Flinders archaeologists home in on Australia’s lost ‘clachan’

The lure of a hidden Irish settlement near Kapunda has been drawing Susan Arthure back to Baker’s Flat for a long time – and this week, she plans on finally finding it.

It’s quite a distance, in years and kilometres, from her old desk at South Australia’s Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources on Adelaide’s Grenfell Street, to the dig Ms Arthure is overseeing at Baker’s Flat near Kapunda this week.

- Advertisement -

But that’s nothing compared to the length of time that the story of the Irish settlers at Baker’s Flat has remained hidden from the world, buried under green grass and ochre coloured soil, so far away from their homes back on the Emerald Isle.

It’s a fascinating experience to hear the Flinders University archaeologist, who since downing her keyboard and picking up her trowel has received widespread recognition for her work, describe the lives of a community for the most part lost to the mists of time.

Previous archaeological work at Baker’s Flat has uncovered a treasure trove of broken china, religious medals, belt buckles, dog licence tags and buttons from which she is able to weave a compelling narrative of a vibrant community playing a significant role in South Australia.

And not just any community, but a traditional Irish ‘clachan’ that thrived in South Australia as the clachans in Ireland died out following the Great Famine and the subsequent brutal land clearances.

- Advertisement -

A recent geophysical survey of Baker’s Flat, painstakingly undertaken by Ms Arthure and her fellow Flinders archaeologists, who manually dragged their heavy equipment up and down the flat hundreds of times, has given her real hope that she will find her elusive clachan.

Straight lines of buried rock suggest enclosures in the style of a Clachan, where once Irish people protected their crops behind walls as their livestock roamed free; while compact squares look very much like they could be the floors of homes that were rich in copper slag from the local mines.

Combined with the surveys, archival evidence and artefacts found already, a full picture of the settlement is finally emerging.

Perhaps it’s in her blood, because she hails from Ireland herself, but the calls of the Irish community lost to history at Baker’s flat have been long and strong for Susan Arthure.

“Come look for us,” they have called. “Tell the world about us. Remember us.”

This week, if her heart is right, and her findings true, Susan Arthure and her team will finally uncover their lost home.

Flinders University

- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Stone box containing rare ceremonial offerings discovered at Tlatelolco

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have discovered a stone box containing ceremonial offerings during excavations of Temple "I", also known as the Great Basement, at the Tlatelolco archaeological zone.

Excavation uncovers traces of the first bishop’s palace at Merseburg Cathedral Hill

Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered traces of the first bishop’s palace at the southern end of the Merseburg Cathedral Hill in Merseburg, Germany.

BU archaeologists uncover Iron Age victim of human sacrifice

Archaeologists from Bournemouth University have uncovered an Iron Age victim of human sacrifice in Dorset, England.

Archaeologists find ancient papyri with correspondence made by Roman centurions

Archaeologists from the University of Wrocław have uncovered ancient papyri that contains the correspondence of Roman centurions who were stationed in Egypt.

Study indicates that Firth promontory could be an ancient crannog

A study by students from the University of the Highlands and Islands has revealed that a promontory in the Loch of Wasdale in Firth, Orkney, could be the remains of an ancient crannog.

Archaeologists identify the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II

Archaeologists from Sorbonne University have identified the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II, otherwise known as Ramesses the Great.

Archaeologists find missing head of Deva from the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom

Archaeologists from Cambodia’s national heritage authority (APSARA) have discovered the long-lost missing head of a Deva statue from the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom.

Archaeologists search crash site of WWII B-17 for lost pilot

Archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology are excavating the crash site of a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress in an English woodland.