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Convict Archaeology Field School

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/6 units towards your degree.

2nd and 3rd year university students across Australia and internationally will learn online about Tasmania's rich record of convict's lives in captivity and work onsite using the latest techniques in excavating historic convict sites. We'll also visit UNESCO World-Heritage listed convict sites at Ross and Port Arthur.

With around 76,000 convicts transported to Tasmania from Britain, and other parts of the then British Empire in the 19th century, our island has a rich archaeological record of their lives in captivity. Now is the perfect time to take part in an archaeological field school investigating the site of a former convict probation station. You’ll be introduced to the latest techniques in excavating historic convict sites to reveal stories from the past.

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

Expressions of Interest close 31 October.

First two weeks of December 2018 (online),
Last two weeks in January 2019 (onsite)

Intake: Nov 2018 – Feb 2019

General Enquiries:
T: +61 3 6226 6365

What's involved

  • Two weeks of online learning.
  • 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. Find out more about cross institutional 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 a AUD$1200 per student.
  • AUD$300 deposit paid in full to secure your place.
  • Option to pay $300 instalments by 30 November 2018.
  • 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?

We anticipate the dig taking place over the last two weeks of January, subject to confirmation.

Where will we be camping?

Camping accommodation will be based at the Kempton Sports Grounds. All students MUST provide their own camping tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat or inflatable mattress, pillows, towels, etc.

The Kempton Sports Grounds have male & female toilet facilities, hot showers, and a shared indoor space for relaxing after a full day of digging.

How will food be organised? What if I’m veggie or have allergies?

Breakfasts and packed lunches will be self-catered, with a range of food options made available to all participants. Hot dinners will be provided throughout the project (except for Days Off – see below!).

Veggie and Carnivorous dinner options will be provided. Every effort will be made to cater for other meal options, so please do let us know of any special dietary requirements.

What should I bring along for the fieldwork?

All participants MUST bring:

  • Camping tent + sleeping mat or inflatable mattress
  • 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 Kempton. Redline Coach transport may be arranged from either Launceston or Hobart.

While students are very welcome to bring along their own cars, a project van will also be used for daily local transport between the Kempton Sports Grounds, our excavation site, and our field laboratory.

Do we have days off? Do we have any tours planned?

YES! There will be two formal days off during the project. Which exact days will be announced within the final course outline & orientation handbook.

Optional local heritage afternoon tours will be organised for both days off. Places may include the Ross Female Factory and Tasmanian Wool Centre, Oatlands Gaol and Commissariat Stores, Campbell Town and the Jericho Convict Station.

Will there be a tour of Port Arthur?

YES! An optional visit to Port Arthur will be organised for the week after completion of our excavation season. Note: this tour may require additional costs to cover site entrance fee and/or overnight accommodation on the Tasman Peninsula.

Further Enquiries

Please contact us by email, phone +61 3 6226 6365, or the Contact Us online form.

How much is the field school fee?

AUD$1200 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 30 November 2018.

Can this be paid in instalments?

Once the deposit is paid in full, then the remaining fee can be paid in AUD$300 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, 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 not suitable for archaeology.

Further Enquiries

Please contact us by email, phone +61 3 6226 6365, or the Contact Us online form.

What about the MyLO component?

There will be a two week MyLO component that will be delivered late November and/or early December, subject to exact confirmation of dates.

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.

(2) Field notebook: Students are expected to maintain a field journal and present it for evaluation at the end of the field school. Project staff will help instruct students on the standard requirements and project skills needed to complete their daily journal entries.

Weighting of assessment tasks:

  • 2 x online quizzes relating to convict history and archaeology fieldwork (20%);
  • An onsite daily journal detailing excavation and object curatorial practices (1,500 words) (35%);
  • A 3,500 word excavation report (45%).

What skills will I learn?

Excavation: Students will participate in guided excavations at the Kerry Lodge 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.

Cataloging: Students will participate in field sorting and cataloging of finds.

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

Further Enquiries

Please contact us by email, phone +61 3 6226 6365, or the Contact Us online form.