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Convict Archaeology Field School

Convict Archaeology, YouTube video

Spend your summer in Tasmania's Southern Midlands on an archaeological excavation at the site of the former Picton convict probation station and earn 12.5 points credit towards your degree.

Second and Third year university students across Australia and internationally will learn firsthand about Tasmania's rich record of convict's lives in captivity and work onsite using the latest techniques in excavating historic convict sites.

Archaeology reveals a unique vision of our convict past. This unit explores the relics of Tasmanian convicts deposited by those 76,000 men, women and children transported as British felons over the 19th century. As part of this course, you will participate in an archaeological dig at Picton Station – an 1830s Tasmanian penal quadrangle located in the South Midlands.

In addition, our student group will collectively design and host a local museum exhibition of our project discoveries through an Open Day to share our discoveries with the wider Tasmanian public and state media.

Archaeology has the potential to provide unique insights into our past.

How to Apply

Current University of Tasmania students:

Current students enrolled at another university in Australia or internationally:
Enrol as a cross institutional student

Not currently studying but want to enrol in this unit? Non-award enrolment allows a single unit to be studied at the University:
Complete a non-award enrolment

Applications close 13 December 2019

Commence 18 January 2020 (onsite), conclude 1 February 2020.

General Enquiries:
E: | T: +61 3 6226 2255

What's involved

  • A two-week field school.
  • Team work.
  • Excavating objects.
  • Learn to understand the found objects in context, then how to clean, categorise, and store them.
  • Learn how to consider maps, plans, and other historical records to understand the site’s convict past.


  • Current enrolled student at a university in Australia or internationally. University of Tasmania students enrol through eStudent. Other students find out more about cross institutional enrolment. If you are not currently studying but want to enrol in this unit, find out more about completing a non-award enrolment.
  • Minimum 25% at 100 level (two x first year units) and have space to fit our 200 or 300 level unit into your degree.
  • All students will be required to have a current tetanus vaccination (last five years) and be fit enough to engage in fieldwork on remote location.


  • Along with the normal unit cost an additional field school cost will apply.
  • Tuition fees, and AUD$1,200 per student.
  • AUD$300 deposit paid in full to secure your place.
  • Option to pay in instalments.
  • Students travel expenses from interstate or internationally will be your own cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are we located & why?

The Southern Midlands is a rural historic district that runs along the Midlands Highway of Tasmania from Kempton to Oatlands. It was a focus of early colonial expansion and hosts a rich heritage of sites associated with both male and female convicts. Its significant sites include early historic properties, convict Road Gang and Probation stations, and Military establishments, in addition to convict-built bridges, culverts, and sections of the Old Hobart to Launceston Road itself.

Our field school will explore the archaeological remains of convict life within this unique region of Tasmania.

When is the dig taking place?

The field school will commence on 18 January 2020 and continue until 1 February 2020. Students travelling from overseas or interstate are advised to allow travel time either side of these dates to ensure they do not miss any of the field school experience.

Where will we be staying?

Accommodation will be provided. Your field school fee covers all costs of transport and accommodation during the field school.

What should I bring along for the fieldwork?

All participants MUST bring:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Towels
  • Work clothes
  • Cloth gardening gloves & kneeling pad
  • Walking boots (waterproof & closed-toed ONLY – no trainers or sandals!)
  • Wet weather raincoat & leggings
  • High SPF (30+) sunscreen (all participants are REQUIRED to wear sunscreen on-site!)
  • Water bottle
  • Sun glasses
  • Sun hat
  • Insect repellent
  • Thongs/Flip-flops/Off-site comfy shoes
  • Swimsuit

How will local transport be arranged?

Students should arrange their own transport to the Field School. Students are encouraged not to bring their own cars or to carpool if possible. Redline Coach transport may be arranged from either Launceston or Hobart.

Once the field school has commenced, transport to all sites will be provided for you.

Further Enquiries

Please contact us by email, phone +61 3 6226 2255, or the Contact Us online form.

How much is the field school fee?

AUD$1,200 per student (along with the normal unit cost HTA282 / HTA382).

When do I need to pay this by to confirm my place on the field school?

To secure your place a deposit of AUD$300 will be required. Full payment is needed by 15 December 2019.

Can this be paid in instalments?

Once the deposit is paid in full, then the remaining fee can be paid in instalments.

How do I make my payment(s)?

We will advise you when you are accepted.

What do my field costs cover?

Your field costs support the accommodation, food, transport and teaching staff that help make our field school a brilliant learning experience for everyone.

Your field costs also cover purchase of all dig and laboratory project equipment. While these tools and recording materials will be provided on-site, you may choose to bring along your own personal digging trowel, cloth gardening gloves, and/or kneeling pads. If so, be sure to ONLY bring a high-quality SMALL (5 inch) masonry/brick trowel. Either WHS or Marshalltown are ideal trowel brands for purchase, and are easily available over the internet. DO NOT bring gardening trowels or large masonry trowels! And avoid cheap hardware store trowels – they snap too easily, so are not suitable for archaeology.

Further Enquiries

Please contact us by email, phone +61 3 6226 2255, or the Contact Us online form.

What coursework will I complete?

The field school component of this UTAS course will involve two elements:

(1) Fieldwork participation: Students are required to participate daily in field school activities, including field and lab work. This will be recorded in a daily log book.

(2) Project Exhibition: Students will create and host a public exhibition based on your findings in the field, and the knowledge you have gained in museum curation, heritage and tourism.

Weighting of assessment tasks:

  • Log Book (30%): a 1-page daily pro forma detailing excavation and object curatorial practices (1,500 words maximum);
  • Project Exhibition (30%): groupwork project to design and host the project public exhibition based on field/lab results of the 2020 project season;
  • Essay 2,500 words: “How did Archaeology add to our knowledge of Convict Australia?” (40%).

What skills will I learn?

Excavation: Students will participate in guided excavations at the Kempton convict station site.

Recording: Students maintain a personal field diary which will remain as the property of the project as part of the excavation archive. Students will also participate in filling out specific excavation forms, map finds, and record stratigraphy.

Cataloguing: Students will participate in field sorting and cataloguing of finds.

Laboratory: Scheduled lab tasks will include washing, sorting, and museum cataloguing of finds.

Further Enquiries

Please contact us by email, phone +61 3 6226 2255, or the Contact Us online form.