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The 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 site’s 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 coming through.

The Day’s 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 otherwise hidden.
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 1980’s 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 their efforts.
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

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 cat’s 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 none.
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 the rock.
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 rock’s 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 rock’s surface indicates that the surface of the rock around the hole is the same age as the rest of the rock’s 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 construction.
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 highway by-pass.
What more can I say?

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