Biik-nganjin-al gaaguk, dulaboork bundima daabak-djka

“Taungurung are proud and respected people who unite in strength and take care of country”


As young, proud Taungrung man I take a moment to acknowledge and pay respect to my present elders and those who have passed. Without their knowledge of the land, perseverance through dispossession and oppression, and the scarifies made by my ancestors, this book wouldn’t be conceivable. Therefore, I dedicate this book to them, I dedicate this to my family, to the Taungurung People of the Kulin Nation. 

This book was closely created with my mob, walking in our ancestors’ footsteps, and documenting the unearthing of artefacts they’ve left behind. Stone by stone, I find myself conjuring a clearer image of my ancestor’s lives, and awakening knowledge that has been buried within my own mind for far too long. This allows their story to become my story, their knowledge pass through this book and ensures our culture and connection to the land continue to be protected and gathered. This is why our cultural heritage is paramount for our story and for future generations to hear it. We carry the mantle that our ancestors did for us.

I continue to be grateful for this opportunity my mob has given me to create this book, and for sharing Taungurng history with me.

— Hunter Callaghan



Yulendj-Nganjin Dadbagri Bagungga Munda 

“Our knowledge is protected and gathered”

Reconnecting, reclaiming and reviving cultural practice and identity is the soul of this journey. 

This journey follows the finding and unearthing of Aboriginal artefacts on Taungurung Country. V/Line has plans to upgrade the Shepparton railway line, which runs through Country. Before the landscape is disturbed, the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 requires Aboriginal archeology to be conducted by the local represented mob. This process involves assessing the land and uncovering stone artefacts or any material of cultural significance that suggests remnants of past Taungurung people’s activity and way of life.



The walkover is the first on-site step of conducting cultural heritage activities on Taungurung Country.

Before that stage can commence, a meeting has to take place to discuss a Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP). Once the CHMP has been agreed on and officially sign-off between the sponsor (V/Line) and the local Aboriginal represented party, Taungurung Land and Waters Council, the project can continue. During the walkover, two field representatives (field reps), accompanied by an archaeologist, scout the impact zone for potential archaeological digging sites and locations of cultural significance. They also keep a look out for surface artefacts on the ground. 

Where to dig the test pit (a one-metre by one-metre hole) is not the discussion at large, but rather the matter of why a certain location should or shouldn’t be excavated. This is decided among the field reps and archaeologists. The locations of test pits are largely determined by how the land formation has naturally changed or been disturbed over time, as well as the finding of surface scatters in the proximate area. The presence of surface scatters increases the chance of unearthing artefacts of cultural significance. 


The second stage of cultural heritage, micrositing, solidifies the progress made during the walkover. During this stage, decisions of exact digging locations are finalised. This requires the involvement, sighting and approval of other specialists.  

Specialist roles include:

Ecologist: the role of the ecologist is to ensure that the digging locations are not going to damage any native vegetations.

Track Force Protection Coordinator (TFPC): the role of the TFPC is to spot trains, check that the location of the desired test pit is a safe distance from the track and ensure the crew work safely in the rail corridor.

Ground Penetration Protection Coordinator (GPPC): the GPPC is the overarching safety coordinator of the cultural heritage project on the rail. They are responsible for all permits on site. They also provide fieldwork occupational health and safety (OH&S) inductions to new project team members, as well as operational safety advice and supervision. 


“Dial before you dig” 

Service locating is the final step before excavation. Though it only involves one individual and is the shortest procedure, it is one of the most important OH&S actions. Service locating is the process of inspecting what lies beneath the area that is intended to be excavated. The service locator does this using ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic cable locating devices. It is vital that this assessment is done to avoid interference and conflict with valuable infrastructure when digging. The main subsurface infrastructure that the service locator looks for are electrical lines, gas and water piping, as well as telecommunication services like fiber optics. 



“Pick your poison...shovel or mattock”—Chris

At this stage in the cultural heritage process, archeologists and field reps get the green light to begin excavating and subsurface testing. There are two types of trenches that are manually dug: test pits and radials. Test pits are holes one metre by one metre in size that are dug every 100 to 200 metres. If a test pit becomes positive through finding an artefact in the pit, radials are dug. A radial is a 50- by 50-centimetre trench, dug five metres north and south of the positive test pits. If further artefacts are found in the radials, another set of radials is dug, followed by another, until there are no more artefacts located. Then the crew can go back to digging one-by-one test pits.


Once a pit has been excavated, archeologists perform the sediment analysis. The field reps hang tight for a few minutes while the archeologists fill out the required documentation. The location of the pit is pinpointed using a device called a DGPS (differential global positioning system). Then they document the depth of the hole, level of disturbance, if any artefacts were located and descriptions of the soil characteristics and materials found. Archeologists use the Munsell Soil Colour Book to accurately identify the colours of the layers of sediment. The pH levels of the sediment are also recorded. These are obtained by sampling soil from each layer, sprinkling barium sulphate on the samples and adding a dye. This causes a reaction that produces a particular colour based on the acidity of the soil. 


“Surely that’s an artefact” —Shorty

There are a few particular stones of cultural significance. These stones would have been used as tools by past Taungurung people. Stone tools were created by striking a piece of stone, called a core, with a hammerstone—often a riverbed pebble made from granite or greenstone. This would detach a sharp fragment of stone called a flake. Flakes could be further modified into specific tools such as blades and scrapers. What makes a blade different from a regular flake comes down to the shape and size. A blade is twice as long as it is wide. Particular stones that were strong, brittle and rich in silica were used as tools. These commonly included silcrete and quartz. Other more rare materials, such as a basaltic volcanic glass known as tachylite, have also been found to have been used as tools. These stones were used as general purpose tools for activities such as preparing food, skinning animals to make cloaks and shaping other tools.


It is TLaWC policy that the entirety of an Aboriginal Site that will be affected by an activity that will result in ground disturbance must be completely salvaged. A salvage is excavation process that occurs when a significant amount of artefacts are located during complex assessment. This process is typical done with machinery due to large area of earth that must be checked. 

Since the extent, nature, and significance of Aboriginal Sites can change during salvage operations. The scope of the salvage project, in some circumstances, may extended beyond the agreed conditions of the CHMP. This might occur, for instance, if high densities of artefacts are identified in proximity to the margins of the defined salvage area or if archaeological features such hearths are discovered.

If a non-removable cultural feature such as a hearth is detected in situ, opportunity will be given to a TLaWC repesentivite to create a cast of the feature to allow for future production of a replica. It is important that the casting process is undertaken immediately after the feature is exposed in its entirety through careful manual excavation.


After the artefacts are unearthed in the field, they are taken to the archeologists’ office. Here the artefacts are catalogued and further analysed. They are then archived until the cultural heritage management plan has been completed. Artefacts are recorded with the CHMP project number, artefact number, date and depth found. It is also noted if the artefact was found on the surface, in a test pit or in a radial.

Artefacts that are deemed by the archeologist to have potentially been used as Aboriginal stone tools are sent off to labs for further testing. Use-wear and residue are tested for. The presence of other material, such as dirt and blood, suggests past usage of the stone. Artefacts are viewed under a microscope to identify the exact type and makeup of the stone. They are then photographed under controlled lighting conditions on a plain, coloured background.    

Artefacts are stored in a compactus archiving unit, ready for repatriation once the CHMP project is complete. 

Most of the artefacts found in Victoria are associated with the Australian small tool tradition. This dates the artefacts to the mid to late Holocene Geological Period—about 8000 years ago. 




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