Big Dig Report
Below it the report by archaeologist
Greg Jeffereys, who presided over and directed the Big Dig, in March 2007
He specifically wrote this in "layman's terms" for ease of reading
Gympie Pyramid Investigation Dig of Tuesday 27th March 2007
Report written by Greg Jefferys Copyright © 2007
Purpose of Investigation: The planned Highway by-pass will cut through or
destroy the Gympie Pyramid site in the near future so a salvage archaeological
dig was organized by the GP sites current owner. He authorized the use of and paid
for a small bobcat earth moving machine to excavate various sites of interest in the hope
that something of archaeological significance would be discovered prior to the highway
The Days work began at about 8 a.m. but I was late and arrived
at the site at about 9 a.m. after a two and a half hour drive up from Brisbane to find the
bobcat already at work digging a location immediately below a long section of stone walled
terracing. The purpose being to expose the strata immediately below the stone wall and
also to return the terrace below the wall to its original state by removing the soil and
other material that erosion and weathering had moved down the hillside. There was also
some hope that the bobcat might expose some structural feature that had been buried or
The results of this excavation were interesting in as much as the exposed soil strata
clearly demonstrated that there had been no back filling of the terraced area
behind the stone walls with any kind of higher grade soil. The thin native soil was all
that was there.
Interestingly the soil of the lower terraces turned out to be a red sandy loam, evidently
this terrace was right on the conjunction of where two geological features meet creating a
soil which was mixed with the weathered sand stone above that terrace and the clay based
red soil zone which exists lower down the hillside. This is an important feature because
it shows the soil is very much more suited for agricultural purposes on the gentle slopes
at the base of the hill below the terraced area than on the hillside itself. Importantly
the soil becomes progressively worse the higher up the slope one proceeds, until near the
summit where it is almost pure sand. Yet the terraces become more significant as one
approaches the summit. That is to say there are higher stone walls with more energy
required to construct them the worse the soil becomes. This again contradicts the theory
that the terraces had an agricultural function or purpose.
Whilst the work with the bobcat was being done on the first excavation site I decided to
inspect some of the stone work on the western side of the slope. (Importantly this stone
work is on a separate land title to the main terraced area on the S.S.E. slope.)
Of particular interest to me was a feature I have referred to in previous writing which I
call the turret, a raised earth work platform with extensive stone walls intact on the
west facing side and the remains of a stone wall on the south. This platform appears to be
a stand alone structure with no obvious direct connection to the other terraces with well
intact stone work of over one meter high by about four meters long with the suggestion of
a curve which was more pronounced in the late 1980s when I first inspected it. It
would be worthy of special study as a single feature and more so because of its
association with the extensive terrace work.
On my way to the turret I re-examined various sections of intact stone wall on several
terraces and noted that some of the sandstone blocks used in the terrace wall
constructions were easily in excess of one ton in weight.
At the end of one of the terraces which was made of large stones there is a
tumble of sandstone boulders which could be the collapsed remains of some kind
of stone walled structure. It certainly reminded me of some collapsed stone cottages I saw
in the north of Scotland.
After taking photos and measurements of the turret I met with Brett Green who informed me
that once the bobcat had completed the task at hand I would be asked to pick its next work
area and also to choose sites where the large number of volunteer diggers could focus
With this in mind I walked up to the summit studying different areas along the way.
I decided that the bob cat would be well employed clearing the scrub off an a flat area
just west of the summit of about a quarter acre where I had previously found the remains
of a very old copper plate and some kind of cutting or chiseling metal tool. The bob cat
could also dig a bit of a hole here so we could examine the soil strata and, hopefully,
show some indication of an artifact scatter ( I was praying for ceramics) that might offer
some clue to the sites date and function.
On the summit itself were two interesting geological features which I felt would lend
themselves to being useful to any human occupants of the site. One was sheltered area
created by a large overhanging boulder the other was a crevice between two huge boulders
which appeared to run back into the summit as a small tunnel but which was blocked by a
number of decent sized rocks of around the 100 kilo mark.
Once morning tea was over I showed the bob cat driver the area I wanted cleared and then
went with the volunteers to the two sites I had chosen.
Under the Overhang.
Four people with spades and sieves started work on clearing out the overburden under the
overhang with instruction to keep a close look out for anything that might have had a
human touch in its creation. In particular shards of pottery, but also worked stone of any
kind, bone, wood, metal etc; anything. The top layer of soil showed evidence of fire and
held a variety of bones, a piece of clear broken glass from a bottle about 100+ years old
and some snail shells (native snails); once the shallow soil layer had been cleared the
strata beneath consisted of only decomposed sandstone.
The crevice posed a number of interesting engineering problems for the men at work, mostly
how to move the many heavy boulders wedged in it. Fortunately the men were up to it and by
the end of the day they had cleared away the bulk of the biggest goolies and were working
their way toward the end of the crevice which seemed to keep on going with hints of a
continuing tunnel. Unfortunately, by the time the day ended and work was abandoned, the
end of the crevice had not been completely cleared and so it could not be concluded if it
did extend further into a tunnel or not. A crowbar was thrust between the remaining rocks
and continued into empty space behind the tumble of rocks. Once work in the crevice was
completed I swept the crevice and the overburden removed from it with my metal detector
and found an interesting copper strip of unknown function in amongst the decomposed
sandstone which had been excavated from the end of the crevice.
The Flat Area
Hearing news that the bob cat driver had completed clearing the quarter acre patch I left
the various good folk at their various good tasks digging and sieving and took the trusty
metal detector to its work site.
The bob cats work revealed that the entire flat area had no soil as such but was
covered with a fine white decomposed sandstone that was almost a powder.
After grid searching the cleared section I found a ferrous metal hot spot in
the north east corner of the cleared patch, closest to the summit. I did not dig this
until I had completed the grid search of the patch for non-ferrous material but found
Digging the first ferrous target revealed a mass of material which could only be described
as slag, as in the residual from a smelting process of some kind. The slag appeared to
have a high silicon content which was suggestive of it being the residual of smelting of
the ironstone found in sizable veins through the sandstone of the Gympie Pyramid hill
site. There were a number of large ferrous targets in this area and I dug several more of
these up and of the seven target dug five were the same slag material and the other two
were iron bars about 30 mm wide by 10 mm thick by about 200 mm long. One of
these was buried with a length of heavy bone, perhaps the bone of a cow.
Iron Bars and Worked Stone
After completing the metal detecting of the cleared patch Mick Dale invited me on a guided
tour of the site and showed me several large flat sandstone boulders which had obvious
signs of being worked in the distant past. The first of these is a little over a metre
square, roughly diamond shaped, and about 300 mm thick. It has several deep symmetrical
gouges in it which I could only describe as being made by a chisel being repeated hammered
into the same spot (being a sculptor I am familiar with this type of mark), about 30 mm
wide by about 15 mm thick. On closer inspection I noticed that the size of the gouges
might have a relationship to the iron bars I had found so, taking one from my
pack I slipped it into the gouge hole and found it to be a perfect fit. The iron fit into
the other two holes but not as perfectly.
I inspected the gouges carefully and the impression was that they were old as there was no
distinction between the color or texture of the gouge holes and the surrounding surface of
Mick then showed me another large rock with similar chisel gouges in it, this
one about 20 meters below the summit on the south face. On this boulder there was a
definite chiseled line between the two deep gouges which would tend to indicate that the
function of the gouges was to crack the rock along an already existing plane, or fracture
line. It is difficult to say if the chiseled line is of the same vintage as the chiseled
gouge holes or not.
Next I was taken to what I consider the single most important artifact on the site apart
from the stone walled terraces; a large flat rock about 2 meters square with a chiseled
hole in its centre. Importantly this hole does not go all the way through the rock but is
approx. 150 mm deep and about 30 mm in diameter being vaguely diamond shaped or triangular
in its circumference. Also of extreme interest is the fact that surface of the rock around
the hole has apparently been worked into a concave surface so as to encourage any liquid
on the rocks surface, in immediate proximity to the hole to flow into and fill the
hole. One immediately thinks of blood though not in large quantities.
Interestingly the diameter of this hole is approximately the same as the width of the
chisel gouges on the other worked rocks.
Close examination of this rocks surface indicates that the surface of the rock
around the hole is the same age as the rest of the rocks surface, again indicating
some considerable age to the artifact. There is a fine fracture line radiating out from
one of the corners of the hole but this appears to be the result of the natural weathering
and the fact that the rock is lying in an uneven position on the slope.
Whilst nothing was found that could be easily used to ascribe a date or cultural function
to the Gympie Pyramid site a number of important finds were made. The slag
material tends to indicate that some form of smelting and/or metal work was taking place
on the site; in particular it seems that the iron stone on the site was being mined and
refined. The iron bars may or may not be connected with this work but it is worth noting
that the iron bars were all found in very close proximity to where the smelting slag was
found. It is also worth noting that the dimensions of the iron bars had a direct
relationship to the chisel gouges in the three worked stones on the site.
The chisel work on the stones seems to indicate that some of the larger stones were being
shaped or broken along existing fracture lines to facilitate their use in the terrace
walls or some other structure.
Of great interest is the very large flat stone with the worked surface and hole which it
seems unlikely, even unreasonable, to think of as anything but man made. Close study of
this stone tends to ascribe it with some kind of unknown ritual or ceremonial function.
The work with the bob cat in exposing the soil strata of the site totally debunks the
already discredited claims that the site was some kind of massive vineyard as there is a
clear inverse relationship between soil quality and energy expenditure involved in terrace
So we come back to the simple fact that in the Gympie Pyramid we have a site
of extensive stone and earth works of a type such as exists nowhere else in Queensland or
on the east coast of Australia, for which there is no date, no known function, no known
origin and no historical evidence to suggest it is of European construction.
We have a point blank refusal from the Queensland Archaeological establishment
to do any form of serious investigation into the site for the stated reason that such an
investigation might give credibility to something which is impossible.
We have a respected local academic writing a paper on the Gympie Pyramid
claiming it is a vineyard built by a man of whom there is no records at all to suggest he
ever built a stone terrace and who never owned any of the land of the site and when
queried about this the academic then refuses to reveal her reference sources.
And lastly we have the site facing destruction in the near future to make way for a
What more can I say?