Adelaide archeologist unearths old Irish settlement in Kapunda.

A rare archaeology find in South Australia recently put Kapunda on the map - in a whole new light.

An Adelaide archeologist, who has done her Irish family and ancestry proud, has in fact unearthed a unique 'clachan' on the outskirts of the historic mining township.

The discovery of the 'old Irish settlement' - a first for SA - is quite possibly the largest in Australia.

Susan Arthure from Flinders University announced her "exciting" findings following a journey beginning seven years ago on property near the current Kapunda Mine site.

She now calls on the wider community to support her field of work, requesting any documents, photos or artefacts which may be linked to the Irish settlement in Kapunda.

Work began during her masters study, when Ms Arthure, an emigrant of Ireland, wanted to shed light on Irish settlement in the state.

"Little research was available," she said.

It was her PhD investigations of Irish history and archaeology which led her to a 150-acre sheep and cropping paddock 'Baker's Flat', outside Kapunda.

"In 2013 we found artefacts - scattered bits of pottery and glass on the site the Irish people had left after walking off the site," she explained.

The findings, she said, indicated possible settlement but warranted further investigations.

As she explains, clachans had died out in Ireland by the end of the nineteenth century, as a result of the Famine and land clearances, but her research now proves they continued in Australia.

Ms Arthure's initial work involved scouring newspaper articles from the late 1800s, including court reports, with affidavit statements showing animals managed on the land by the Irish living in Kapunda.

Her investigations were further assisted by the landowners, and a host of Kapunda supporters Simon O'Reilley, Peter Swann and wife Jenny, plus Father Mark Sexton and Andrew Philpott from Light Regional Council.

Their generosity, plus that from Kapunda Museum, she said greatly assisted her ongoing work.

"The Kapunda Museum ended up having a photo, the only copy, of some of the Irish homes built on Baker's Flat, which was a good find," she said.

After years of ground work, research complete and enough evidence available to support her hypothesis, technology was brought in to give a detailed reading of what lay underground.

"What we ended up finding was a clachan settlement, hidden beneath the surface," she said.

"This traditional Irish settlement style, characterised by clusters of houses and outbuildings, highlights the way the new residents to this dry country worked together to make the best use of marginal land," she said.

Her evidence further revealed more than 500 people lived in the one clachan, made up "haphazardly" of homes and dwellings across a five to six hectare range.

"There were no streets and no services and the clachlan was their way of living together as they worked at the mine and just lived for their existence," she said.

Ms Arthure is keen to point out that archeology is not just about ancient findings.

"The recent past is really fascinating, and many people in South Australia would be descendants of those early settlers of Baker's Flat and other Irish settlements in the Clare Valley and the Mid North," she said.

Ironically, Ms Arthure's connection with Kapunda is similar to her that of her Irish hometown of Trim, an hour's drive from Dublin.

"Both are of similar size and a similar distance to a major city, and it always feels like I am coming home when I come to Kapunda," she said.

Meanwhile, the discovery now means plenty more follow-up work and continuing to tell the story of the Irish settlers in SA.

Ms Arthure said this clachan contains enough materials to reveal more about the past and that's what her work will centre on.

Those keen to support Ms Arthure's work can email her at

This story Irish settlement unearthed in Kapunda | PHOTOS first appeared on Barossa & Light Herald.