work is ongoing by the Murray Darling Basin Commission and the Aboriginal community to preserve and repatriate burials when they become exposed. TheDepartment of Environment provides a leaping off point to explore more about indigenous involvement in the management of Lake Victoria.


Creating a chronology of the Murrumbidgee River

And now for something a little different. In June and July this year,  I found myself at a conference on paleoclimate, landscapes, vegetation, humans and ended up bumping along dirt roads in a mini bus visiting many curious locations with a very interesting bunch of researchers. How old our our rivers and landscapes? How did climate change affect that landscape? Where did all the dust and water come from and where did it go? Below are some photos of two locations where researchers such as Page, Nanson and Price (1996) gathered dates showing five phases of paleochannel activity along the  Murrumbidgee area of the Riverine Plain of southeastern Australia. The first two phases suggest greater fluvial activity and reduced dust activity followed by seasonal snow melts and increased peak flows after the last Glacial Maximum and the build up of source bordering aeolian dunes. Finally the present flow regime was established around 12,000 years ago.  Researchers continue to gather dates and look for environmental proxies (such as pollen and fossils) to help create a more detailed picture of what was happening and this information helps inform how we manage our water systems and groundwater, helps create a context for the movement of humans and other species across the landscape and other intriguing things.

Read more about it from here:

PAGE, K., NANSON, G. and PRICE, D. (1996), Chronology of Murrumbidgee River palaeochannels on the Riverine Plain, southeastern Australia. J. Quaternary Sci., 11: 311–326

May 2014: Joadja – the ruins of a historical kerosene shale mine and company town

Source: Joadja Creek Heritage Tours –

One fine weekend in May, the family and I drove to Joadja, a historical old shale mine about 25km south of Mittagong in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. The mine was operational between 1870 and 1911. Like many mines of the period, the company controlled the housing, goods and services utilised by its workers. There was a clear demarcation of the homes of the executives and those of the workers, with the executives having larger homes higher up the hill. Today you can still see many of the ruins of the old homes, schoolhouses, cemetery, the kerosene separation plant, the stacks. I particularly liked the waste pits which will make for fine tar pit fossils of Australian wildlife in the future. For those who are interested, here’s an overview of Joadja’s history and historical significance (

This slideshow requires JavaScript.